It's a well-known fact that women love shoes, and Dori and Ilissa Howard, sisters and founders of Milk & Honey Shoes, know no one would try to dispute it. They also know every woman has an idea for a pair of shoes she just can't find in stores, but Milk & Honey Shoes can make your shoe dreams come true. "If you want a crazy pair of green glitter shoes," says Dori, "well, then you should have them."
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Dori and Ilissa say they had a typical upbringing, and even though they had opposite personalities while growing up, they have always been close. Dori and Ilissa both headed off to college to pursue separate careers. Dori was a film studio executive and Ilissa worked in product development for the toy industry. Dori says her job at Paramount was "glamorous" and "exciting and thrilling," but she didn't see anyone over the age of 40. "That concerned me," she says. "I just couldn't see the future in it." Meanwhile, Ilissa loved working in the toy industry, but didn't love working for large companies with no recognition for success.
As the two sisters became increasingly frustrated with their careers, they talked often about doing something together. The sisters both left their six-figure salaries behind to found Milk & Honey Shoes in 2011.
A website where women can design their own shoes, Milk & Honey provides a variety of different options, from sandals to oxfords and red heels to bows and studs. "It really plays into the ego, too, that women can wear these shoes," explains Ilissa, "and when people say, 'Oh, those are so great! Where did you get them?' They can say, 'I designed them myself.'"
Neither sister knew anything about making shoes when they first started. "The learning curve was vertical," explains Dori. They quickly learned all about shoe construction and design, even meeting with engineers who make heels more comfortable for women. "I know what it's like to stand in five-inch heels on concrete for three hours at a time," says Dori.
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Ilissa says their father, an entrepreneur, always said, "I just did it. I just tried it. That's the first step, because if you have all of these dreams and you never try it, you're never going to get anywhere."
Dori says she loves seeing women in their completed, custom-designed shoes, especially when they receive pictures of a bride on her wedding day, walking down the aisle in Milk & Honey shoes.
"The idea for us was to give women what they wanted," says Ilissa, "and so when we're able to do that, it feels really great."
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