A woman is preparing to launch her own footwear business after struggling to find shoes to fit her size 11 feet.
Caroline Stillman, 23, of Thorpe-by-Water, has struggled to find fashionable footwear for her entire life and has always been frustrated at the lack of options available for bigger shoe sizes.
She’s always been interested in fashion and, as a result, decided to study fashion at the London College of Fashion and at DeMontfort University in Leicester.
It was only after a year working in the fashion industry that Caroline realised she could do something to help people in similar situations to her.
It was then that the idea for her footwear business, Carobella Boutique, was born.
She said: “It was really hard to find beautiful shoes for myself growing up as I’m a size 10 or 11 depending on where you go - so that really was the main driver.
“I realised I could design shoes for other people like me.”
Following university, Caroline enrolled on a business course with The Prince’s Trust, which she says was “so hugely helpful”.
Caroline added: “I always knew I had good ideas and I was determined - I just didn’t know how to move forward with my ideas.”
She is now in the lengthy process of finding manufacturers, who she connected with via LinkedIn, to produce her shoes.
Fashionable flats, inspired by top designers like Valentino and Christian Dior, will be made in sizes eight to 11 and sold on her website.
She has had samples made up, which she’s delighted with, and she has already gained huge interest, via social media, including Facebook and Instagram.
Caroline has Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder which can lead to problems with eyes, lungs and the heart.
Sufferers are usually tall and slim and may need surgery in later life. Her mother Sarah and older brother Sam both suffer from it.
Doctors keep a close eye on the condition but Caroline knows that she may have to have open heart surgery in the future.
Caroline was also bullied at secondary school because of her height and forced to move schools to Stamford High School, where she says teachers and her new friends were nothing but supportive.
Caroline said: “Those days are behind me now and I’m trying to turn the negative into a positive. That’s the same message I’d give to anyone in a similar situation.”
Despite all the challenges she has faced throughout her life, today Caroline is a confident young woman with a positive outlook on life and a determined focus on making her business a success.
She one day hopes to have her shoes stocked in Harrods or Selfridges and is already thinking about a tall clothing range.
Caroline said: “It’s all about helping tall girls, like myself, who have the same struggle to find nice shoes to wear. I think everyone deserves to have beautiful shoes to wear - it shouldn’t be an impossible struggle when you’re shopping.
“I’m really excited about the future.”
To find out more about the range, visit carobellaboutique.co.uk.