[M]eet Abi Smithson:
She’s an entrepreneur.
She’s an inventor.
She’s a nine-year old girl with a vision that’s not far from becoming a billion-dollar brand.
The fourth grader is getting ready to launch her first product, The Love Sandal. The concept is simple: it’s a dress shoe with straps shaping into a heart on top.
Inspiration came last summer in a taxicab. As Abi and her mother were on their way home from an inventor’s camp, Abi noticed “ugly tan-lines” on her mom’s foot. That’s when the vision of The Love Sandal came to her.
“If it would be a heart, then it would be a pretty heart tan-line,” Abi said.
When designing this shoe, Abi thought practically. She chose a heart, her favourite shape, specifically because she was designing a women’s shoe.
“It’s not a cheap flip flop, it’s a nice dress sandal,” said Julie Smithson, Abi’s mother.
Organizations like the Ladies Learning Code, a non-profit organization that runs workshops to teach beginners computer programming and other technical skills, have been helping Abi learn and improve on her technological skills.
Along with technology and coding courses, Abi is also taking assistance from Ryerson University. She is the youngest affiliate member of Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone. She will be given the opportunity to learn from other entrepreneurs and have access to Ryerson’s teaching resources.
Ryerson University and the Smithson family will be helping each other not only improve the curriculum, but also change business.
Robert Ott, chair of Ryerson’s school of fashion, has been assisting and mentoring Abi.
Abi has always been a creative child, making things, doing science experiments, coming up with new ideas.
Like many other girls her age, Abi also likes to dance and play music, but she’s also learning how to take risks and join the adult-dominated business scene. With the launch of this sandal, Abi will be following her parents’ entrepreneurial steps.
Alan and Julie Smithson, Abi’s parents, are also entrepreneurs. They own SmithsonMartin Inc., a music software and hardware development company.
They have been assisting her in building her own brand.
“If she wants to work for someone else that’s fine too, but she’ll know how to run her own business,” said Julie.
Ott connected with Abi in the fall at DMZ’s fashion zone event. “I was struck by a nine year old having a really interesting approach on entrepreneurship, ideas and dreams,” he said.
The Smithsons and Ott have met twice to discuss the idea. Abi had drawn out exactly how she wanted the sandal to look like. Ott has been working with Abi and her mom in focusing on the product development and consumer research.
Ott believes Abi is an interesting combination who has an interesting story and is driven. “She has a great support system around her,” he said, speaking of her entrepreneur parents and mentors. He says she can make anything into a billion-dollar brand because of the people around her.
The design stage will take a couple of months, but the Smithson family hopes for The Love Sandal to go to sale this summer. They’re starting a crowdfunding site through which they will be launching the sandal.
Photo provided by Julie Smithson.