Community News

18 April 2017

Empress based shoe company is taking playgrounds by storm

Justine Biggs introduced Italian children’s shoe brand, Lelli Kelly, to the UK, putting sparkle into the steps of little girls across the country.

Office decorated in pink with shoes on display

A former teacher has transformed her BizSpace unit to create a stunning showroom for children’s designer shoes.

Justine Biggs originally worked as a secondary school drama teacher but after the birth of her third child, she started looking for a new part-time venture she could juggle with family life. Her mother, who was working as a children’s footwear agent, told her about the Italian brand Lelli Kelly and in 2004 Justine brought the shoes to the UK for the first time.

She explains how the brand – famous for its cute, pink, sparkly designs – changed her life.

 I wasn’t working at the time. I was at home with five-year-old twins and a newborn baby. It seemed like a nice sort of thing to do to earn a bit of pin money.

Recruiting retail giants

Since then, the business has grown from strength to strength and now Justine sells Lelli Kelly shoes to hundreds of independent retailers as well as a number of large chains including John Lewis, Harrods, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols.

The 44-year-old adds: “By 2008, Lelli Kelly was a household name due to the company’s investment in the UK market. The first five years was a total whirlwind and I started having creative input into the shoes"

Fit for a princess

“I really pestered them to make school shoes and now we are really competing with the big names like Clarks and Start-rite. I also introduced the idea of having princess things like tiaras on the shoes"

 “I am a real girly girl and if anything the brand has gone more girly since I got my hands on it. My customers say they don’t know where Lelli Kelly starts and I finish. I have three sons and Lelli Kelly is like the daughter I never had.”

Showcasing her shoes

Justine has her own limited company which holds the agency contract for Lelli Kelly in the UK and she regularly travels to Italy to work with the brand on creating collections which will appeal to British retailers and consumers.

She first approached our Empress Business Centre in Manchester to rent a unit because she wanted a showroom where she could introduce retailers to each season’s collections.

She says: “Traditionally, footwear salesmen go to shops and get their sample cases out on the floor but I didn’t think that was a good way to represent a bespoke brand. My showroom gives the brand the respect it deserves.”

She painted her unit pink and white and re-carpeted it before adding lots of shelving to show off the shoe samples in their best light. She also added a large central table where retailers can choose which items they want to order in a relaxing environment.

A pretty pink paradise

Justine, who works in the unit alongside her personal assistant, Danielle Borthwick, explains: "One of the reasons I chose BizSpace is that the staff were really amenable and helpful. The Empress Business Centre is really lovely since it has been refurbished and they organise lots of events.”


She says it was also vital that she found a unit which offered good value for money as the showroom is only in use during the four selling periods in which retailers place their orders each year.

I am very happy to go to an office which is pink. Being able to decorate my unit as I wanted it was very important to me and my business.

Based in a former Victorian brewery, the Empress Business Centre offers offices, meeting rooms, workshops, storage units and a co-working space.

For more information contact Business Centre Manager Simon Fennell on 0161 877 5579 or email [email protected]