Australia, Canada, the UK and the US. These may be some of the most visited countries in the world but more importantly, they are hubs for the Jib. Don’t know what the Jib is? A Brazilian perforated slip-on shoe that allows you to test new waters, walk unknown avenues and fly high. Don’t believe us? Read on to see how Natalie Kathleen, CEO of Jibs Life, and a world traveler herself, is bringing out the best walking, running, skipping selves in all of us.
From growing up in Canada to hiking in Australia to pretending to be a Brit in the UK to skipping university altogether (badass), Natalie Kathleen has been sailing through life with the help of connections and self-taught business lessons. A common thread; however, has been her never-ending love for hustle, challenge and creation.
Today, Natalie is known for her leadership role at Jibs Life having successfully created a business model that can help them scale across oceans, product categories and consumer profiles. The brand’s message has been to promote an active lifestyle that can be easily supported by the Jib shoe, a result of Brazilian craftsmanship.
“It’s all about who you know, followed up by what you know.”
Natalie’s history as a hustler dates to 1998, when she joined her older sister's year abroad back-packing in Australia. With a new outlook in life, seeing real life as a better time investment than university post high school and seeing zero point in spending lunch breaks “chilling,” Natalie got a part-time gig at a restaurant chain, Boston Pizza. “I learned upselling and made tons of tips by telling customers stories on how I’ll be moving to Australia.”
And so, Natalie’s journey began in Aussie land by dipping her toes in jobs from bartending to scuba diving and snowboarding instruction. Fun fact: she taught the Getty family, owner of Getty Images, how to snowboard in Whistler.
A year well spent and Natalie was on her way to London (thanks to her then British roommate). One waitressing gig later, she found herself with a 2-year work visa, a Mini Cooper and an unlimited phone service, working at a real estate company, Foxtons London. Did we mention she got the job after one meeting, without a real estate license? Sooner rather than later, her inner fashion flair flourished and she started working at Cosmopolitan UK, selling magazine ads. Apparently, watching the movie, 13 Going On 30, really did it for her. This eventually led Natalie’s boss to get her a job in Vancouver at VanMag and Natalie’s first brand was born when she was 21 years old. Hello, Sienna Ray!
“One day, I found a leather, fabric and a sewing machine at my dad’s place. I put it all on a kitchen counter at my friend’s place and created a leather purse.”
What started as a casual Sunday evening “craft session” turned into a Sienna Ray belt purse bag that Halle Berry would end up buying. That too, from a magazine ad, which was printed in VanMag after Natalie proved her business acumen to the in-house Fashion Director. This innate ability to create may have been a part of Natalie since the age of four but it was her passion of constantly teaching herself and asking the right questions that would lead her to grow the brand over the next decade.
A roller-coaster ride of business and personal life with many burn-outs plus a divorce sprinkled in, Natalie started consulting for young startups to make sure they didn’t experience the downsides of entrepreneurship as she had. As Sienna Ray and her consulting business grew, Natalie moved to New York in 2011 but destiny would introduce her to Jibs Life through her long time Brazilian friend in Vancouver.
“One night we were at dinner in Vancouver and Jonas, who's from Brazil with a long family history in the shoe business, pulled out a box of shoes and asked ‘Ladies, what size shoes are you?’ and I said ‘7.5!'” And so, the love story with a perforated leather slip on shoe conspired. The shoe was designed by his young nephew, Isaqui, who Natalie had met previously while he was studying English in Canada. Isaqui’s family owned a factory in the tropical landscape of Três Coroas on the southern tip of Brazil, where the shoes are manufactured next door in their own factory to this day.
While at a spin class in NYC (she basically lived in these shoes), Natalie’s instructor caught a glimpse of them and realized he had seen a similar pair in Brazil himself. Together, they decided to order some pairs and host a party in Chelsea. And just like that, the early seeds of Jibs Life were planted in August 2015 and Natalie officially came on-board.
The Jibs Way
While you have Vans and a hundred other shoe companies, there is special magic that comes with the Jibs shoe. The shoe comes in three classic slip-on styles: Classic, High Top and Slim Jib. Each pair is constructed with a recycled PVC out-sole, unlined Brazilian leather upper, and an athletic memory foam, odorless insole. The adult shoes are priced between $125 and $200 for custom made. Let’s just say, if you need one thing to pack while you’re globe-trotting or simply going from the gym to work, this elevated, hybrid casual shoe will take you there, in style.
Why the Name?
The word “jib” defines the front directional sail on a sailboat. It’s the one that takes the wind and pulls the boat faster, so it was inevitable that the shoe that takes you places be called a Jib (Duh!).
Having a vast array of experiences under her belt, Natalie is constantly iterating ways to grow her brands while helping others reach their business goals. When it came to growing Jibs Life, Natalie realized that having the right team was everything, in addition, to your own factory! From a CEO’s perspective, it was also important to relate to her end customer, so she would personally email them when they bought a pair to see how they had heard about the shoes and a fun fact about the pair they had bought.
Although she has faced challenges of being too-quick-to-market and adapting to different personality types in her business partners, here’s her recipe for creating a successful brand.
- Things that feel huge are not that big. You must be your biggest gatekeeper and allow yourself to be vulnerable. That email, meeting, presentation can wait another day.
- You can’t just make things, you need to make things that sell! We live in an interconnected world so authenticity and transparency are key as consumers are curious about the cost to produce a product.
- Set personal and business parameters for you and your team.
- Self-worth is everything. Always know what you bring to the table and own it.
Natalie and her team, are currently looking to raise funds to further grow Jibs Life. Email us for their investor deck or if you simply love her story and would like to go on the #jibsjourney, shop here using promo code: RADICHE for 20% discount. Offer valid till end of September 2017.
Photo courtesy of Jibs Life.