How This Woman Turned Her Simple Idea into a 'Real and Tangible' Business

women's shoes

Photo Credit: Lexie Barnhorn/Unsplash

Sometimes the simplest ideas can have the biggest impact. After being dissatisfied with the low quality and wasteful nature of tissue-paper shoe stuffers, Olivia Hollaus invented the patented Shoe Stuffer — a stylish and functional way to keep shoes protected. But her company, Protect My Shoes, has since grown into a brand that’s about so much more than extending the life of your shoes.

“I live by the philosophy that everyday functional items can also be pretty and unique, to add a touch of style to our lives,” Hollaus tells CircleAround. “We continue to develop new products, always keeping in mind stylish functionality.”

The inserts are crafted to help maintain the original shape of shoes and are made with sustainable fabrics, like organic cotton and satin. They are advertised as a product that absorbs odors, travels well, is machine washable, and one-size-fits-all. They can even be used with open-toed shoes and can be interchanged as needed, allowing buyers to enjoy their footwear investments for longer.

As a woman, I recognize the importance of females in the science industry, recognize the work required, and understand that research is the cure for cancer.

“As the founder and creative director, I oversee every piece of the puzzle, from design to production to fulfillment to establishing various channels of distribution,” says Hollaus. Her past experiences prepared her well; her mother was an entrepreneur, and she lived in Beijing for 10 years, where she learned about the manufacturing industry.

Since launching in 2016, Protect My Shoes has added a collection of shoe bags, bridal shoe accessories, and gift-sets. Hollaus is most proud, however, to create a product that also gives back: She recently launched a specially designed shoe insert to support the American Cancer Society, where 10 percent of all online sales will be donated to the organization.

“My father passed away from cancer and we are all touched by this terrible illness,” she explains, “So I'm thrilled to be able to make some contribution, specifically to their women-led cancer-research program called ResearcHERS. As a woman, I recognize the importance of females in the science industry, recognize the work required, and understand that research is the cure for cancer.”

Today, the product line is sold at Bed Bath & Beyond, Zulily, boutiques across the country, and online. “The most exciting part of the business is the private-label division,” adds Hollaus. She creates custom-branded shoe stuffers for internationally recognized brands, including Sarah Jessica Parker's shoe collection.

“The biggest reward is honestly getting a note from a customer thanking us for their shoe-care goodies and the attention we put into the packaging,” Hollaus tells CircleAround. “The biggest challenges are finding the right contacts in the retail and fashion industry, as well as dealing with the current pandemic and its effect on retail.”

But Hollaus has maintained a sunny outlook on her company’s future. “The business process is filled with ups and downs, but the persistence to keep going day in and day out makes me happy to call myself an entrepreneur… However, I'm proudest of the fact that I had an idea and turned it into something real and tangible.”

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