Sean Clark is the founder & CEO of ShoeMe.ca. At the ripe age of 30, Sean left his position at Coastal Contacts Inc. in order to create ShoeMe.ca, Canada’s first premium shoe retailer to operate exclusively online. He made his decision to branch into footwear after recognizing that Canada is the only advanced economy without a mature online shoe retailer
In just one year, ShoeMe.ca has seen rapid growth, with monthly sales increasing from 32K to 550K. Not only that, but this up-and-coming company recently saw its Cyber Monday sales increase 350 per cent compared with 2012 figures. Sounds like a success story we needed to find out a little more about…
Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
My job is building Canada’s fastest-growing online fashion platform in order to connect Canadians with premium clothing and footwear brands. I lead a team at ShoeMe.ca that works hard to apply both the technology and fashion expertise necessary to provide our customers with superior selection and unparalleled customer service. Our mission at ShoeMe.ca is to redefine the online shopping experience.
Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
The inspiration came from a conversation with my wife, who was unhappy that there weren’t any quality Canadian ecommerce websites that sold shoes or fashionable clothing, and you know how the saying goes… After investigating the opportunity further, I found that she was right (again) and that many Canadians felt the same way. My previous role with ClearyContacts.ca offered me the opportunity to expand my understanding of the ecommerce market as well as providing me with the skills necessary to launch ShoeMe.ca. I knew that I was an entrepreneur at heart and felt as though it was the right time to pursue my dream of starting a company.
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
Best part: Working with a young, energetic team to build an exciting ecommerce company that brings people joy.
Most challenging part: Continually pushing my team and myself to re-define self-imposed boundaries of our own potential. I have also found it very challenging to deal with bureaucracies that are ill-equipped to address the specific needs of a start-up.
What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
I married my wife in July 2012 and I still have not taken her on our honeymoon (Disneyland 2016!). Note: her closet is full of shoes.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I love coming to work every day and being a part of the ShoeMe.ca culture. Five years from now, I would be humbled and grateful to still be growing this business to new heights. We have big dreams at ShoeMe.ca. Our goal is to provide Canadians with access to quality brands not only in footwear, but also in apparel and accessories.
What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
With ecommerce in Canada still in its nascent stage, I encountered rejection from the industry when I first started out with many doors being slammed in my face. I overcame this challenge with a lot of perseverance. You would be amazed how motivated you are when you quit your corporate job and borrow money from everyone you know.
What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
Money = Options. Success to me is aligning your core values with how you live your life. I have a beautiful wife, a family that loves and supports me, and loyal friends. I already consider myself successful and lucky, everything else is a bonus. To define success professionally I would consider creating value an appropriate measure of success. Building a vision from the ground up with a lot of hard work and having the market validate that vision is an accomplishment I would consider successful.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
To date, the most memorable milestone is moving the business from my parents’ basement suite into an office 16 months ago. You take a big risk and make a lot of sacrifices starting a company and it is very satisfying working hard to take an idea to fruition. Now with over 20 employees and facilities in both Vancouver and Toronto, I look forward to reaching many more milestones in the coming years.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
If you believe you are an entrepreneur, just go for it. Don’t think about success as becoming rich or “making it,” rather focus on the journey and trust that you will learn more about yourself if you try and fail than if you never got out of your comfort zone. Even if you fail you will have learned more and challenged yourself in ways that you never thought possible.
Where is your favourite place to wine/dine in your city and why?
Undoubtedly Hawksworth Restaurant in Vancouver. My brother Chad Clark is the GM and it is bar none the best restaurant in the city, arguably the country.
When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
Resolution 2014: Make more “Me” time.
Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
Travelling has been a big part of my life and I have been fortunate enough to see a lot of the world. I now value travel as an opportunity to spend time with family and friends I have met throughout my life. Although, to be honest, I love a good party on the beach.
If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
Tough question, music is the pulse of life. I am a passionate man so my mood dictates my music preference. Right now I am totally feeling Britney, and anything recorded from Burning Man.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
Equal split between professional tennis player, DJ, and actor.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
An organization that we will be working with in 2014 is the Two/Ten foundation. This is a very active Canadian shoe industry foundation that supports various causes.
What to you is notable?
Disrupting the status quo.
Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
GS3 – all day.