Behind the Booth: Yeardley Smith, Founder of Marchez Vous

Behind the Booth: Yeardley Smith, Founder of Marchez Vous

Tuesday, December 30 2014

Yeardley Smith hit the Hollywood jackpot with her role as the voice of Lisa Simpson on The Simpsons, the longest running American animated sitcom. As the show celebrates its 25th year, many actors in her position would have already gone to a private island to retire. However, you won’t find Smith lounging on a private beach. She enjoys her time as the CEO and founder of her own shoe line, Marchez Vous, which launched in 2011.  

Aha! Moment

In 2010, Smith was feeling down after a film project had not gone as well as expected. She was talking with a friend about her next move when he asked her, “What are you passionate about?”  

Smith quickly answered, “Shoes!” From that moment on, she couldn’t get the thought out of her head. A week later, she was introduced to her business partner, Ben Cornwell, now COO of Marchez Vous.

Born in Paris and raised in Washington, DC, Smith has always loved fashion. She loves to look polished and says, “Feeling pretty from the outside in is a great way to greet the day. Try going into the grocery store looking nice, and you will get the best service ever!”

The desire to produce beautiful shoes was based on her own need to find fashionable shoes that were also comfortable and could take her through hours of work or a walk down the red carpet.  

When Smith initially met with Ben Cornwell, who had expertise in clothing, licensing and branding, she didn’t just arrive as a celebrity hoping to put her name on a random line of shoes. Rather, she brought in 40 pairs of her own shoes and explained her thoughts on reinventing women’s shoes. Smith had a very clear vision of what she wanted to accomplish. Cornwell was transfixed by her passion and he was able to quickly add momentum, connecting Smith with a woman who began to sketch out her ideas.

Dreams Become Reality

Just nine months later, in Spring 2011, Smith went to Italy and saw the company’s first 13 pairs of shoes. She was completely moved to see her dream come to fruition and recalls, “It was extraordinary to see and hold the shoes, so beautifully done and exactly to specification.”

Smith adds, “It is so different from being an actress, where we have to rely on so many people to say yes before we can get a role. There are so many hoops to jump through in the entertainment industry.” She finally felt like she could be the master of her own destiny. The shoe business felt much more collaborative to Smith and she thrived on her new creative outlet.

However, the journey of an entrepreneur also requires a “yes” from buyers and consumers. Smith works hard to stand out from the competition in the marketplace while enjoying the freedom of creating shoes that will bring comfort on many levels.

Marchez Vous Shoes

Success Must Include Fun

Smith continues to build a team of like-minded people around her and says, “I surround myself with talented people and get them to drink my Kool-Aid!” Her comedic side is alive and well and both humor and fun are core values at Marchez Vous.  She says, “My motto is “Screw it. Lets do it.”  I stole that from Richard Branson.”

There are four rules boldly noted in the Marchez Vous office:

  1. Have Fun
  2. Ask for Help
  3. Learn Something New
  4. Have Fun 

“Yes,” she laughs, “Numbers 1 and 4 are the same... because work better be fun!” Smith also thrives on learning new things, and goes into each day with enthusiasm, drive, and an open mind. She says, “It’s interesting to come into business late in the game with people who have been in it forever. I have the ability to take a fresh look at things.”

Smith feels that their biggest challenge in making comfortable luxury women's shoes is being in the same pond as Yves St. Laurent,  Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo. “Those companies have big money for advertising, and Marchez Vous just has me!” The brand hopes to get some major retail players from the success that has come from many smaller ones.  She says, “It’s like the Catch 22 of acting; you can't get an agent without a job and you can’t get a job without an agent. We need the major players for volume and hopefully they will come this year.”

Learning and Growing

For Spring 2015, they are launching the Marchez Vous Blue line, which is made in Asia at a lower price point but still modern, young and fashion-forward. Smith says, “This line is more casual, urban and young, but just as exquisite, witty and spontaneous. It is a different aesthetic, and we love it.”

Working as Lisa Simpson has not required many long work days, so being an entrepreneur is completely different. Smith says, “It is better for me to have a  place to go every day. I’m happier this way because I’m obsessed with productivity. It is hard in Hollywood for aging women, and I have been enormously blessed. Having my own company is the perfect blend of being in charge and being collaborative.”