And then there were Kingdom of Wow slippers…

Godie van de Paal owner of Kingdom of Wow

You know how most of us have these ideas that keep coming back to us, those that never quite seem feasible to start?  You know the moment when you decide you’re gonna quit your job and pursue your dream to become a dolphin trainer?  People often ask me how I did it: give up my diplomat career to start a responsible slipper manufacturing company.  A question that’s quickly followed by another: Why??!!

The how? question

After three years of Economic Diplomacy in Shanghai, opportunity came a-knocking.  A job for my trailing spouse to run a responsible manufacturing company in Cambodia.  As with all life-changing decisions, we thought this one over for a whole 15 minutes before jumping at the opportunity.  Receiving a generous 3-year sabbatical from my employer, off we went with a toddler and 8-month-old baby.

It’s easy to see a straight and logical path from quitting my job and starting Kingdom of Wow with hindsight!  In reality, I wrote several business plans, most of which didn’t involve anything to do with slippers nor garments.  I second-guessed the choices I’d made on a regular basis, a recurring one being spending ALL our life savings on handmade WOOL SLIPPERS!

But thankfully we’re still here, growing and improving with each passing year.  Every day I learn something new.  Because, well, building a brand while juggling the challenges of running a responsible manufacturing company is not exactly something they prepare you for when studying Arts and Cultures in Uni!  But hey, learning by doing is actually all you’ve got, when you start a business in a foreign country.

The why? question

Working with businesses in China as a diplomat and hearing the abuse in manufacturing and challenges to control the supply chain, I set out to prove something: it’s not hard to keep a check on the supply chain, if connected to the brand.  Simple as that.  Now, obviously, handling production yourself is nowhere near as simple, and there are days I envy those brands that simply place an order with a Vietnamese factory and focus all their attention on sales and marketing.  But my goal was never solely to build a new brand: I wanted to show that it’s possible to have it all.  And with all, I mean ALL: fair-wages, a healthy and safe working environment, zero-corruption, and while I was at it, fun at work and the best possible work-life balance for our team.  Because, well why heck not?!

So that’s the plan.  And in this blog we’ll be updating you regularly on our experiences: the successes, the failures, the good and the bad in the world of fair trade slipper-making!  Hope you will enjoy it and look forward to your feedback!