Anna and Ran founded Wildling Shoes five years ago. Today we’ll find out which moments were especially meaningful to them and what their dreams are for the next five years of this wild life.
What is your fondest memory in the history of Wildling?
I don’t think I can single out any one memory. It’s more the fact that I can look back in amazement on an incredible journey filled with loads of wonderful, surprising, and precious moments. Of course, the things that really stick out when you look back are all those “first times.” The very first time I saw our fox logo. The proposal for the construction of the sole. The first working prototype. The very first customers who supported us in our crowdfunding efforts and helped us turn our wild idea into reality. But for me, Wildling is also the story of personal encounters and of the wonderful feeling you get when you work together to realize a vision one step at a time.
Oh that's quite a list! We were lucky to cross paths with so many wonderful people and be involved in so many loved projects, during these last years. But if I have to choose one moment that stands out for me, that marks what this company and its people stand for, it will have to be the moment when the outsoles manufacturer said they can make the Wildling sole.
We fell in love with the design of the outsole, but it was a shot in the dark really and no-one could say for sure, if we're getting into a wild goose chase, or is it something we actually needed to pursue. So when Portugal said yes, I had the feeling of, 'ok, very few things can be more difficult than this to achieve, so if we manage this, maybe we have something special here.'
It was our biggest hurdle at the time and we felt that if we won't have it exactly like in the design, it will mean, we've compromised on the heart of the project. That's something that characterizes very much the nature of Wildling as a company, to this day - who we are, the people that choose to work with us and even more so, the people who choose not to. It can get extremely challenging at times, to pursue something based on a whim, without knowing if we actually should, but in most cases, not compromising on what we love, proved to be the right decision.
What was the toughest moment during the last years?
The most difficult moment was the sudden death of my brother. It came at a time when we were still a very small team and Wildling couldn’t operate without us – the work simply had to be done. It wasn’t easy to cope with the grief, the sense of paralysis, and finding time for the family. But after that first deep valley, Wildling provided distraction and a sense of purpose, and helped me to stay grounded.
It's actually happening right now. I need to detach myself from the marketing operation and it's one of the toughest things I had to go through in my life.
A part of my personality is the need to prove myself. Always. So on social media I feel that it's me who's being judged. When something is said, or featured under Wildling, I feel that it needs to be recognizable to the people who know me and to those who supported us from the beginning.
The content had to be aligned exactly with what Wildling was built on.
So it's in my core to get the right tone, the right words, the right images, so not accidentally give the wrong impression that we're deviating from who we are.
The feeling is like going to a social event, not wearing what you love, or letting someone else dress you. You are still dressed, it still looks beautiful, but it's just not exactly right. Those small things that make you, you.
Giving it up was like seeing a plant that you helped nurture for years, being taken away from you, so you can still see it, but not be allowed to help it to continue grow. But today Wildling is so much more than that, so with time and thanks to amazingly talented and passionate people, I am able to let go now and be more at peace with my own demons.
Like all new beginnings, this one also offers its share of challenges, but the love we all share for what we do, allows me to do the right thing for Wildling and myself.
What was the biggest turning point for you?
Wildling has developed dramatically since the crowdfunding campaign was launched. At first Wildling was just an idea that was very dear to our hearts, along with the hope of one day being able to make a living from it as a family. The actual demand took us completely by surprise. We tried to somehow live up to it, to produce more, to create a team. But for the first two years it just felt like we were sitting in the back of a car that was careening at full speed, desperately hanging on to keep from falling off, with no control over which direction we were going.
That changed in 2017, when we intentionally stepped back and took the time to think about whether this was what we really wanted and what our goal was. We realized that Wildling was the platform that would enable us to make a difference in everything we really cared about – health, sustainability, fairness. And that with Wildling, we could find and provide inspiration for new approaches, we could take on responsibility and help shape what role businesses can play in a future-proof society. Ever since that point, we have deliberately been steering the company’s development with a clear goal in mind.
Last year, at our summer party. To meet so many like minded people that share so much happiness and love between each other and for a common goal. I was just overwhelmed and grateful to be a part of such a unique experience.
How did Wildling change you as a person?
As the co-founder and managing director, I constantly have to adapt my role in the company – I have to hand over some areas, I have to trust people and empower them to do things better than me, so that Wildling doesn’t fail on my account. That’s not always easy, especially if you happen to be someone who’s impatient, impulsive, and a bit of a perfectionist. You learn a lot about yourself, which isn’t necessarily always pleasant, but it’s also an incredibly exciting journey.
I think that Wildling has also helped me reclaim that innate childlike confidence in my own abilities. Just starting in on things the way kids do – without being plagued by doubt, nagging worries, and perfectionism – helps you to approach new situations with confidence and ease.
As a person, I would like to think it didn't change me that much.
One thing that Wildling did teach me, is that if something doesn't go well now, it will go well later. So I guess I'm dealing better today with being impatient. I'm not great at it yet, but can handle better the idea that some things, simply need more time.
What do you think will be in another five years?
Life is unpredictable. Five years ago I would never have dreamed that we would be where we are today – any more than I can foresee what will happen in the next five years. If I could have one wish, it would be that we succeed in achieving our goal of making a positive impact. Together – as a team and as a community.
In five years I would like to think we'll take even further the minimal concept of footwear, with new features that at the moment have to wait their turn.
That we'll be able to work with materials that help heal the environment, so everything we work with, will be sourced out from environmental projects that will always have an added value of giving back to our planet, its inhabitants and landscapes.
Anna, Ran and the Wildlings