Lessons from Linja's Shoes

A technology journalist and an art director streamlined a shoe entrepreneur’s story. Here is what we learnt.

Head over Heels

Bianca Blom is a Dutch entrepreneur who spent years working with an orthopedic shoemaker and the finest Italian craftsmen to create the designs for her comfortable high heel brand Linja. “Heels are my passion,” she says. “It’s so much more than just shoes. It’s the feeling that I get, and that a lot of women get, when they wear heels. And high heels were a product which hadn’t changed in 50 years.”

Bianca was asked to speak to 200 employees at the innovation centre of Dutch bank ABN AMRO. I worked with art director Nathalie Hennequin to create the presentation from scratch.


Start with a structure

We started by interviewing Bianca for over an hour. Bianca is not a linear speaker and her fascinating story has many different aspects. As a journalist, my job is to guide interviewees towards the content which is most relevant to a particular audience and to highlight the most important points. For this audience, we decided to focus on the various innovations Bianca made in her product and business model, as well as entrepreneurship lessons the audience could apply within their own field of finance. We created a one-page list of bullet points to serve as a basic structure for the presentation before starting work on the slides.

“What for me was key was that you really could pick the points that needed to be highlighted,” said Bianca. “That was the best added value because I tell my story over and over again and to me some elements might not seem that important. You highlighted not only the product innovation but also the pricing innovation and distribution innovation. For me that was just one blur.”

Pick a colour palette

Nathalie then started work on the design. She selected a palette of colours from Linja product photos and reused them in subtle ways throughout the presentation, including in the text.

“When I used to do presentations, I only showed photos because I am a very visual person,” said Bianca. ”I was not that keen on text. But the way you have done it makes sense. These are not bullet points. I loved how Nathalie took colours from the first photos of the shoes and those colours come back throughout.”

Remix and reuse

A presentation should evolve over time as you learn more about what resonates with your audience or address different audiences. Bianca has already remixed the original version of the presentation to talk to students at the Nyenrode Business University. She dropped certain slides and reordered others to tailor the presentation to that audience.

“I now have five students of Nyenrode doing their company project on Linja,” said Bianca. “They said we loved your story. I use this presentation now everywhere I go. You just never know who is in the audience (The CEO of fashion brand O’ Neill connected with Bianca after seeing her talk at Nyenrode) and you get asked to speak more.”