The creative light bulb went on for Pamela Ammeter in the winter of 2011 when she sat in a Winnipeg shoe store surrounded by boxes of boots that didn’t fit.
Like many women, Ammeter has calves that are larger than the dimensions of almost all fashion boots being sold in Canada. She said she was able to find roomier boots in the U.S., but none when making the rounds of Winnipeg stores.
"I thought, ‘Why don’t I do it? No one else is doing it,’" she said.
While many people come up with what they think is a good idea for a new product, the vast majority don’t have the expertise needed to see it through. That’s not the case with Ammeter, who has a university degree in clothing and textiles combined with almost 20 years of experience working in the Canadian fashion industry.
She and husband Michael live in Headingley where he helps with spring and fall work on his family’s farm, as well as working full-time off the farm.
Ammeter’s resume includes a seven-year stint at Nygard Fashions, where she worked her way up from receptionist to merchandiser, acting as the connection between fashion designers and the factories where the company’s clothing was made.
She moved to Western Glove Works, first overseeing a private label menswear collection, then working as merchandise manager in the company’s Silver Jeans division. Her most recent fashion industry position was in the Ricki’s head office.
Wanting a change from the fast-paced fashion industry, she and Michael opened a Winnipeg Gold Buyer store at 3127 Portage Ave. nine months ago, after she took the necessary training.
She soon found that she had enough time between customers to give her the time needed to turn her relaxed-fit boot idea into reality.
"I’ve been trying to do this for two years," she said, adding that being on call around the clock, seven days a week, and long hours previously spent in the office had left her with little energy to do the research required to get her business started.
While she had plenty of experience in women’s clothing, the shoe industry is different. She had to make new contacts. One of the main hurdles was finding a boot manufacturer willing to make a limited number of a single style of boot. Rather than the 500 pairs she wanted, most refused to work with her if she didn’t order a minimum of 1,200 pairs.
She eventually found a factory willing to produce the smaller quantity she was looking for, and she started with two basic designs. One she named for a friend and the other after her mother.
She began selling online at www.BootsByPamela.com in May and has a display in her Gold Buyer location.
She realizes that women usually don’t shop for boots in the late spring and
"I knew they weren’t going to be rolling out the door," she said. However, sales have been going well enough that she’s working on the designs and colours for four new styles to be added to her stock for the fall.
She’s very pleased with the comments she’s received on her boots, saying that even if someone doesn’t need the wider calf style themselves, they usually know someone who does.
Another coup is having her boots worn by models in the International Fuller Woman Expo in Toronto this month, and carried by plus-size boutiques in Toronto and in Vancouver’s Granville Island. Kumfort Shoes in Portage la Prairie also sells her boots.
Ammeter wants to establish her brand and plans to incorporate her logo on the zippers of the new boot styles she’s having made. She’s setting her sights high and hopes to add other fashion accessories to her product line.