Sam Lin

Sam Star* Shoes

“After the Branson Centre experience, you know you aren’t alone. There are many entrepreneurs just like me going through challenges and struggles. This is the job we signed up for.”

Sam LinSam, who admits to being the tiniest bit obsessed with shoes, launched Sam Star Shoes five years ago.

If you have even the smallest part of Sex in the City’s Carrie in you, you’ll have heard of the brand. It’s hard not to — Sam Star Shoes are featured almost monthly in the country’s leading fashion publications and adorn the feet of trend-setting fahsionistas from Sandhurst to Soweto.

In five short years, Sam has had the footwear range listed in 42 boutique stores across the country, as well as Namibia, and has women panting after her unique and limited edition designs. Her shoes are also available on takealot.com and spree.com two of South Africa’s premier online shops.

“I admit to being a shameless marketer. That’s really my strength. So I used the contacts I had built up in the media to push the brand and get as much free exposure as I could initially. I did a lot of cold calling. But it’s really paid off. For the past years, I have made lots of connections.” she says.

“I’ve always loved fashion, shoes and pretty things. My mom tells stories of how I’d change my outfits three times a day and insist on wearing pretty shoes with pretty socks as a little girl. But I never knew I could do design — until I tried,” she says.

When she was 14, she moved to South Africa from Taiwan and went to high school and college in Johannesburg. In 1998, she attended a business school in Oxford.

In 2002, she moved to Cape Town and worked for the likes of Puma, Truworths, Woolworths, Spitz and Carducci. While at Carducci, she acquired the technical know-how regarding the production of footwear.

She worked at Harrods and Joseph in London, and ran a fashion wholesale business in Johannesburg before launching Sam Star Shoes.

“One day I found myself jobless and decided to start my own shoe company. I gathered my knowledge and experience with my gut feeling, passion and a little in savings, and Sam Star Shoes was born!”

To keep up with the latest trends she spends a lot of time travelling and constantly ‘walks the malls’ to identify new stores for her range. To many women it might sound like a dream job.

“There are certainly perks — I get to wear new shoes all the time, for example. But you have to work 200% harder than everyone else if you want to make a success in this industry. It’s tough,” she says.

Sam has been featured in magazines and newspapers and on TV shows, like Business Day TV, CNBC Africa and ANN. In 2014, she collaborated with the Fashion edition of Marie Claire – Aspasia and Fashion Director – Sharon Becker or her summer collection.  Other exciting happenings in 2015 include a collaboartion with singer/songwriter, Louise Carver and Louise Carver Jewellery Collection as well as late-night shopping events with local clothing label, Hermanna Rush.

“Sam Star Shoes is part of me and I have put my heart and soul into this company and I’m excited to grow the business.”

The Branson Centre has helped her open many doors.

“I gained so much insight and knowledge during the foundation and advanced courses and met so many people, from Sir Richard Branson to young entrepreneurs. I had the privilege of attending a ‘boot camp’ in Stellenbosch, where I learnt different aspects of my business and met many successful entrepreneurs. I was inspired by their courage. I have also received funding from Nedbank to help me launch my hand bag collection and was featured in Entrepreneur magazine.”

“After the Branson Centre experience, you know you aren’t alone. There are many entrepreneurs just like me going through challenges and struggles. This is the job we signed up for.”

Sam has helped single mothers set up home-based boutiques, allowing them to sell shoes and become financially independent.

“Sam Star Shoes isn’t just a shoe company. If I can help women in any little way by enabling them to sell shoes and become independent, that really makes the whole business worthwhile.”

That said, Sam seems to have cracked it. If confidence is the new sexy, she — and her shoes — have it in spades.

“I really hope to carry on my dream and be inspired by the amazing women out there. I also hope to inspire other young entrepreneurs to have courage to go after their dreams and be their own stars!”