Kerry Cooper

Rothy’s founders spent three years just doing the research to produce its shoes.

The San Francisco firm, which has raised $7 million to date, has made a name for itself selling flats made from recycled plastic bottles. The company, which owns a factory in China where it has about 450 workers, utilizes a 3-D knitting process that helps reduce waste during the production process. Its current offering — all machine-washable — includes a simple flat, pointed-toe flat, loafer and slip-on sneaker style.

The right product is at the cornerstone of what’s helping drive the direct-to-consumer shoe brand’s marketing maneuvers, which have been largely reliant on word of mouth, in addition to a healthy dose of advertising via Facebook and Instagram, according to president and chief operating officer Kerry Cooper.

“We will stalk you on Instagram and Facebook,” she said jokingly during last week’s forum. “That’s been a great channel for us.”

As the company remains focused on those efforts, Cooper said it’s “an art and science” when it comes to ensuring a paid ad strategy doesn’t impact the more organic word-of-mouth factor.

Consumers have an eye on aesthetics when it comes to photographing product and posting to social media, thereby helping generate attractive content. Thus, “I don’t know that social advertising is in conflict with UGC [user-generated content] sharing,” Cooper said in talking about the balance and keeping things authentic.

Cooper joined the business in February after serving as chief executive officer of Choose Energy. She has also worked at ModCloth as its coo and chief marketing officer, at walmart.com as cmo and vice president of global e-commerce, and at Levi’s Dockers division as senior vice president of retail and planning. She described Rothy’s as “a perfect combination of all the things I’ve done.”

Cooper’s expertise is expected to come in handy as the business continues to expand. Earlier this year, Rothy’s launched into girls and in May entered brick-and-mortar with a store on Fillmore Street. The former cobbler space is 360 square feet. While small, it has offered plenty of learnings about the customer base for Rothy’s. That includes the fact that vibrant colors tend to sell better in store than, for example, basic black.

Cooper said more stores are likely in the future, but that would be done in a measured way and it’s not expected to a be “a huge growth driver” for the business. Physical activations, she said, are still something the company is figuring out how to scale in a more cost-effective way.

“We’ve done small pop-ups here and there,” Cooper said. “They’re a lot of work and you can only touch a limited number of people.”

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