Jenny Ford is the president of two successful and fun companies Monkey Toes and Sugar Loco. Monkey Toes – Launched 2002 as a hand painted shoe company. They have had annual growth and are recently involved into a licensing deal and relaunched with new branding and new product in January 2011.
Sugar Loco is an online magazine of everything desserts. Jenny & Tracy locate the best of the best of the best desserts online, in stores, through recipes and by city and aggregate them into a user friendly aesthetically awesome site. They are still in the launch phase of this site, selling ad space to fund and possibly seeking investment capital to grow the brand even further.
MO: First I want to commend you on your creativity with company names. Can you tell us about how you came up with the names Monkey Toes and Sugar Loco?
Jenny: That’s so sweet, thank you! The name Monkey Toes came from my first born daughter’s toes. They were cute, but long so the name Monkey Toes fit.
Tracy (my business partner) & I tossed around a million names before finally settling on Sugar Loco. You should have seen our Gtalk stream – just throwing all sorts of names out there – even getting quite silly at times. We wanted the name to be memorable and something that could be very flexible when working to become a brand.
MO: The shoes on Monkey-Toes.com are very adorable. Do you paint these yourself? Employ artists? What is the production process like?
Jenny: Monkey Toes used to be hand painted (since the licensing deal they are all manufactured for us), that’s how I began the company. For years I hand painted, laced and packaged every pair of shoes. The company was growing so fast that I decided I was too busy to handle the bulk of the painting and needed to focus in other areas – so I hired sub-contractors to paint. Now everything is manufactured custom for us through factories. The new Monkey Toes have a “sand box stamping” sole which is so incredibly cute. And don’t even get me started on our shoe boxes. Each style has its own coordinating gift box which is meant to stick around. It can house hair bows, legos or be saved along with the shoes – our shoes quickly become the keepsake pair that’s saved. I don’t personally handle any of the manufacturing any more – our Licensee does all of that. I do however create the new collections and approve the new products.
MO: Why did you decide to start Sugar Loco? What in your personal background makes you an expert on desserts?
Jenny: Tracy and I both grew up celebrating sweets. We met via twitter and started a dessert showdown where we’d try to top each other’s nightly (or daytime) sweet fix. It was quite funny actually. Then we had our A-HA moment and thought we could really start a blog showcasing our finds. So we did! It’s been so wonderful working with these companies who often don’t gain a lot of exposure. They’re truly passionate about what they do and thankful when we “Sugar Loco Approve” them and show them off to our readers.
MO: Tell us about the licensing deal with Monkey Toes? How did you initiate the deal and what is the process like?
Jenny: I have a book of “ideas” that when they pop into my head I jot them down. Licensing has always been on the list of things to research and learn more about. In 2009 a licensing agent contacted me asking if I’d like to be a licensee for other designs. I told him I had no desire to license other designs, but had always considered licensing mine out (they are all copyrighted). We had a few conversations about how the process works and I decided to sign him on as my agent. He then started searching for companies that would be a good fit for Monkey Toes. We found one (Scene Weaver out of Columbia, SC), the contract taking quite a while to get finalized, but we finally launched our new branding and product line in January 2011 at the Gift Show in Atlanta. Scene Weaver has exclusive rights to creating our shoe line, plus a few other categories. Right now we’re buttoning up our Spring 2012 Collection (which will launch January 2012). Scene Weaver manufactures and distributes to our wholesale market – I still handle our web sales, social media (Twitter and Facebook), new designs and design approval. It’s been a great relationship and I’m thrilled to work with them.
MO: You are just now in the process of selling ad space for Sugar Loco. Do you plan on implementing any other revenue streams for the site other than ad space?
Jenny: Along with ad space, sponsored posts, and affiliate programs – we’re tossing around a ga-jillion different ideas right now, launching soon our first mobile app for “desserties”. It showcases desserts by city, so if you’re out and about and want to find a sweet place to stop you’d click open our app, find a location and then we take it one step further by telling you what the MUST have is at that particular location. We’re taking the daunting decision of deciding out of the picture. Just sit back and indulge!
MO: How are you planning on growing readership for Sugar Loco?
Jenny: We strive hard to utilize social media to its fullest extent, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, and we’re learning about new avenues every day. We also try to tap into the fans of the products, bloggers and restaurants we feature by encouraging them to share their feature with their fans. This is building great karma and we’re getting great readers and fans because of it. We’ve also got some super-secret projects in the works too!
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