Can you share a little bit about your business?
Que Shebley is a fashion tech company. We specialize in luxury footwear and leather goods, where we create seasonal collections of our luxury footwear. We also have our tech side, where we are able to allow people to customize our entire collection completely on our website. We started in 2014. We've been out to the public for about six years now. It started with my background as a fashion designer working for multiple smaller brands, and I kind of went out on my own, where I wanted to continue the journey from my family history. My father was an entrepreneur. He owned small footwear specialty shops in the Middle East, and I always wanted to continue that journey, but bring a more modern approach to the new, modern shopper. So I took this traditional idea of handmade, luxury footwear and my design background, and I incorporated it into a modern, tech version to create a new shopping experience. I believe everyone deserves a unique, Bespoke experience, and I want to bring that experience from the old days, where someone is able to go to a tailor shop and get a fully customized wardrobe. I want to bring that experience completely online and have it accessible for everyone.
What would you say inspired you to plant business roots in the Dearborn community?
I believe there is huge potential in Dearborn and Detroit. I believe it is still a rising market, compared to other markets, and there is a plethora of talent here, so I would really love to have my business established here to highlight the city and its talent, hire locally, and really show the world this town has so much more to offer than anybody has ever thought. The diversity here, the unique backgrounds and the unique talents need to be exposed a lot more. And this is really part of what inspired me to stay here, to build it here, and to hopefully continue in the future.
How have you been able to find or access capital needed for your business?
To be honest, it mostly has been bootstrapped by myself. I started from life savings to really get the business going. And then, as I went along, a lot of it has been self-funded from basically just constantly reinvesting profits back into the business to grow it. Other than that, it's been a bit of a challenge to raise more capital from third parties, but I'm looking this year to be a lot more aggressive about it to really expand the business. I'm starting to get a lot more support, and ACCESS
(Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services) is one of the local organizations that's given me all these smaller connections I didn't know about, whether it has to do with traditional banking or other programs that are available in Detroit and surrounding areas. So, it's been mainly just networking, and working with local organizations that have the information to help me take the business to the next step.
What are your current business goals?
My current business goal would be to first test the market to see if it makes sense for us to open our first location and flagship store in downtown Detroit. Beyond that, I want to continue expanding it into a franchise, into multiple different cities here in the US, and then hopefully internationally. I would say for our business, part of the expansion includes our product line. Right now, we're a specialty footwear leather goods brand. The next step we're going to take is offering a new line of custom-made suiting. We want to be established as the one-stop shop for a modern, custom-made brand, where you're able to do the complete experience online, a technology-based experience, whether it’s incorporating 3D scanning sizing or using your mobile device to get your sizing.
What would you say are some resources you need to achieve those goals?
Number one is capital. I believe we have, at this point, a pretty established business and established model. The next step is finding capital, whether it's through an investment or business loans or local programs. Next, would be finding the right space, and from there we continue to grow with the talent to strengthen the business infrastructure. I need the right talent, whether it has to do with marketing, operations or the design process.
If someone came to you and gave you the best resource guidance for your business goals, what would support from that resource look like for you?
It would be dependent on the resource. If they're able to directly help with capital, then obviously that would be the number one thing that I need. If it is a resource that helps me prepare to raise capital, that would be something else I would love to have to help review and tweak my current business plan to present to investors, including traditional banks or local programs, and ensure that everything that I have is ready to approach sources of funding.
Fill in the blank: Blank has been a really good resource for me. Please share how or why.
Sure, I have two. One has been ACCESS. They’ve been a good resource for me because they have enabled me to connect with local entrepreneurs, and find out about more programs. The second would be Inner City Capital Connections
. This program has been good for me because it's opening me up to additional programs and resources for funding. They also have educational programs and events that I have attended to refresh some of the small business education I have received.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in starting, growing, or sustaining your business?
I would say trying to keep the business steady and sustainable, while still growing in a fluctuating market. Of course, COVID was a hit for us, trying to keep the business sustained with things like operational costs. The positive side of it was there was more online exposure. Funding would be the biggest challenge. And then, trying to find local resources. Before it was a lot more challenging, in comparison to now, to find resources needed to support a small business like funding. In terms of starting it, it was challenging just finding the information online for many of the basic things that are needed for a small business, including registration and creating an Ein number. I did not have experience in those resources, so I had to do a lot of research and self-learning.
If you met a new business owner in the community, what is the first resource you would recommend connecting them with to help them succeed within your city? Who would you connect them with outside of your city?
In Dearborn, I would definitely say ACCESS. They have been a good resource for me, so I could see them being a good resource for somebody who's just starting out. Outside of the city, from my experience, TechTown was a good resource. They have several programs that help, whether you’re just starting or you're a little bit more advanced.
What would you say is a shared issue, concern or challenge among the entrepreneurs and small businesses in your community?
I think the number one challenge is always finding capital, whether if you're just starting out or you're already an existing small business, but you're trying to stay sustainable outside of the traditional routes such as a bank. I also think there's a disconnect between the city administration. I don't think there's full support for every kind of small business. I think there's a lot more support for traditional businesses, and I don't think it's moving the same way the market is moving with a lot of new types of companies, especially online-based. I think they're falling behind. They have an older system, and they need to really catch up with a lot of the entrepreneurs and small businesses that need the support. And then I would say property or land and location is a bit challenging, also, because there are so many small businesses here, and rent is fairly high in a prime location because many times it's taken by well-established businesses. It's specific kinds of businesses that have been established here that do well in comparison to newer businesses, especially retail, for example.
All photos by Nick Hagen.