Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Shoe lover brings big problem to heel: 'I'd have to buy men's shoes'

The 28-year-old from Manurewa, South Auckland, is behind a new online shoe business dubbed Staavias. Photo / Supplied
The 28-year-old from Manurewa, South Auckland, is behind a new online shoe business dubbed Staavias. Photo / Supplied

When Gustavia Lui had to tell her boss she could wear only Jandals because her feet were too big for any other shoe, it sparked an idea that would change her life.

The 28-year-old from Manurewa, South Auckland, is behind a new online shoe business dubbed Staavias.

Specifically catering to women with large and wide feet, the company makes stylish high heels and sandals in sizes 10 to 14.

Mrs Lui, who quit her full-time office job last year, has been working hard towards her new venture for the past two years.

A long-time lover of beautiful shoes, she admits she could never find a pair of heels that fitted her size 11 feet.

"They're big, long and wide. I've worked in corporate and there were times I couldn't go to work because I just didn't have shoes.

"I've had to wear Jandals and say to my boss: 'These are the only shoes I can fit'.

"I'd have to ... buy men's shoes for a long time. I've never had more than three pairs of shoes in my life [including] my Jandals."

Mrs Lui enrolled herself into a financial and business-help course. She travelled to a trade show in Las Vegas and later headed to New York to take part in a shoe-making course - where she made her first pair from scratch.

"I finally felt like: 'Oh my gosh, I'm actually starting a business in footwear'. I realised I could do anything."

Mrs Lui later travelled to China, where she went on factory tours in the hopes of securing a supplier.

She also linked up with a London-based designer who helped create her first collection.

After several setbacks with her original supplier, Mrs Lui launched Staavias in January and started selling her range.

My business story

We're in the business of Empowering women to feel feminine regardless of their shoes size

Posted by Staavias on Wednesday, 9 March 2016

She has sold to customers in New Zealand, Australia and America.

The mother-of-three is currently in China overlooking production work with her supplier and is now in talks with a well-known New Zealand shoe outlet about making her range available in-store.

Mrs Lui - who left school in year 11 - said her business venture was not only about empowering women who had this rare but often emotional issue, but also about making people believe that circumstance did not have to dictate their future.

"I've had feedback from women saying: 'Thank you so much. It's been years of struggling with my wide feet. It's so depressing'.

"People think it's an amazing idea and then they hear my history [and] say: 'Wow'."

On the web: www.staavias.com

- NZ Herald

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