Neely Powell turned a dream into reality with her booming business, Charleston Shoe Company. Growing up on Little Palm Island inspired Powell to create a line of women’s shoes for the girl on the go. With one shop on St. Armands, five more throughout the state and the hope to continue expanding, Charleston Shoe Company is looking to become a staple in every woman’s closet. SRQ spoke with Powell about her company, her childhood and, most importantly, her shoes. 

What was it like growing up on Little Palm Island? POWELL: It was the most charming childhood that I could have had. My parents were huge entrepreneurs and they created this magical island oasis that really inspired me throughout my whole life. Just visionary, with this rustic, bohemian lifestyle and all of these different people that mingled in. Growing up there and meeting all these guests from all over the world really made me become very outgoing.  

What was the most influential life skill your parents taught you? Their hard work ethic and their need to make everyone feel like they were constantly doing this job that they passionately believed in. There was never this sense that anything I try and I work really hard at doing, I was going to fail. They inspired me to always keep going and never think about if it doesn’t work. Just always envision this thing you’re creating that’s becoming a reality. 

How do your experiences growing up tie into the founding of your business?  I was very influenced by that beach bohemian lifestyle, which really resonates in a lot of our designs, colors and shoes. My mother had a furniture business and that’s how I met my cobblers. They are in the same town where the furniture was produced, and I met them about 24 years ago and I’m still using the same cobbler today. Everything is handmade. 

Why Sarasota?   I grew up going to Ringling Bros. and it was always so cultural and there was so much activity and so much going on. All the people there were stylish and I felt like it drew in so many different areas. It just seemed like such a center for all the different keys, and everyone’s coming into this one area that is vibrant and exciting. They really spread so much good word, and word of mouth is contagious. Every person comes in and talks about how wonderful their friend is that has these shoes and she has to try them on. Word of mouth throughout Sarasota is very complimentary to us. 

Are there more shops in the future?   There’s always a store around the next corner. I definitely have at least two or three stores on the horizon this year and we’re expanding into Europe as well. We’ve just opened our first store in Spain and we will be opening more in France and Italy, and then a few more in Florida and hopefully out to the west coast. Our trunk show pop-up business is booming. We do about 75 traveling trunk shows a year, and I have a team right now of about 15 girls that are on the road at any given time, either for a day or for three months at a time. So there’s always a pop-up shop happening, because there are always people at different locations that love our shoes and want them.

Your favorite shoe of the moment?   When my friends see me, they always designate my shoe of choice as the Cannon in red multi-stripe. But this summer I’ve been slipping on the Seabrooke in Linen a lot. Just because it’s easy and really comfortable.

What's been your favorite moment?   A lot of summers and springs I spend on the road­—and they’re the most fun when I have my daughter Gigi with me. We get to go to a lot of these different trunk shows and pop-up shops and really fun places. The people that show up at them are just so magnetic and so energetic and excited about us being there.

What is one thing you can't live without?    Comfortable shoes, of course!