By MaryBeth Matzek
When people meet Lisa Cruz, they usually glance downward to check out her footwear and confirm it is indeed red.
“Starting Red Shoes was not easy. Financing was nearly impossible to get,” says Cruz, the president and owner of Red Shoes Inc. “We went to a bank with a big binder with our business plans, projections. One banker asked me if my husband knew I was there.”
That kind of response didn’t stop Cruz, who had decided after years of working for others, she “wanted to be in the driver’s seat.” She pressed onward, opening in 2008 just as the recession hit and businesses began cutting back on staff and expenses.
“Lisa is nothing short of phenomenal when you think about everything she has accomplished,” says Raquel Lamal, a media specialist with Red Shoes who nominated Cruz for a Woman of Influence Award. “At a time when you would expect most companies to cut back on spending, Lisa was able to convince large companies in the Fox Cities to let Red Shoes handle their PR needs.”
In a way, Cruz says, the recession worked in her favor as businesses began turning to outsourcing after letting their own staff go. As Red Shoes grew, so did Cruz’s reputation for getting her clients noticed and the firm’s successful use of social media.
But even as Red Shoes found success, Cruz wasn’t always sure she was being taken seriously. She tells a story about how she had plans and financing for an office buildout and met with a real estate agent along with one of her employees, who happened to be a man.
“He spent the whole time talking to him, and I’m like ‘Wait a minute. I’m the business owner here,’” she says. “But I like that I’m out there and breaking stereotypes. Don’t put me in a box.”
Under Cruz’s leadership, Red Shoes has moved three times since 2008 to gain additional space for its growing staff. Along with its business clients, Red Shoes works with nonprofits helping them with their PR and communication plans. The business has won multiple awards, including recently being named the Best Small Business-Woman Owned by Gov. Tony Evers’ Marketplace initiative. Cruz also has drawn attention for her work, including PR News naming her one of the top 100 PR pros in the country.
“I have a great benefit in my job since I meet with so many leaders. I take the good things they are doing and see how I can apply that to my own business,” Cruz says. “I’m also a very good listener. I’m like a sponge, always taking in nuggets of information that I can use later.”
Cruz admits the past 12 years haven’t always been easy. Three of her four sons have been diagnosed with autoimmune diseases. “I really feel my greatest accomplishment is growing the business and taking care of my family at the same time,” she says “It’s not perfect. It’s a challenge every day, but I’m doing it.”
Click here to view Lisa Cruz’ acceptance speech.