Bianca Gates Turned Her Passion For Comfortable Shoes Into A Multi-Million Dollar Business
Bianca Gates is an inspiration for anyone who’s dreamt of starting a company. With a passion for fashion, and an unwavering determination to succeed, she founded Birdies Footwear: A footwear brand that combines style, comfort and versatility.
The idea came to her while she was living in New York. She didn’t wear shoes in her home, so when she would invite people over she’d be wearing an amazing outfit but would be walking around in socks.
Gates said, “I loved entertaining friends and family. We would pre-party at my apartment before going out and we’d have everyone take off their shoes. And it was just like a constant annoyance like, ‘Oh, my socks have holes in them.’ Or they’d say, ‘But I’ve got these dingy gym socks on.’ For me, it wasn’t like, ‘Aha, I’m going to solve this problem and start a company.’ It was more like, ‘There must be a better solution for this.’”
She visited dozens of stores, looking for a slipper that looked stylish but she couldn’t find anything like it on the shelves.
She had a great idea but she also had to make a living. The dream of making a stylish slipper would have to wait, for now.
Gates always dreamed of becoming a successful business woman and she accomplished that. She built a successful career in television before moving to San Francisco to work at Facebook.
While she was there, she couldn’t stop thinking about her footwear idea. So, she partnered with Marisa Sharkey and they each invested $50,000 of their own money to make stylish slippers.
They set to work on her idea, pouring their heart and soul into every aspect of the design process. They spent months researching materials, experimenting with different designs and testing prototypes. Finally, after countless hours of hard work, they had created the perfect shoe.
It was called Birdies and it was unlike anything that they had seen before. It was a slipper-like shoe that was designed to be worn both inside and outside the home. The shoes were made with soft, luxurious materials and they featured a unique cushioning system that provided unparalleled comfort.
Gates remembered, “So, we had 1800 units in Marisa’s garage and she was like, ‘We’ve got to get these out of here fast.’ So, we both agreed to post on our personal Facebook pages that we’re launching this business, called BirdiesSlippers.com. And then we called our friends and said, “Would you be open to hosting a trunk show with your network of friends? Invite 30 of your friends, at your home, and we’ll pay for the drinks and some appetizers.’ And we did that for months. Every night, after work, we would go to a different friend’s house.”
At one of those events, they met a writer who wrote a full-page story on them in The San Francisco Chronicle. This created a huge buzz around the brand and they quickly sold out of their first run.
The next major boost was one they couldn’t have predicted.
While she was at Facebook, Gates was at a meeting at Old Navy and they kept referring to someone named Jenny. They would ask, “Is this what Jenny would wear?’ Or, “Would Jenny like this color palette?”
Jenny was their avatar. She was their ideal customer.
That inspired Gates to create her own avatar. She named her, Birdie.
“We said, ‘Okay, if there was one celebrity that emulated this persona, who would it be?’ And then we found Megan Markel. She was not this global celebrity but she was Birdie. She is Birdie. So, we figured out how to get her a pair of shoes. And then she started wearing them, in about 2016. And she had maybe one million followers on Instagram. She would even tag us once in a while. And then, in 2017, she was wearing us in London and there was this speculation that she was dating Prince Harry. And the rest is history,” said Gates.
Today, Birdies is a thriving company that employs dozens of people and has a loyal customer base. The shoes are sold in stores across the country and the brand continues to innovate and push boundaries. Gates remains at the helm of the company, guiding it with her unique blend of creativity, passion, and business acumen.
Birdies is more than just a footwear brand. It is a community of women who share a passion for fashion, comfort, and female empowerment. Bianca has made it a priority to create a culture of inclusivity and support, where women of all backgrounds and sizes can feel welcome and valued.
Birdies is also committed to giving back to the community. The company has partnered with several charitable organizations, including: Dress for Success and The Trevor Project, to support women and LGBTQ+ youth in need.
Bianca Gates is proof that with hard work, determination, and a little bit of creativity, anyone can achieve their dreams. She has taken her passion for fashion and turned it into a thriving business that is changing the game in the footwear industry.