Damn Heels Looks Like a Damn Knockoff

Hailey Coleman is a rising star in Toronto’s galaxy of young entrepreneurs. Her company Damn Heels is “dedicated to saving women from their (beloved) damn heels.” The idea is simple; she sells bagged fold-up ballet slippers that women can slip on when their stilettos become too painful to wear, thus saving them from limping home from the club or party barefoot. The killer shoes are carried home in another bag that is included in the Damn Heels package, which retails for $20 CDN.

The idea so impressed the judges of the Slaight Communications Business Plan Competition (BPC) that on 31st March they awarded Coleman the top prize in its eighth annual competition, a $25,000 grant for her company that launched in December 2009. The BPC is put together jointly by the Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) and Start Me Up Ryerson. Students from any Ryerson University faculty can enter.

Coleman says she got the idea after one painful, hour-long post-party walk home in London, England (this point is important). Dr. Dave Valliere, chair of Ryerson’s entrepreneurship and strategy department, said her plan was “exceptional, the amount of thinking she put into it. Making a sustainable business takes more than just a clever idea.”

The BPC biz whiz judges obviously don’t do background checks on their competitors’ submissions. The Damn Heels idea and business plan are clever; they’re just not original.

Matt Horan is a 29-year-old entrepreneur from Oldland Common in Bristol, UK. In 2007 he was an event coordinator on a cruise ship but was declared redundant at the beginning of 2008. He came up with the idea of providing women with emergency flat shoes after listening to his stiletto-loving girlfriend complain about her crippled feet every time they went out. “After getting tired of giving my girlfriend a piggyback home every Saturday night, I had a ‘eureka’ moment,” he said.

He returned to Bristol and developed a business plan for Rollasole, investing his redundancy money in designing and manufacturing his first pair of foldable flats. He sold his shoes from vending machines located in nightclubs and, “within six months we were selling thousands of them.”

As of June 2009 Rollasoles were being sold in more than 25 nightclub vending machines across the UK, and yes, they come with a drawstring bag to carry the stilettos home.

Rollasoles have been launched in clubs in Los Angeles and New York and attracted a celebrity following after being touted by gossip blogger Perez Hilton. They’ve also been introduced into the wedding/special occasion market. “It’s not just in nightclubs where women’s feet suffer.”

When someone gets a good idea in the UK it quickly gets knocked off in the colonies. By the summer of 2009 there were at least two companies in the US, Aftersoles and Footzyrolls, flogging their own virtually identical versions of Matt Horan’s emergency ballet flats to American women suffering in their stilettos. In typical American fashion by February of this year the companies were embroiled in a lawsuit, with the Footzyrolls peeps charging Aftersoles with trademark infringement, trade dress infringement and unfair competition. I wonder whether a corporate lawyer has her sites locked onto Hailey Coleman.

Toronto’s media ties its knickers in a knot every time somebody gets busted for selling knocked off purses that look like overstuffed sausages out the back of a van, all the while extolling the virtues of buying name brand goods. Coco Chanel would rather be imitated than copied but she did say, “I would shed tears the day no one copied me. For me being copied means success. Success without copies or imitations just doesn’t exist.” I don’t have a problem with knock offs (not to be confused with counterfeit goods) and as long as lux designers charge ridiculous prices for basic clothing and accessories my opinion won’t change anytime soon. As such I don’t have a problem with Hailey Coleman knocking off Matt Horan but I do have a problem with her receiving an award for innovation in business when all she did was copy Horan’s ideas.

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Research: Angelina Pieros

Sources: BBC Radio One, Business Wire, the EYEOPENER, London Evening Standard, www.aftersoles.com/, www.damnheels.com/, www.footzyrolls.com/, www.rollasole.com/

5 comments for “Damn Heels Looks Like a Damn Knockoff

  1. Gina Plevin
    9 September, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    You should take part in a contest for one of the most clever blogs on the web. I will recommend this website!.

  2. RWelch
    17 December, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Okay, so you say Rollasoles were finally hitting their stride in summer 2009, and yet Haley “ripped off” the idea and launched Damn Heels in December of that same year?
    Wow. That’s pretty quick.
    I mean, businesses take a while to get off the ground. Pretty impressive that she could rip it off that quickly. Especially considering the walk home that inspired the idea for Haley happened in 2007…it’s almost as if the idea had been brewing for a lot longer than just a few months! Hmmm…(note the sarcasm)
    Also: do you understand the way business works? Let’s just say that Haley did “steal” the idea (which I doubt she did, by the way, seeing as she got the idea for the product a full year before Rollasoles was even a thought). When a company sees a product that they think they can improve on, THEY DO IT. That’s the way to make money. Do you also think that Windows ripped off Mac (I mean, Mac launched in January 1984, Windows in November 1985!)? That’s not such a big deal, though, is it? Because the products are in competition with each other. There are differences between the two, and they’ll constantly be one-upping each other and appealing to different markets. That’s how it works. There a million similar products out there, and they’re all constantly improving on products that already exist to make money.
    Besides that, ideas CAN co-exist. I go back to Windows and Mac. They’re both good operating systems, both appealing to different markets. Just because they came out within a similar time frame, does that mean one MUST HAVE stolen from another? Is it so hard to believe that two people out of the 6 billion people in the world had a similar train of thought?
    Sorry, but this is just bad, biased journalism. You’ve presented a coincidence in an attempt to, what, sully this young entrepreneur’s success? Appear oh so clever? I don’t mean to sound rude, but I can’t stand it when people try to take away the originality and hard work behind other people’s work. It’s rude and unnecessary. (Especially in this case, since I’m of the firm belief that Damn Heels are actually an improvement on Rollasoles on several levels, including storability and reusablility.)
    Next time, after you do your homework, use your logic, too.

  3. Alexandra Highcrest
    11 December, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    These products did not appear simultaneously in different markets, the American knock-offs appeared in the summer of 2009, after Horan’s original surfaced and succeeded. Hailey Coleman launched her company in December 2009.

    There is no fabrication in this story; the information is available to anyone who chooses to look. All I’ve done is sewn the threads together and came to a logical conclusion.

    Any product can be knocked off, luxe or not. From the Oxford, “knock-off: a copy or imitation made especially for commercial gain.” The key words in the definition are “for commercial gain,” the definition makes no specific reference to luxury goods.

  4. monster
    11 December, 2010 at 4:00 am

    Is it not possible that two like-minded individuals could conceive of this brilliant idea, unknowingly and irrespective of one another? Innovation and response to market demand can, and should, occur in tandem; multiple products arriving simultaneously in different markets serves only as evidence that these products are tremendously valuable, and that young innovators are thinking alike and responding to current consumer desires. This article is poor, fabricated journalism, founded on negative and fallacious assumptions, and serves only to slander and denigrate the work of this young Canadian entrepreneur by implying that she has misappropriated the idea as opposed to conceptualizing of the product herself. Rather disappointing, indeed. Even the interpretation of “knock-off” stated in this article is utterly erroneous, for a “knock-off” is, by definition, a copy of imitation of an expensive or luxury good. I do believe this renders even the title nonsensical. Please, do your homework next time, and give us something more than this fragment of lazy, misguided and damaging journalism.

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