When she’s traveling or just wants a break for her feet, Jessica Nadeau slips on a pair of her Solettos — a comfortable ballet flat designed for emergency situations.
“When you think of Solettos, you will consciously think of stilettos,” said Jessica Nadeau, CEO of Solettos. “It’s a shoe for your sole.”
Nadeau, a 2008 UT graduate with a degree in corporate communication and a minor in business, never imagined coming up with her own product. At Nadeau’s first job, she worked for Sidekick Solutions, a concierge service where she ran errands for busy professionals in her uncomfortable stilettos. After suffering though foot discomfort just to look professional, she joked with her aunt, Cordie Jasinsky, about the idea of carrying around a shoe in her back pocket.
Jasinsky introduced her to the retail world when she took Nadeau to a tradeshow in Las Vegas in 2009 so she could see what it would take to make her shoes a reality. There she was introduced to manufacturers who could help her make her product: the emergency shoe for stiletto-wearing women constantly on the go. The shoes are functional because they can roll up and fit in a purse or back pocket, Nadeau said.
“I had never had an interest in fashion, or retail for that matter, but it went from an idea to reality,” Nadeau said.
Currently, Solettos are carried in 200 stores across the U.S., two of them in Austin. The University Co-op and Plain Ivey Jane, a high-end retail store, have been carrying Solettos for more than eight months.
“I want to give woman what they want,” Nadeau said. “The craze has been great, but I’m taking it fairly slow. There’s been some requests for a pouch on the side [of the wristlet] for credit cards so it can be an all-in-one wallet.”
Following suit with ballet slippers, Nadeau said she had to add the signature bow to her design. However, to distinguish her flats from the rest, she decided to put the bows on the side of the shoe, rather than the standard front.
“People say to me, why don’t you just wear comfortable shoes, but women will suffer pain for certain situations,” Nadeau said. “High heel shoes make legs look great, and I’m sorry, but they’re a typical staple and unfortunately they’re not going away.”
Originally, Nadeau created the shoes with working businesswomen in mind, but the clientele has since expanded to include anyone from wedding guests to nightclub patrons.
Made with waterproof materials and a thin rubber sole, the Solettos come rolled in a zip-up wristlet that unfolds into a trendy tote and are available in black, silver, pewter, turquoise and metallic orange. Recently, rollable flip-flops were added as the next new emergency accessory but currently are only available online.
Recognizing the necessity of Solettos is a personal decision, but Nadeau said she has received high appraisement for her product from customers such as Yvette Shipley, owner of ibettink, LLC, who owns two pairs of Nadeau’s shoes.
“As someone who owns her own business, I’m on my feet a lot,” Shipley said. “They are a cute little slip-on shoe to have and [they are] so convenient.”
Shipley also believes Solettos make a nice gift and as a frequent traveler, appreciates not having to go barefoot at airports when her feet begin to get sore.
“Once I was on business and I was snowed-in at LaGuardia Airport for 36 hours,” Shipley said. “Those shoes were really nice to have.”
With lofty dreams ahead, Nadeau said she’s always thinking of ways of expanding her business, from trying to get more stores and airports to carry the shoes to coming up with the whimsical idea of putting out Solettos-carrying vending machines on Sixth Street.
“Everyone thinks this is a trend, but I don’t want it to be a trend. I want it to be a staple,” Nadeau said.
WHERE: UT Co-op and Plain Ivey Jane
COST: $20 for rollable flats; $16.95 rollable flip-flops