As 2023 comes to a near conclusion, this period of the year also marks something quite important for Dennis and Eveline: The Hand’s 5th Anniversary!
Undoubtedly, the past five years have brought forth a mix of challenges and opportunities for everyone, from businesses of all sizes to individuals. It has been an incredible journey for Dennis and Eveline, marked by rich discoveries and fulfilling experiences. As we eagerly approach 2024, the entire team at The Hand is embracing the new year with confidence and optimism, holding our heads high and with many surprises in-store.
With that said, to reflect on the last five years, we’ve conducted a Q&A with Dennis and Eveline, which we hope you will enjoy.
Let’s start with this: why shoes?!
D: For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been fascinated by the art of bespoke shoemaking, particularly with the diligent people who craft them and how the entire process is unique and personal.
Dennis, what are three words to describe the last five years of business?
D: Fun, Challenge, Learning.
Same for you, Eveline. What are your three words?
E: Fun, Growth, Chaos!
If you could time-travel back to your founding day, what advice would you give yourself?
E: I’d likely tell myself to take more time with things and approach everything one step at a time.
Do you regret anything? If so, what? If not, great!
D: I have no regrets and am more grateful for what we’ve learned along the way and the people who helped us get to where we are.
What would you say your greatest accomplishment was in those early years that you’re most proud of?
D: building a very loyal client base in our home market as well as internationally.
For those who don't know, what were you both doing before The Hand?
E: I first worked in corporate marketing, then humanitarian and development work. So, being an entrepreneur now feels like my third career! Dennis was trading chemical raw materials. So quite different!
When you started, what was your biggest concern when founding The Hand?
E: I worried about whether we could find and connect with the right audience.
D: I was worried whether we’d be able to work with and be taken seriously by the suppliers on my A-list.
And what were you most excited about?
D: Our first sale, which was eventually a dark brown single buckle monk!
Today, you're in the Conservatorium Hotel, but in the early days, where was The Hand HQ?
E: We worked from a spare room that later became the baby room for our second child. The day the shoeboxes left our home was a real milestone! We then moved to our shop-in-shop with Amsterdam-based tailors Michael & Giso before we moved into our very own The Hand Boutique earlier this year.
What's your fondest memory from your first year in business?
D: I loved riding my bike around Amsterdam to visit and deal with customers. It was such a personal experience.
Was there a disaster that happened that you now can laugh about?
D: Gosh, it would have been putting the wrong shoe size in the bag for a client for his wedding. Thankfully, we caught it and were able to exchange it before the big day!
COVID-19 hit you at the worst possible time. How did you get through that period?
E: We re-strategized our client segmentation and shoe collection, essentially stopping what was the upper middle segment for us and only focusing on the absolute top. We then discontinued our work with some makers and added new ones from the top tier, as our passion is for shoemaking at the top level.
What silver linings can you draw from it?
D: There was unexpected support from our clients during this time. We received some sympathy orders, which were appreciated tremendously as it was a challenging and insecure time for everybody.
Hosting trunk shows have been key to your success. Do you have a favourite?
D: The variety of shoemakers we host keeps it interesting for our clients and us, and our favourite thing to do is to keep it exciting and introduce current clients to other shoemakers they’re yet to explore and could fit their feet and style well.
Same with GMTO experiences, of which you've done many. Do you have a favourite?
E: Mine would likely be the Oyster Suede editions with Edward Green!
D: By the way, we have 2 GMTOs coming up for early 2024 - so stay tuned, as those are my favourites to date!
What have you learned about humanity and people from being an internationally-recognised retailer?
D: We see a colourful variety in feet, style preferences and personalities - I learned that if you listen carefully, you can always find the right fit!
Is there a specific instance where positive customer feedback touched you on a personal level?
E: A handful of clients have become friends, advisors, and even investors. This might be the best part of the business, to build meaningful relations and a community of like-minded people.
What's one brand you'd love to welcome into The Hand family?
D: There is always a shortlist. In the next 5 years, we would love to add a Japanese shoemaker to our roster.
Your family has grown in the last five years; what's been key to nurturing children and a business?
E: Finding the discipline to balance both.
D: Love and attention.
Do they love Goodyear-welted shoes as much as you do?
E: They are 3 and 5-year-old girls, and they prefer to have unicorns printed on anything, including their shoes! Unfortunately, those haven’t made it into The Hand’s collection yet!
How important has story-telling been to you?
D: Super important. This comes naturally in a 1-on-1 meeting with a client. For clients we serve online, we need to think about it more to enrich their experience to level an in-person meeting
What shoe brand have you worn most over the last five years?
E: Edward Green, as they have a great ladies' last.
If you were deserted on an island, what shoes would you take?
D: I’d bring a sturdy boot with a rubber sole. But it would be difficult to select one, so can I bring a suitcase?
Offering timeless footwear is The Hand modus operandi, but what fashion trends in footwear have you enjoyed seeing?
E: I’d say a pair of boots with chunky lightweight Vibram soles, and Norman Vilalta is a master at this!
Quick-fire questions now... leather or suede?
Lined or unlined?
Loafer or lace-up?
Wearing shoes for business or pleasure?
What three words would you use to describe the next five years?
D: Refined collection, “The Handshake” and Fun.
E: Step-by-step, focus and growth. We cherish the basis we have built and look forward to taking it from here!
Lastly, what has been the key to your success?
Authenticity, a genuine passion for the product and our clients, and a positive attitude.