“Authenticity and purpose are really important”: Interview with Roccamore Founder, Frederikke

Danish founder Frederikke Schmidt has a few things to share with us. From being the first woman in Denmark to use Kickstarter-campaign to start her business, to designing her product with votes from her customers, her path has not been the usual.

Roccamore was started in 2014 by shoe designer Frederikke with the aim to shape the foot to walk as anatomically correct as possible in high heels. Boasting a scientifically tested validation of being 44% more comfortable than regular heels, Frederikke’s product is also sustainable, using leftover materials from luxury brands. All in all, Roccamore has tripled revenue every year since the first shoe collection in 2016.

We sat with Frederikke to ask her about tips for kickstarter campaigns, sustainability, hiring an international team with different expertise, and building a community of customers that vote on product direction.

Hi Frederikke, thanks for joining us! Tell us the story of Roccamore – how did you get the idea?

I’m educated as a shoe designer and I worked several years for big companies in Florence, Italy. When I moved back to Copenhagen, I started working with an orthopedic shoemaker, who made insoles to regulate people’s postures, and I got interested in the idea of correcting women’s posture when walking in heels.

You spent 2 years developing the orthopedic technology. Could you tell us more about that process?

My insoles design is based on the one you’ll probably know from your running shoes, only mine will carry your weight better and shape your foot to walk as anatomically correct as possible in heels. The insole is made in shock absorbent latex and has been scientifically validated by the Clinical Orthopaedic Research Hospital of Hvidovre to relieve 44% of the pressure from you arch, 26% off the forefoot and 19% of the pressure on your heel. 

You were the first woman in Denmark to launch with a Kickstarter-campaign. What advice would you give to a startup launching a crowdfunding campaign?

I was very lucky with my Kickstarter campaign. I really didn’t know what I was doing, but I found so many nice people who supported the project and helped me get the word out. 

I think no matter what you do, people are really key. If you find those people, who just get it, then build on them. Include them in the project as much as possible, show them behind the scenes, ask their opinion, be honest and humble, and you’ll create the best brand ambassadors possible. Talk about the problem you are solving, not the product. Build a landing page before launch with a sign-up, change the message throughout the campaign. Use ambassadors for social proof, create content about the problem, use Facebook and Google ads to drive traffic to your page both before, during and after the campaign.

You’ve hired a team of people from 6 nationalities that think differently to you. What tips do you have for building a solid team?

I think inspiration and innovation only really happens when you put different people in the same room and with a shared mission. In the beginning people always told me to hire experienced profiles, as soon as I could afford it, but to me the personal qualities always came before professional skills. I believe that if you have the right mindset and, most importantly, a what-ever-it-takes attitude, then you can learn everything else. And people who grow together, stay together longer. It simply creates a better and stronger team.

You let your customers vote on colour, design and materials. Could you tell us more about developing a product strongly directed by your community?

In the beginning, I couldn’t afford to be wrong on any styles. Development is expensive and I had a very small production window, so to avoid mistakes, I decided to ask my customers and followers what they would like. I built my first collection based on those insights and as soon as I saw that the shoes sold, I decided to make co-creation part of my philosophy. Today, all models are voted in, then colors, and in the end, everyone can nominate a woman that they think we should name the final shoe after – because every woman deserves to have a shoe named after her.

Roccamore uses leftover materials from luxury brands that otherwise would be burned. Tell us about your approach to sustainability.

We really have enough stuff in the world. What we need in the world is not more stuff but better stuff. My shoes are handmade in Tuscany alongside some of the best brands in the world. I use quality materials, preferably what has already been produced and then I buy what is left of a specific color. I don’t do seasons, but this way all my shoes are limited editions and something special that not everyone has. Plus, I like the idea that we, as consumers, can’t have anything we want in the world, just because we can afford it. All good things are limited (or should be).

You were founded in Copenhagen, Denmark. What is your opinion on starting up there?

It’s very easy to start a business in Denmark. It takes 2 hours to register a company online and until recently the required starting capital was only €0.15 or 1 dkk. Now it’s back to the original €6.690.

In Copenhagen there are several hubs and co-working spaces as well as lots of public offices that offer free help. Several programs run demo-days and funding events, where it’s not difficult to find skilled business angels, but VC funding is a little harder to land. Everybody is looking at the same fin-tech, health-tech and software companies and most connections and intros are based on network.

What has been one of your biggest failures, and what did you learn from the experience?

Taking on a Kickstarter campaign all by myself, definitely wasn’t smart. It wasn’t a failure, but it did bring me down with stress and I spent 2 full months on the floor of my living room, before I could get back up. With a lot of help from my boyfriend, I learned to let go of the things I couldn’t change and focus my energy on the things I had to do instead. It sounds easy, but it’s really not. Way too much energy is spent on worrying about things we can’t change, when it should instead be spent on doing great stuff.

What do you predict for the future of fashion tech in the next 5-10 years?

Today’s consumers buy from people, not from brands and they want to be involved in the brand story, more than ever before. Authenticity and purpose are really important. The future will rethink a lot of fashion traditions. Seasons will die out along with runway shows for the selected few. Consumers will demand to be more included in the brand and process as ambassadors, co-creators and reviewers. Multi-brands will no longer be interesting, instead consumers will have a pallet of favorite brands, each with their speciality. Customers will be won online but experiences will be created offline, in stores or at events.