Charleston Shoe Company founder Neely Powell spent her childhood summers in a colonial town in central Mexico. In the summer of 1996, while at the College of Charleston, she met a cobbler whose simple sandals were a wardrobe staple among the villagers and visitors alike. It was Kismet.
With suitcases stuffed with the made-by-hand shoes, Neely and her mother boarded a plane home, plotting to sell sandals alongside her mother’s own burgeoning import business at furniture markets. The shoes were embraced by young and old, and before they knew it a wholesale business was created. In 2009 when dreams of her own brand began swirling in her head, she enrolled in an accessories design program at the Savannah College of Art & Design with her young daughter, Gigi, in tow. Neely drew upon her shoe and accessory design coursework and, in collaboration with a fourth-generation cobbler in Mexico, launched her own line of hand-sewn footwear then called Savannah Shoe Co.
An entrepreneurial spirit runs deep in Neely’s family – her father developed a five-star resort in the Florida Keys and her mother started the wholesale interior furnishings mecca, Worlds Away. An idyllic childhood on Little Palm Island, where swimming and snorkeling were the order of the day, gave her an appreciation for the relaxed ease of island living. Coupled with the fact that she had highly creative and artistic parents, it’s no surprise that her design influence errs towards laid back sophistication meets comfortably chic.
In 2010, Neely opened Savannah Shoe Co in Savannah and then a small storefront called Charleston Shoe Co. on a quiet and historic section of King Street in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. This proved a pivotal moment for the brand as the community and tourists alike embraced the collection and the charismatic proprietor. With locations in Charleston, Savannah, & Del Mar, they still could not meet the demand for the “cobblestones to cocktails” shoe and the wholesale line launched in January 2011. The Charleston Shoe Co. line is now currently sold in over 150 boutiques nationally.
From Boca Grande to Nantucket & Del Mar to Carmel, women can’t get enough of the comfortable, versatile and stylish shoes. When she is not in the stores in Charleston & Savannah, you’ll frequently find Neely traversing the East Coast selling her shoes to adoring fans of the Charleston Shoe Co line, with Gigi still in tow!
April 2nd, 2019 | Season 1 | 1 hr 56 secs
This week’s guest is an absolute fireball of a human being. I’d like to introduce you to Neely Powell, the founder of The Charleston Shoe Co. Her story runs at 100 mph from the minute her journey gets rolling. She started her business as a side hustle in college. Since then, the growth that The Charleston Shoe Company is experiencing is remarkable. At the time of this recording, Neely has opened 20 stores and is in the midst of opening another 6 stores nationwide within the next 6 weeks!