Zimmerman Shoes

Business Information

Owners: Amelia Ozimek & Audrey Zimmerman

Name: Zimmerman Shoes

Location: Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania

Project description

Website: Zimmerman Shoes

It Runs in the Family
For generations the Zimmerman family has been manufacturing children’s shoes for several different labels. The families successful manufacturing business, Kepner Scott was established in 1888 by the family’s great grandfather Milo Zimmerman. Milo purchased the manufacturing business as a retirement project. After fifty successful years in the manufacturing industry, the great granddaughters of Milo Zimmerman, Audrey and Amelia Zimmerman decided to take the family name to the next level and launch their own shoe label. Audrey said, “We know there are people out there who want shoes for their children that are well made, ethically manufactured in America, and have a vintage appeal to them, so we decided to start a new line to celebrate our family’s tradition of making healthy, timeless little shoes.”

Zimmerman Footsteps
Audrey and Amelia really wanted to honor their family’s shoemaking heritage by following in their footsteps. They learned everything from shoe making, to learning how to run a business first hand from their father, aunt and grandfather. Both loved learning about the family business while they grew up but both took a different avenue in life before they entered into the family business. They reflected,”We grew up coming to the factory. We both worked there during summers and throughout college. We each operated cutting machines and did office work.” Audrey always knew she wanted to join the family business, so she got a business degree and graduated last year. Amelia took a more indirect route and spent some time as a teacher and a vintage clothing dealer before realizing how unique and special the family business is. They continue saying, “We’re a good creative team, and we’re so lucky to have our dad, aunt, and grandfather as consultants and mentors.”

Let the Footwork Begin
Once they realized a business opportunity, Zimmerman brand was launched. When looking for start-up capital, they dipped into their own savings to contribute to the start-up costs, as well as accepted the kind offer from their manufacturer for initial extended terms. Like any business, the relationship between business owners can at times face a challenge or two; working with family, especially your sister, is rewarding, but at times can cause stress. As any business partnership does, the Zimmerman sisters work hard to build not just their brand but also their business relationship. Each sister brings a set of talents that creates a great business partnership and compliments the leadership team. Audrey said, “As sisters and business partners, we spend A LOT of time together. Amelia wants to move at one hundred miles per hour all the time, and I am more of a detail oriented person and perfectionist. This makes us a great team because we focus on both the big and small pictures, but it also means that sometimes we’ve got to consciously communicate through it with love.”

A Cut Above the Rest
With other growing shoe manufacturers around the world there are a select few within the borders of America that are successful. What might seem like a challenge to some, is in fact a motivation factor for the Zimmerman sisters. Audrey and Amelia use this to their advantage and implement quality and perfection in each shoe they manufacture for the Zimmerman brand. They utilize the fine craftsmanship of patterns that their family members have been using for generations. Audrey said, “Because we’re both the designers and the manufacturers, our process is very streamlined. We can turn out a new style, have it photographed, and make it available for sale within a couple weeks. We’re also working with a team of highly experienced shoemakers. The average employee retention rate at Kepner Scott is about twenty years, so the combined experience here is incredible.The patterns and designs from the 60s, 70s, and 80s that our family has used were so classic and timeless that we still use them today.”

Don’t wait!
Like many entrepreneurs know when you have a business idea it can be hard to shake it and focus. The Zimmerman sisters advice is to just jump in! The time you wait to start will pass no matter what. Waiting will only result in the delay of your success. They said, “We launched our line just this past November, so we’re still pretty new business owners. But, I have to say that I wish we’d started three years ago. If you’re thinking of starting a business, and you can’t stop thinking about starting a business, then don’t wait because three years from today, you’ll wish you started now!”