Hand-painted heels a winner for CPIT entrepreneur

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17 Oct 2014

Elizabeth Riach’s delightful hand-painted high heels have been attracting a loyal following of brides-to-be and other customers since her first creation three years ago. Now the business plan behind the brand has impressed judges at the entre student entrepreneurship competition and won Elizabeth first place and $15,000 in prize money.

The CPIT Graduate Diploma of Innovation and Entreneurship student is now ready to grow her business My Killa Heels.

It all started with her cousin’s wedding in 2011. Elizabeth, always artistic and an Art & Design student at CPIT, decided to hand-paint the bride’s shoes and her own as well.

Word spread quickly and unexpectedly. “One customer saw the shoes on my cousin’s photographer’s blog. They contacted the photographer, then contacted my cousin to get in touch with me – this person really wanted hand-painted shoes!” Elizabeth said.

“Then I started to get emails and requests for more shoes so I thought I would make it a business.”

elizabeth 

Last year Elizabeth enrolled in the Graduate Diploma of Innovation and Entrepreneurship through CPIT’s Department of Business to further explore creativity and combine it with business. “Last semester the focus was on innovation and strategic planning. My tutors loved the ideas and it was so good to get professional feedback. You don’t usually see students working on their own business.”

Her tutors and classmates encouraged her to participate in entre, which is hosted by the University of Canterbury and sponsored by CPIT. Already juggling a 30 hour a week job, her studies at CPIT and My Killa Heels, she was understandably concerned about the time she would need to put into the competition, but decided to take a chance anyway.

The My Killa Heels business plan got Elizabeth into the top 20, a seven minute pitch got her into the top 10 and then a ‘speed dating’ session with mentors saw her selected for the final three.

Mentoring sessions followed along with a visit to NZ Fashion Week as a supporter of Endometriosis NZ ($25 from each pair of My Killa Heels goes to the foundation).

The final challenge was a 15 minute pitch to five judges. “I was probably the most prepared I have ever been for anything, which is pretty good for a designer!” Elizabeth said. An unconventional aspect of her preparation was a visit to Roydvale School where a friend was teaching the children entrepreneurship. “I thought if I get difficult questions it will be from the kids! They were so excited about the project. They said ‘so you paint shoes for your job?’”

Elizabeth has carefully managed the growth of her business but now feels ready to expand. She has been working at home with very small overheads but has a dream of a white studio filled with white shoes where people come in and “magic happens”.

“My Killa Heels started off as punky and different but next year I will launch a high bridal range named after my grandmother and My Killa Heels will be mid-range with season look books and set designs.”

Working fulltime on My Killa Heels and “painting shoes all day” is also a goal and one that Elizabeth is well on the way to achieving.