High Yield Shoes

It all started with a problem: Jessica Haynes wanted to wear her favorite pair of shoes, but the heel was broken.

Now, more than three years later, Haynes and classmate Kaci Matthews have a solution that could revolutionize the footwear industry and make them millionaires.

Haynes and Matthews are graduate students pursuing master of business administration degrees at Southern Arkansas University. As a class project, the duo was asked to create a business plan for a start-up company in the health care industry. Because neither had an interest in health care companies, they received permission to switch the focus of their project to a business Haynes had dreamed of starting for years. The end result is the JessKa Shoe Company.

Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe poses with Kaci Matthews and Jessica Haynes after the pair won the innovation award in the Donald W. Reynolds Governor's Cup Business Plan Competition. Pictured from left are Franklin McLarty, senior vice president of McLarty Companies and chairman of the competition; Beebe; Rush Deacon, chairman of the Arkansas Capital Corporation Board of Directors; Beebe; Matthews; Haynes; and Dr. Jeramy Meacham, assistant professor of management at SAU.

The concept seems simple: JessKa Shoe Company will offer high heel shoes with interchangeable heels and magnetically attached accessories. Their plan won the Innovation Award out of 13 teams competing on the graduate level in the 2011 Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup Business Plan Competition.

The business plan for the JessKa Shoe Company includes 30 pages of analysis on the product and answers “any possible question that you would need to start this business,” they said.

“You can’t just say ‘I have a product,’” Haynes said of the competition. “You have to show that there is a need for it.”

The two say there is a need for JessKa’s shoes in the marketplace.

“Our main focus is the working professional woman,” Matthews said. “It makes it easier for her to be in fashion.”

With a pair of JessKa shoes, a woman could wear a pair of solid black stilettos to the office and then after work, change out the heel and add accessories for a completely different look without having to carry around a second pair of bulky shoes.

Because they plan to continually develop new accessories and heels, a woman can purchase one pair of shoes and transform them countless times. A pair of JessKa shoes is expected to retail at $129.95. With the cost of accessories and heels kept low, Haynes and Matthews expect that a customer can transform that one pair of shoes into eight for less than $400. Eight pair of other high-end fashion shoes can cost more than $1,000.

The JessKa Shoe Company is more than just a class project to Haynes and Matthews. They have filed for a U.S. utility patent and plan to start the business as soon as investors can be found. They estimate that it will take two years to launch the company.

“We know that if there is just one person who will give us the money they will get it back,” Matthews said.

The business plan for JessKa Shoe Company reflects a projected profit of $6.8 million by year five.

“We have been extremely conservative, Haynes said. “We’d rather do what we said here and more. Five years from now, I’d say this is going to be a smash hit. Ten years from now, we’ll be fighting imitators.”

Haynes and Matthews will be equal partners in the JessKa Shoe Company. Haynes will serve as chief executive officer, and Matthews will serve as chief financial officer. But the duo hopes to run the company from a distance once it is operational. Haynes plans to pursue a doctoral degree in business management, and Matthews wants to attend law school. Both want families one day.

“We want to put all of our hard work and dedication into it,” Matthews said. “We both have dreams. This is our number one dream, but it’s not our lifelong dream.”

Without help from Matthews, Haynes doesn’t know if she would have ever started the business she has dreamed of since the day she broke her favorite pair of heels.

“I was scared. It took her beside me to make me want to do this,” Haynes said. “The only time this is going to be relevant is now. In five years, someone else will already have come up with it.”