All Georgie Falloon wanted was a comfortable pair of shoes.
But unable to find any to fit her long feet, she decided to source her own.
Twelve years later she has four stores specialising in shoes sized 10 and up for tall women, along with an online shop.
"It literally started from a desperate need for shoes," said Falloon, who started Willow Shoes in 2001.
Initially a catalogue service, the first Willow store was opened in Auckland in the early 2000s, with subsequent shops opening in Wellington (2007), Christchurch (2009) and Hamilton (2011).
Falloon now employs 15 people and said that while others had struggled during the credit crunch, Willow had boomed.
"Our biggest expansion has come over the last five years.
"We've more than doubled our turnover in that time and have opened stores when others were hurting."
Falloon puts that success down to a simple business ethic: being decent to people.
"Be decent to all the people you deal with, from the manufacturers to the suppliers to the customers," she said.
"And that has allowed me to get the people I need.
"People respond to that."
Up to 30 per cent of business is now done through the company's website, willowshoes.co.nz.
The shoes are sourced from around the world, including Europe, Asia, Australia and South America.
The larger-sized footwear often comes at a premium price.
"For example, a size 12 boot could have 40-50 per cent more leather than a size 6."
Falloon said that when she sat down at her dining room table to start the business, people thought she was "crazy".
"It took a long time to get going because most manufacturers thought I was a bit mad, because [the long shoe market] was seen as a problem market. It was something they had to do but didn't want to put much effort into."
The four Willow stores focused on "elegance and femininity", selling "predominantly fashion" footwear but also including shoes for every day and work, she said.
"All our staff have real empathy with our clients.
"I can tell you it's a very unfeminine thing to sit in a shop and not be able to find anything that fits.
"I guess that one thing that gives me an edge on my market is that I am the customer - I know what it's like trying to find decent shoes."
Falloon lives in rural Masterton with husband Jamie, who is the president of Wairarapa Federated Farmers, and their three children.
The Falloon family has been farming at Bideford for more than 100 years.
She plans to concentrate on the domestic market for now, while investigating opportunities for the business overseas.
"It's always been about the fact we don't want to have to settle for OK any more. We don't want to be squished into our shoes."
- © Fairfax NZ News