How I Learn by Doing

Pashion Project

By Haley Pavone

PHOTOGRAPHER Jean Paul Molyneux
Haley Pavone working at Cal Poly’s CIE HotHouse.

A common concept in entrepreneurship is that the best products come from a real-world pain. My inspiration took that idea about as literally as possible, when I was impaled through the toe by a stiletto shoe at my sorority spring formal in 2016. As usual, I’d worn my six-inch stilettos to the event only to abandon them the second I started to dance. A quick look around the dance floor showed me that I wasn’t the only one choosing to take on the night barefoot.

I spent the next few months researching high heel-associated pain and found that the market was so much larger than barefoot sorority girls. A shocking number of working women have to carry extra footwear with them on their commute each day, taking the time to change shoes whenever they enter or exit the office. Doesn’t it seem a little ridiculous that in 2017, women have to subject themselves to something painful for the sake of looking good? I certainly thought so, and this need to take women’s footwear into the 21st century is what led to the creation of Pashion Footwear.

Pashion Footwear is creating the world’s first fully convertible heel — a high heel that can transform into a flat sandal. Taking advantage of all the entrepreneurship resources Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) has to offer, we’ve had the amazing opportunity to transform this idea into a patent-pending technology and fully operating company — all before I’ve even graduated.

This experience provides all that the Learn by Doing philosophy has to offer — from learning the art of negotiation while signing shoe development contracts, to understanding intellectual property law by drafting a provisional patent. Starting Pashion has taught me more about business and the world as a whole than any other experience I’ve ever had. As a student entrepreneur, you really have to embrace the mindset of learning to swim while you’re already in the water, and there is no more powerful learning tool out there than the motivation of your own potential success.

To all students out there who have an idea and are debating whether to run with it, do it. There is no other time when you will have the freedom and energy to put in the 15 hour days free of obligations to other people. Who knows — maybe you could develop the next million-dollar idea. But at the very least, you will have the most rewarding learning experience of your entire life.

Haley Pavone is a senior business major whose startup, Pashion Footwear, was recently accepted at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s SLO HotHouse Incubator. Check out the elevator pitch that helped get her company into the program below.

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