A natural gift he wants to protect
19 November 2007, MADRID - Few businesspeople have the willpower to watch their products fly off the shelves while maintaining the conviction that there is no need to rush to produce more to meet demand.
19 November 2007
MADRID - Few businesspeople have the willpower to watch their products fly off the shelves while maintaining the conviction that there is no need to rush to produce more to meet demand.
But just five years into a very successful enterprise in the footwear industry, Spanish entrepreneur Pablo de la Peña has decided to do just that.
With his El Naturalista brand of shoes now selling in 45 countries worldwide, De la Peña is taking a step back.
"We don't want to go mass market," he says. "We want our product to be hard to find, to continue to be something special. If clients start to see our products in every store the magic will wear off."
The magic that has enticed ever increasing numbers of customers to El Naturalista footwear is the way the shoes are made and what they are made out of.
Every single item sold by De la Peña's firm is produced mainly from recycled materials - from the neoprene linings to the rubber souls.
They are manufactured using fair-trade principles to ensure employees are treated well and one euro from every sale goes to support a school for handicapped children in Arequipa, Peru.
Though the socially- and environmentally-conscious image of his products has undoubtedly been the main factor in attracting buyers, De la Peña denies that it is merely a marketing gimmick.
"When we started out five years ago, the sense of social responsibility and environmental concern was not as strong as it is now," says the 35-year-old entrepreneur.
The products, aimed at urban consumers between the ages of 25 and 45, have done better than anyone expected at the outset.
Last year, El Naturalista sold shoes worth €21 million and expects to earn 50 percent more this year.
Nine out of every 10 pairs are sold outside of Spain, with the biggest market being the United States.
With only five stores worldwide in Taipei, Helsinki, Santa Monica, Berlin and Paris, Naturalista relies on a network of salespeople to place its products in department stores and small shops. Other sales come via the Internet.
Despite De la Peña's efforts to maintain the exclusiveness of the brand, the company's frog emblem has started to become increasing recognizable.
"We chose the frog for three reasons: it's a cute animal that people like, it's easy to remember and in some cultures it means good luck," he explains.
Besides footwear, El Naturalista has started to produce other frog-emblazoned products, such as scarves, which will be joined by bags and other accessories from next year. "The hardest part is over. So long as we don't do anything crazy we will become a great company," De la Peña says.
[Copyright EL PAÍS, SL. / J. P. VELÁZQUEZ-GAZTELU 2007]
Subject: Spanish news