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Hannah's Shoebox finds fit at University of Tampa

Colette Glover-Hannah, owner of Hannah’s Shoebox, is part of a new business incubator at the University of Tampa.

MONICA HERNDON | Times

Colette Glover-Hannah, owner of Hannah’s Shoebox, is part of a new business incubator at the University of Tampa.

Colette Glover-Hannah and her tween daughter, Elois Hannah argued in the middle of Macy's shoe department.

At age 11, Elois wore a size 11 and struggled to find a shoe that would fit.

Though she wasn't looking for anything too high, she had only one option and tried it on.

Wobbling down the aisle toward her mother yelling, "They fit," their fight began.

"She's having a break down and I am having a break down," Hannah said. "I said, 'you're not going to buy those and when you get home you're on punishment for being disrespectful.'

"And this was all because we couldn't find age-appropriate shoes."

Ever since Elois was in first grade, her age matched her shoe size.

After hearing similar complaints from fellow parents, Hannah decided to do something about it.

That's when she founded the online shopping startup, Hannah's Shoebox.

"It's the only store in the nation that provides age-appropriate shoes for tween girls," Hannah said. "The store allows them to continue to look like girls, but find styles and sizes they need."

The shoe sizes go up to 13. Thirty-five percent of her clientele wear sizes 11 to 13.

Not quite three years in, Hannah's Shoebox already has moved from Hannah's home-based office and into the new John P. Lowth Entrepreneurship Center in the Innovation and Collaboration Building at the University of Tampa.

She now occupies a desk in the incubator, surrounded by fellow entrepreneurs.

"The goal of the incubator is to move companies forward," Kevin Moore, director of operations at the Lowth entrepreneurship center, said.

"And by 'forward,' it's interesting because some will move toward revenue, some toward actually realizing the idea isn't feasible, and some will expand branding and marketing."

Hannah is now able to utilize the brand-new facility, decorated with inspirational quotes, hives that stimulate the thinking process and plenty of meeting space.

She can even step out of her eighth-floor office right onto a wooden balcony overlooking the bay.

"There's nothing like going to a real office space with no distractions," Hannah said. "It's made such a difference in terms of productivity and being able to focus."

Hannah appreciates the relationships and resources UT provides, both tangible and intangible.

"I met someone from Australia in the elevator and we ended up talking for 30 minutes," Hannah said. "He gave me advice on what he saw I should do on branding and marketing."

The lecture series is also beneficial.

"I went to hear the woman who owns (a smoothie franchise) and the sense of camaraderie I felt — like it's not just me going through this," Hannah said.

Not only does Hannah help tween girls find cute shoes, she also has a partnership with schools in the area where uniforms are required.

She provides Mary Janes up to size 11 and gives 10 percent of each sale back to the school.

She has also donated more than 100 pairs to the Joshua House.

"Colette is expanding in the areas where we have expertise: international business, building a brand, marketing and distribution," Moore said. "We believe Colette represents Hannah's Shoebox well and will add a lot to the other incubator companies through her expertise and interactions."

Now, rather than arguing over age-appropriate shoes at Macy's, Colette and Elois, who is now nearly 15, conduct presentations together on the store.

"Elois comes with me and talks about what it's like to be a girl with big feet and the struggle of finding shoes."

The mother-daughter duo armed with a variety of larger shoe sizes makes it possible for tween girls to say with confidence, "I wear a size 11."

Contact Arielle Waldman at awaldman@tampabay.com.

Hannah's Shoebox finds fit at University of Tampa 02/11/16 [Last modified: Thursday, February 11, 2016 5:04pm]
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