ShoeDazzle's Brian Lee on the fruits of competition

By Richard Nieva , written on May 9, 2013

From The News Desk

Ain’t nothing like competition, right? There are the classic examples: Coke and Pepsi, McDonald's and Burger King. Or -- for the Silicon Valley set -- Lyft and Sidecar. But the best companies don’t let the other guys nipping at their heels faze them. That’s what Brian Lee, founder of woman’s shoes ecommerce site ShoeDazzle, believes.

“If you have a good idea, just run hard, run fast. Because you are going to have fast followers,” said Lee, during PandoMonthly in Los Angeles.

The follower, in this case, is JustFab, another ecommerce site selling woman’s shoes founded by Adam Goldenberg and Don Ressler, and popularized by the company’s president, Kimora Lee Simmons. At the time, the two companies were doing the exact same thing: selling subscriptions to have a pair of shoes arrive monthly at your at your mailbox for about $40.

Lee recalled a phone call he got from Goldenberg early on, offering to buy the company. Sensing an opportunity to do something big with ShoeDazzle, Lee declined. About a year later, JustFab launched, with “the same colors, same model, same everything.”

But Lee says the pressure to try and stay ahead was ultimately good for his company. “I don’t think ShoeDazzle would have grown as quickly as it did if we didn’t have JustFab as competitors.”

And now the two companies aren’t so similar. ShoeDazzle ditched the subscription model after former CEO Bill Strauss decided it would not be profitable in the future, though relentless Facebook advertising and lower manufacturing costs in China made it successful early on.

Lee thinks his company’s sweet spot is in branding and marketing toward high-end items, and having a dogged focus just on shoes. JustFab has touted its customer acquisition, and Lee even complimented that company’s marketing engine. It didn’t hurt to have a reality show starring Simmons depicting life in the office – though ShoeDazzle has its own reality TV juggernaut in cofounder Kim Kardashian.

So amidst all the jostling, Lee still thinks the market is big enough for both of them, especially since each company has evolved. “I think there’s definitely room for two players,” he said.