Dora Cullen was working in real estate and ready to start a family when her sister, Popi Nicopoulos, suggested opening a shoe store together. Though she had studied art history, anthropology and archaeology at UC Berkeley, Cullen enjoyed the retail environment and took a job in a clothing store upon her return to New Orleans.
Strong in sales and management, the Lakeview resident also enjoyed fashion and helping people put together looks that worked for them. Now, the sisters share in the responsibilities of running Shoe-Nami, a fun, affordable, fast-fashion, ladies’ shoe store that opened in 2003 and since has grown to three stores in Metairie and Gretna.
What inspired you to launch your own business?
My sister owned a successful clothing store where I would help out from time to time, and that was inspiring to me. Starting a business can be a daunting task, but I had seen first-hand how it could be done. Having a partner that I could trust and that I knew was a savvy business person was very reassuring.
What’s been the most rewarding part about growing your business?
The most rewarding aspect of having my own business is the ability to set my own schedule and the satisfaction I get from having customers tell me they love the store. Having a nice shoe collection is an added bonus.
Do you find owning your own business gives you more flexibility to do things with your kids?
Owning a business with a reliable partner gives me more flexibility to take time off so I can do things with my kids – Reilly, 12, and Nico, 7. However, being one of two owners means being available 24/7 to deal with any problems or emergencies. Also, having a retail store means I don’t get lots of vacation time during the typical holidays when we are busiest, but I do get to take time off when things are slower.
What is your favorite shoe brand and style and why?
I don’t have a favorite brand of shoes at the moment, but I love flatforms – flat, platform shoes that give height but are still comfortable. They are a staple in my closet.
Shoe-Nami, 3319 Severn Ave., Metairie; 3118 Severn Ave., Metairie; and, 91 Westbank Expressway, Suite 420, Gretna. 504.368.4444.