Maguire: a success from here high-end, but accessible
New Maguire store in New York. Credit: Lindsey Swedick
Why do you always have to choose between quality and price when it comes to shoes? This is the question that sisters Myriam and Romy Belzile-Maguire asked themselves when they went into business. They were able to find a balance and, since then, their success has been dazzling. Myriam, the duo's designer, answers our questions.
Maguire is an offer of high-end shoes, but at a fair price. The company does business with the same factories as the founders' favorite luxury brands, but estimates that it sells “50% less than them” because Maguire only sells directly. In other words, the company does not sell its products in other shops (which would add a profit margin and thus increase the price of the shoes) than its own.
Sisters Myriam and Romy Belzile-Maguire. Credit: Garrett Naccarato
Founded year: 2017
Addresses: the company first had a store in Montreal , then another in Toronto, and opened a boutique in New York on June 11, a dream come true for its founders.
Number of employees:19, including in-store staff
– Myriam takes care of production, product design and business development.
– Romy takes care of marketing, communications, human resources management and operations.
What do you think is a high-end shoe?
“It is a shoe produced in countries like Spain, Italy or France, with quality labor, made up of specialists. The production line is slower, as employees take the time to make each product well. The materials are also of better quality. The result is more comfortable shoes that will last through the years.»
How did the idea of launching Maguire come about?
“At the time, I was working in the shoe industry [she was a designer at Aldo]. I thought there were a lot of shoes that were $150 but weren't great quality, and others above $500 that were too expensive for my budget.
Visiting a factory and seeing the production costs, I thought there must be a way to make a quality product, but at a price that more people can afford. My dream price was $230-250 for a pair of boots.
I visited a factory, I saw a recognized brand being manufactured at a production cost of $20 and then sold at $450 US. I realized that even if a shoe had a high selling price, it did not mean that it was of quality. Customers of these companies have no idea where the shoes are produced, under what conditions. With our project, we wanted to give more transparency to the production process.”
How does your transparency translate?
“We share the production costs behind each product on our website so people know how much money has gone into producing the shoe. We also share the whole process on Instagram so people can see how we develop the products. All with the aim of being a transparent company, which is rather rare in the fashion industry.
With a higher cost of production, how do you manage to make money in turn?
“I pay the same production costs as any other high-end company that does business with the same factory as me. We are all going to add a profit margin. But then I don't sell elsewhere [to third-party retailers]. The product leaves the factory and comes directly to the Maguire store, hence our concept of direct sales. I don't need to add another profit margin for the reseller on top of that. If I sold my shoe for $200 at a big box store, I would have to raise the price to $350 to survive.
Also, as I speak Italian, Spanish and French, I do not need an agent to discuss with the factories, who would also take a profit margin. By eliminating all these intermediaries, I can sell my product at a better price and still make a profit to survive, pay my employees, my premises, etc.”
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Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs?
“The best way to start a business is to go and work in the field you want to get into first, if only for a year or two, to see how it works. By working in the industry, you can identify its problems, then when you go into business, you can fix those problems.
It also allows you to make fewer mistakes, to have more confidence and thus to accelerate the development of the company.»
A company that inspires you?
“Bonlook inspired us, because they were people our age who started out in a similar way to us. They also had the concept of direct selling which cuts out the middleman. If there was room for a company like Bonlook in Quebec to stir up the cards in the eyewear industry, we thought we could do the same thing in the shoe industry.”
Your favorite apps
“Instagram, because it's a big part of our job to create content there.
Shopify made our project possible. Without this application, it would have been impossible for two girls with no knowledge of programming to start a website and open three shops in five years.”