With suitcases stuffed with the made-by-hand shoes, Neely and her mother boarded a plane home, plotting to sell sandals alongside her mother’s own burgeoning import business at furniture markets. The shoes were embraced by people young and old, and before they knew it a wholesale business was created. In 2009 when dreams of her own brand began swirling in her head, she enrolled in an accessories design program at the Savannah College of Art & Design with her young daughter, Gigi, in tow. Neely drew upon her shoe and accessory design coursework and, in collaboration with a fourth-generation cobbler in Mexico, launched her own line of hand-sewn footwear then called Savannah Shoe Co.
An entrepreneurial spirit runs deep in Neely’s family – her father developed a five-star resort in the Florida Keys and her mother started the wholesale interior furnishings mecca Worlds Away. An idyllic childhood on Little Palm Island, where swimming and snorkeling were the order of the day, gave her an appreciation for the relaxed ease of island living. Coupled with the fact that she had highly creative and artistic parents, it’s no surprise that her design influence errs towards laid-back sophistication meets comfortably chic.
In 2010, Neely opened Savannah Shoe Co. in Savannah, and then a small storefront called Charleston Shoe Co. on a quiet and historic section of King Street in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. This proved to be a pivotal moment for the brand as the community and tourists alike embraced the collection and the charismatic proprietor. With locations in Charleston, Savannah, & Del Mar, they still could not meet the demand for the “cobblestones to cocktails” shoe and the wholesale line launched in January 2011. The Charleston Shoe Co. line is now currently sold in over 150 boutiques nationally.