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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Student turns craft into custom shoe business

Marie Giacobbe ’22 incorporates her designs into her wardrobe. PHOTOS: Mitchell Shields ’22

One night in LaFarge Residence Center, Marie Giacobbe ’22 and her suitemates broke out some acrylic paint and started painting random items around their suite. Giacobbe found an old pair of Birkenstock sandals and decided to spruce them up with a new design.

After wearing the pair of painted Birkenstocks around campus, Giacobbe said other students began asking her to design their shoes. Following a few months of spreading the word and establishing an online presence, Giacobbe turned that spur-of-the-moment craft into a small business.

“All of a sudden, it just blew up and I started making different types of shoes,” Giacobbe said. “I’m continuously going out shopping, and it’s very time consuming, but it just makes me so happy to create and cater to specific people.”

Giacobbe has developed a custom shoe business called Caged Butterfly Shoes, which has expanded to include jewelry, hats and other clothing items and accessories.

Giacobbe said customers can message her on Instagram, @cagedbutterflyshoes, or order products on her website. The shoes range in price from $30-$50 depending on the style of shoe and amount of labor that went into the design. To keep production costs low, Giacobbe buys the shoes in bulk and searches online for sales and coupons to use for paint, patches and jewelry supplies.

During the summer, Giacobbe said she spent most of her time working to build up the business.

“I made business cards and started handing them out,” Giacobbe said. “I started hanging up flyers in places. I made an Instagram page and a website and sent it to people. And a lot of it is just word of mouth because people will wear the shoes, and then people will be like, ‘Oh those are so cool. Where did you get those?’”

Her efforts also included an open house at her home in New Jersey. Giacobbe said she bought shoes of all different sizes in bulk, painted various designs and put them on display in her house.

“People came in and shopped and bought shoes from the specific size tables,” Giacobbe said. “They also placed orders, so in that one day I made $1200 from just having my neighbors and friends come and buy shoes and make orders.”

Giacobbe said when she was first starting out, she got help from her parents and friends, including Haley Flake, a sophomore at Montclair State University who has known Giacobbe since middle school. Flake has modeled for Giacobbe, and she was one of the first people to see Giacobbe’s work in action.

“All of her designs have improved, and her own unique style has really evolved just in the few months that she’s been putting out her shoes,” Flake said. “She gets really creative with it, and she really makes something simple, like flowers, a design that’s really her own.”

Giacobbe’s business has spread beyond friends, family and classmates, and she has created products specifically for nurses, veterinarians, children and anyone else who has requested a particular design for their lifestyle.

Giacobbe uses different styles of shoes as well as a variety of materials when creating custom orders.

Because of Giacobbe’s success, she said she hopes to continue the business in the future. Although she is a psychology major, she recently declared a minor in family business/entrepreneurship.

“My mom is a clinical psychologist, so my whole life I grew up wanting to be a clinical psychologist,” Giacobbe said. “But once I started the business, I feel like I’ve found my passion. Now I possibly want to open up my own private practice as a psychologist and work there a couple days a week, but then also have a little boutique or open my own shop.”

In addition to her career path, Giacobbe said the business was also influenced by her mother, as the name “Caged Butterfly Shoes” has ties to her family.

“My great grandma always said to my grandma, ‘Whenever you see a butterfly, think of me,’” Giacobbe said. “When she passed away, she passed that down to my grandma, and then when my grandma passed away she said it to my mom. My mom actually was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago, and when she was two years breast cancer free, we got matching butterfly tattoos.”

Jayne Baran ’22 owns one of Giacobbe’s classic butterfly designs on a pair of white platforms. Baran said she was drawn not only to Giacobbe’s designs, but also to her work in general

“I like the whole butterfly motif she has going on, and I always want to support my friends and people who are doing local art,” Baran said.

Giacobbe said she tries to incorporate butterflies into many of her designs, but she has also done florals, animal prints, cherry patterns and other ideas that customers request.

In addition to promoting her work through social media, flyers and business cards, Giacobbe also utilizes the products themselves to spread the word.

“Usually every day I try to wear something,” Giacobbe said. “That way if anybody ever asks, and I always carry my business cards on me, because it’s such a great conversation topic.”

Giacobbe said the business is not all about making money, because she genuinely enjoys the creative outlet.

“I’ve always enjoyed appreciating other people’s art, so it’s so nice to finally have other people being able to appreciate my art,” Giacobbe said.

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