Chic petite AMIE: Meet Sam Dong, Founder of Ally Shoes
Heels have been one of the most empowering fashion items for us, petite girls. If we want to look taller and feel more confident, all we have to do is jump in a pair of heels and be instantly more statuesque. Standing proud at 5'2", Sam Dong launched her own heels brand - Ally, with a clear goal in mind: to make comfortable heels for professional women that look good and feel good. Her shoes have an elegant aesthetic and come in classic shapes and designs.
Sam had the idea of Ally when she was a second year MBA student at Stanford. As an ex-management consultant and shoe-lover, she always struggled finding a pair of comfortable heels for work. After a toe injury from a hiking incident, Sam gave up any hope to find walkable heels that would still look good. That's when she decided to take the matter in her own hands and created Ally!
When I was little, I read a quote that goes, "Good shoes take you good places." There's something beautiful and poetic about it that touched me deeply at the time. Over the years, I would remember those words from time to time, often as an excuse to overspend on footwear. But never would I have dreamed that one day, I'd be making shoes for the world.
"Why heels?" That's a question I got a lot at networking events, and occasionally from my over-bearing tiger parents who wish I had never left my consulting job to jump into the startup world.
To answer that question, I need to tell you a bit about myself. I have two degrees from Cornell and Stanford. I can put together beautiful presentation decks and complex SQL queries like a pro. Unfortunately, as a 5'2" tiny Asian girl, in the professional setting, I always have to work harder to be noticed, to be taken seriously, and to prove that I’m just as capable as that tall guy next to me. It's exhausting.
Luckily, I have a super power – my high heels. I bought my first pair of heels when I was 19, for my first internship interview. The moment I put them on, I felt this unexplainable sense of power, as if I could take over the world. And guess what, I got that job. Ever since then, I have worn heels to all my big moments. However, after countless times of having to take them off at the end of a cocktail party, or change to flats after work, I was fed up: why do heels have to hurt?
I dragged myself to comfort shoe stores, only to leave with disappointment and frustration. It seemed as if I had to pick one: beautiful heels that hurt, or ugly shoes that are comfortable.
That's not good enough.
In a world where women are told we can do anything and be anyone we dream to be, why are we still forced to trade beauty with pain?
The Launch of Ally
That’s why I’m launching a new heels brand, Ally. It's time to make your heels your friend, not your enemy. For the past year, I spoke with hundreds of women as fed up as me, traveled to LA/NY/China to meet with local shoemakers, learned to make a pair of heels from scratch, and consulted experts from podiatrist to physicists to figure out the best product solution.
Now I'm working with an amazing team of women in New York, including a renowned foot ankle surgeon, and former designer of Yeezy. With innovative design, new material, and custom-fit capability, we're aiming to create the perfect pair that will take you wherever your dream leads you.
So, why heels? Because no one is offering what we all desperately need, so I decided to build it myself.
Funny thing is, in my professional career thus far, whether it's advising fortune 500 CEOs on corporate strategy, or launching a new fancy tech product, I've never felt the level of excitement, anxiety, and restlessness as I am now. Call it an emotional connection, a sense of mission, or an attempt to challenge the status quo - I acted out of need, because someone should.
Advice to other women who want to start new ventures
Work on something you're passionate about. I spent the past four years in Silicon Valley, surrounded by AI, Machine Learning, AR/VR, etc. I started my entrepreneur search by chasing buzz words and worked on some mini projects, but nothing quite felt right. When I stumbled upon this idea, I felt a different level of excitement and connection. My business school classmates used to take pictures of me working with shoe parts in the entrepreneur lab at midnight, while others were out partying. Starting a new venture is so hard - it requires you to give it all you've got and more, and you still might fail. Without a deeper connection or commitment, it will be too easy to give up.
Sam, ready for a round of quick fire questions? Do you prefer…
- heels or flats? Heels are petite girls' best friend. They make me feel strong, confident, but at the same time very feminine.
- mini or maxi? Maxi. I love those flowy maxi pants that are perfect for the summer, and extend my legs / make me look taller.
- bikini or one piece? Bikini.
- earrings or necklace? Earrings. A pair of elegant or statement earrings can really add some glitters to the look.
- perfect hair or perfect makeup? Perfect hair.