At 19 years old, Michelle Manningham was in Chicago strolling down Michigan Avenue. Wide-eyed, she walked through shops that had beautiful products she could only dream of being able to afford one day. That day sparked something inside her heart that, nine years later, she would finally pursue.
“I remember walking down Michigan avenue seeing these women… one lady in particular I’ll never forget,” she said. “She walked out of Chanel with a latte in one hand and shopping bags in the other. She looked like she had just walked off the runway. She was smiling from ear to ear, hair blowing in the wind. It was little snapshot in my head I still can see so clear.”
Michelle thought to herself, “I want to create a product for women, that will make her feel like that. I want to walk the streets of Michigan Avenue again and see women walking up and down the streets in products I had designed.”
Michelle was married at the time, with another business between them.
“He wouldn’t let me pursue my dream, or anything that would distract from the current business we were in. It was as if there was this constant fire within my heart he was telling me I needed to ignore” she said. “We went our separate ways four years ago, and the fire was still there to bring this product to life. You can only ignore your purpose so long.”
After that day, Michelle started buying boots at antique shops and ordering crystals online to glue on to the boots.
“I could never afford cowgirl boots growing up and I decided I wanted to create an iconic brand of boots that women would recognize worldwide,” she said. “An aggressive dream for someone who didn't know a thing about the western industry.”
“I didn’t know what manufacturing was, all I knew was I could buy something that already existed, make it prettier, and then try to sell it,” she said.
“I made a studio in my room. I had my glue, crystals, pearls, lace, and things like feather boas,” she said. “I still don’t even know what I was going to do with them. I just started cutting and gluing.”
Two years later, Michelle discovered the power behind manufacturing, and sought out to make her dream a reality.
“It wasn't until people starting making fun of me for sitting in my living room gluing crystals to boots that I started to think of other ways to produce my product,” she said. “I felt like I had been living under a rock, but sometimes naivety can work wildly in your favor.”
“I started cutting out pictures of my dreams, boot designs, places I wanted to do photoshoots and anything that inspired me. I created a vision board of all my dreams and kept it in front of me every single day,” she said.
“I started waking up early to read books about launching a business, marketing podcasts, and product development trainings on youtube. I created a hunger within myself and my confidence started to grow in what I could create. And It’s crazy how you start to move towards those things because they’re in front of you all the time.”
Michelle went through fourteen months and two horrible manufacturers before she found the one.
“All of the most important factors to my dream coming to life happened only when I was taking action. I had no clue what I was doing half the time, still don’t some days. I am constantly learning. At one point I was YouTubing boot making, thinking I could just buy a machine and make the boots myself. I went to a booth and leather show and went booth to booth asking questions to anyone who would give me the time of day,” she said. “My lack of experience did not slow me, and in the process of taking little steps forward, I met the most valuable people that helped my dream become a reality.”
She started with a sketch, and drew what she wanted to create… a cowgirl boot with a pink sole that matched her bright pink hair. What she needed next was a designer.
“You have to be in the hunt to recognize the pieces of the puzzle that you need,” she said. “If you’re not on the hunt, then you’re not going to notice opportunity when it’s right in front of you. The best connections happen when you are in pursuit of your dreams, being mentally engaged daily.”
“I needed someone who could make a tech pack, and take my paper sketches and create them electronically, given that I can hardly operate powerpoint. I randomly saw this gal on LinkedIn that I saw had fashion design experience, and I connected with her,” she said.
“Still to this day we have never met, but will be friends for life. We still laugh about how random my first LinkedIn message to her was. But the rest is history, as we make history together.”
Casey Curtis, founder of Casey Curtis Designs and Michelle had connected on Linkedin shortly after Casey’s mom had passed away.
“In her mom’s final days, she was working a corporate job as a fashion designer. She made a promise to her mom to pursue her dreams of launching her own business and being a freelance designer,” she said. “Her mom passed away and she quit her corporate job to pursue just that. I respect her so much, and she has the most beautiful work.”
“I didn't know it at the time, but I was the first opportunity that she had to keep the commitment to her mom to be a freelance designer.”
“It’s surreal to reflect back on all the women that I learned from through the years, and the beautiful souls likes Casey I met along my journey. I also had personally overcome an abusive relationship, infidelity, losing an eight year business, starting my life completely over twice, pursuing my dreams while working 80 hours a week in a corporate job,” she said. “I needed women to know they can push through any pain or distraction and bring a dream to life. I want every gal that puts on her Texi boots to feel a piece of my heart and soul with her.”
In an effort to help mentor women that want to launch or grow their business, Michelle has developed the Heart and Sole Conference.
“I wanted a one day conference where women could hear from the top business minds exactly how to take the dream from their head and bring it into the world,” she said. “This conference will change the course of any woman's life. If they are sitting on a dream, an idea, this conference will help them bring it to life quickly and profitably.”
“A portion of all Texi Boot profits will go to another female entrepreneur to help her launch her business. The goal is to help 10 women in the next 10 years bring their dream business to life,” she said. “I don’t just want to hand out checks if they have no idea what to do with it.”
Nominations will open in July, and then it will go to public vote.
Michelle discovered the tools to succeed, and has found the right people to help her along the way. As a ‘thank you’ to her biggest supporters, Michelle has dedicated each boot style to people who have inspired her and helped her on her journey.
“Each one of my boots is dedicated to someone who has inspired me in my journey. The Original Texi is dedicated to all of the women who pursue their dreams - I refer to them as ‘Texi Girls’,” she said. “The new style that launched has wings up the back, and is dedicated to the founder of Poo-Pourri, Suzy Batiz, who really pushed me to get started. She was the first to open my eyes to the world of manufacturing, I dedicate these boots to her because she gave me my wings and then let me fly.”
When she first started, Michelle didn’t know what Texi Boots would become. And now, she’s using her knowledge and experience to support other female dreamers to start their own journey.
“If I could put a bow on what I’m trying to explain, you just have to have the courage to start and move in the direction of your dreams,” she said. “You don't have to have a formal education, investors, tons of time, or a bunch of money to get started. You just have to decide to act, start with what you know, and get ruthless in the pursuit of learning what you don't. It take heart and sole (hard work).”
“The Original Pink Sole™ represents my commitment to keep my feet on the ground in pursuit of my purpose, and I want to bring as many women with me as possible.”