College Start-up: CitySlips

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Posted by The Editors on May 10, 2011
College Start-up: CitySlips
Katie Shea and Susie Levitt
Age: 23 and 23
Title: Co-founders, CitySlips
Degree: NYU, marketing and finance, 2009, and NYU, economics, 2009

During college, Katie Shea and Susie Levitt were constantly on the move. They navigated subways and sidewalks, trekking from Wall Street internships, to dinner dates, to NYC night clubs—all while donning high-heeled shoes that were killing their feet. Neither were willing to give up their pointy-toe pumps and strappy stilettos, but they couldn’t bear any more ankle-twisting, blister-inducing journeys.

So the two devised a solution. As seniors at NYU, Shea and Levitt invented CitySlips: foldable, lightweight, and durable ballet flats that fit into a purse, clutch, or jacket pocket. They launched their business in the summer of 2009, right after graduation. To date, their functional footwear has been picked up by major retailers, such as Neiman Marcus and Bed Bath & Beyond.

One of the smartest things Shea and Levitt did during their senior year was seek advice from their professors. “We asked our accounting professor, ‘How should we do our taxes?’ and our business law professor whether we should we be a corporation or LLC,” says Shea. “These are professionals who could be charging so much money for their time, but because you’re under the umbrella of school, you can go to their office hours and get advice for free.”

The duo has also learned a lot about running a company since graduation. “We have pretty good business instincts, but those instincts don’t help when you’re dealing with something like manufacturing and shipping for the first time,” says Shea. “We ordered our first 400 pounds of shoes, 1,000 pairs, and we had them delivered to my parents’ garage on Long Island. We got a phone call from the customs department at JFK airport, asking who our customs broker is. We had no idea what that even was!”

Shea and Levitt say undergrads shouldn’t be intimidated by the idea of launching a business. “People usually think it’s a disadvantage being young, but our age has been one of our biggest assets,” says Levitt. “We’re able to use the college startup story and we have great energy.” Plus, the risks are lower when you don’t have a mortgage and a family. “We figured the worst that would happen is that we’d fail—but learn a lot in the process.”

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