You never know you’re missing something until you need it. Thus Birdies was born, conceived by two inventive mothers. marissa [Sharkey, cofounder and president,] and started Birdies in 2015 when I was at Facebook overseeing retail partnerships and Marissa was working as VP of Group Strategy at Ross Stores
In other words, these women are driven. Gates said she had an epiphany when she went to Sheryl Sandberg’s first Facebook circle of support. “I would invite women to my house and we would start conversations about anything, political conversations, economic conversations, and when people came into my house I noticed that everyone took off their shoes. I thought it was silly that we were grown women and we were entertaining friends and family without shoes,” Gates said.
“For me, Birdies was meant to solve this shoe problem,” he added. “We decided to solve a super niche problem in 2015 and in 2016 we gained a lot of traction with our social sneaker. We hoped that our friends would buy it and it would be fine and we would have a good laugh going back to our jobs. What we didn’t expect was that this really struck a chord with many women. Meghan Markle started using us in 2016. She used us all over town. Paparazzi would see her in the supermarket and she started traveling around London wearing her Birdies when she was allegedly secretly dating Prince Harry.”
The little birds filled a void in women’s closets that they didn’t even know existed because everyone wore socks when entertaining friends and family. “Why don’t we have loafers to wear around the house?” Gates said. “That’s where it started and the company has continued to grow and expand as we create this delightfully comfortable slipper that looks like a shoe. Women asked for it in different colors, silhouettes and styles. We made loafers, sandals and sandals with the technology we developed that separates our shoes from everything else on the market.”
It’s a huge market opportunity for Birdies to enter the sneaker market and introduce something that sits between athletic shoes and male-dominated sneaker culture, Gates said. “We are giving women their own beautiful fashion sneaker. The other thing that is a little bit different is that we have a hidden platform inside the shoes because women tend to like high heels. They like the added height. When you wear heels, your leg appears longer, so we give it that wedge and lift you’re looking for in a more traditional heel with the comfort of a sneaker.
“You gain an inch of height on the back of your foot,” Gates said. “It feels cool and fresh. “You’re like, ‘Yeah, I’m a woman who is a strong woman and I support other strong women. That is the culture we want to build. It’s like collecting other things, coins and bags. It’s an addiction, and there’s a big market between the two extremes, which is male-dominated performance and sneaker culture.”
Gates did a lot of research before deciding to release the data-driven shoe. “Women want to stand out, they want to look great and they want to know the history of the shoes on their feet.”
To further differentiate themselves, Birdies released the second version of their inspirational “What are you running?” campaign with its fall 2022 collection. The new campaign highlights inspiring women who have reached incredible heights. As part of Birdies’ ongoing mission to empower and support women, the brand has partnered with financial pop star Haley Sacks, aka Ms. Dow Jones, who runs “Finance Is Cool,” an education platform that revolutionizes money management by giving women all the tools they need to get ahead and stay there.
“That happens to so many women,” Sacks said, referring to women who have no idea about their own finances. “We outlive our husbands, especially if you’re in a heterosexual relationship. It is so easy to abdicate your finances. I would outsource anything, I love to outsource things, but unfortunately, we can’t outsource our finances. My Money 101 course can help you with your financial education and it can empower you, because there’s no reason you can’t do this. Ultimately, they never taught you how. It is worth setting an example, especially for the younger generation, if you have children. I have a lot of resources that could help you.”
Birdies’ first digital campaign “What Are You Running” launched in March, featuring activist and author Blair Imani. and the famous interior designer, Brigette Romanek. The campaign highlighted the uniquely dynamic journey of women in charge, and the need for both style and comfort while chasing the dream, leading to the introduction of its first lace-up sneakers, Cardinal and Roadrunner, based on customer demand. . .
“During the covid-19 pandemic, what we discovered was that we were all isolating ourselves. The only freedom we had was to be outside,” Gates said. “More and more people were meeting wearing masks and there was a desperate need for conversation.
“What we were thinking during the pandemic and what we are thinking after the pandemic, that’s when we decided to evolve our product even further and create the lace-up shoe,” Gates said. “[Our customer] she was tired of being at home and wearing pajamas all day. She wanted something that was fashionable and fun and that would set her apart from wearing high-performance shoes. So we developed these very comfortable and very fun lace-up sneakers. They weren’t meant to be performance sneakers, but they were meant to be fun. You know, that ‘hot girl’ who walks around town in sneakers.”
How could they do it in a fresh, brand-true way that is based on having conversations with women? Gates said. “The team came up with this great concept,” he said. “Instead of saying, ‘Where are you running to?’ we said, ‘What are you running to?’ The concept came about because we recognized that women run a lot in their lives. We manage friendships and families and homes and businesses. This campaign celebrates the women who run so much in their lives.
“We’re very business-oriented,” Gates added. “This is how we started. We are dedicated to empowering women through conversation. This is just another way that we’re doing that with Haley. She is known as a financial pop star and that in itself is great. The last thing I want to do is buy a book called ‘Finance for Dummies’. I want to learn about this in a simple and fun way because making money and investing money is very powerful.
“We’re talking about a lot of things like sex,” Gates said, referring to his friends, adding that finances and money seem to be the ultimate taboo. “A lot of my friends will talk about their sex life [including] what they do with their husbands,” he said. “I asked my husband, ‘Do you talk about your sex life with your friends?’ He said, ‘Are you kidding me?’
“On the other hand, I asked him: ‘Do you talk about money with your friends, for example, how much money do you make and what are you investing in and how much capital do you have?’ He said, ‘Of course, why wouldn’t we talk about it? That’s how we ask for more money when we want a promotion or when we want to change careers.’”
Clearly, women need to sit at the table and Birdies is listening.