Frederikke Schmidt, the 36-year-old entrepreneur, is determined to be the change she wants to see in society. Founder & Creative Director at roccamore, Frederikke is re-establishing the standards for the fashion industry; one where comfort, style, and sustainability finally co-exist.
Despite her strong vision for the company and the future of entrepreneurship, her journey hasn’t been an easy or smooth sail.
"I've always been told I was making too much noise and that I did not fit"
With an academic background in Fashion, Frederikke chose to specialize in footwear, as it’s been a passion since she was a child. During her Master’s at Polimoda back in 2009, she used to look for inspiration in the diverse cultures and trends preserved in small societies, “I love the creativeness and ability to study something on a geeky level”.
After finishing her studies, she decided to travel to Italy to learn from big fashion brands. She ended up staying in Florence for 8 years, working for different known companies in the industry, before coming back to Denmark.
Kick-starting her first - and current - business
As Frederikke admits, she never really thought about creating her own brand or even starting a business, “I was way too humble to believe that would ever work”.
Roccamore first came to life as a Bachelor’s thesis project, for which the censor’s biggest concern was whether she, as a woman, would be able to build and grow a business from scratch.
Instead of feeling intimidated or succumbing to the self-doubt, Frederikke dared to prove everyone wrong and start her first business in 2014.
For that, she used the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, becoming the first woman in Denmark to use it to start a business. In the first 30 days of the campaign, roccamore got 220% funded (around $5,000, or 335K dkk.).
With this money, she started working with an orthopedic shoemaker to create the most comfortable insole ever seen before for heels. The process, however, took them about 2 years of trial and error, until they found the perfect one.
Looking back, Frederikke admits that dealing with the Kickstarter campaign by herself wasn’t the smartest choice: “It wasn’t a failure, but it did bring me down with stress and I spent 2 full months hitting rock bottom before I could get back up”.
"I do not try to pretend that I know everything. I am very open and honest about how difficult it can be"
An entrepreneurs’ world
Digging into the burdens for entrepreneurs, we couldn’t help but mention the gender stereotypes that still exist today in the business world: “When I started roccamore I had not anticipated that there would be so many challenges in being a woman”.
As Frederikke explains, the people she surrounded herself with have been the key to her professional development. People that didn’t see a female or a male, but a passionate entrepreneur with a whatever-it-takes attitude - and years of experiences at her back.
However, despite her constant attempts to draw attention to her business idea and away from her gender, she’s had to deal with being ‘her with the colorful dresses’ instead of ‘her with the successful shoe company’.
"Being a woman is almost always used against me; either it is a pity for me, something I do not understand, or it is the only reason why something succeeds. It’s almost a disability that you have to deal with"
Moreover, clients can also nominate a woman to name the shoe after, as all her collection carries the names of inspiring women: “focusing on cool women who are not afraid to stand up for who they are inspires more women to do the same”.
As she explained, a person’s value should be based on their passion and not their gender or position in a company. In her words, entrepreneur and leader women should stand together in the fight for equal rights to success than men have, although, as she adds: “gender should have neither advantages or disadvantages, we should rather look at people's passion and talent”.
"Slowly I found my way and realized I was both more skilled and stronger than I thought. I learned to stick to my concepts and stand up for myself"
From zero to leading roccamore
Since the commercial launch in 2016, the business has tripled its size. In 2019 alone, more than 10,000 pairs of roccamore shoes were sold.
As a growing business, Frederikke is committed to constantly improving her customers’ experience with the brand. As a rather practical leader, she also spends time on creating and improving the content of the site, the shops, the communication, and keeping close contact with her clients: “I see criticism as feedback in disguise, I listen to everything”.
When asked about a highlight in her professional career, she doesn’t even have to think about it: the first time the company reached a break-even point and started to make a profit. She remembers the relief of, without struggling for it, being able to pay her employees’ salaries.
The key to success? She gives us her 2 cents on what helps make a difference: transparency.
“My company is completely transparent and flexible, so that others can see how we do, and so that we are always ready to make things smarter”. Moreover, she can’t stress enough how important it’s been for roccamore’s growth to engage with the community and create value for her customers.
"In times of crisis, you have to adapt and evolve, if you want to keep your business relevant. New circumstances are creating a lot of opportunities for companies to think new, but also for new businesses to start up"
As a last note, her advice for early entrepreneurs is to focus their energy and talent on developing their great ideas. “It sounds easy, but it’s really not. Way too much energy is spent on worrying about things we can’t change”.