How I Got Here: Wil Kelly

Current Position: Wil Kelly is the Vice President and Director of Operations for My Shoe Hospital in Austin, Texas.

The Company: My Shoe Hospital began its retail operation 114 years ago in Houston, Texas. The Maida family from Italy founded them. The Kelly family bought a majority stake in the business in the late 1970s. The Maida family is still involved in the business today, but mostly as minority owners and silent partners. “The grandson Maida taught my father (Carroll Kelly) and me everything we know,” said Kelly.

They have since expanded throughout the Lone Star State to become what Kelly claims is “the largest and most successful shoe repair operation on earth, in terms of volume.” According to Kelly, no one does more shoe repairs and revenue per year than My Shoe Hospital. “We do about 50,000 items a month; shoes, boot, and handbags,” Kelly exclaimed! 

Eight years ago, they branched off to create an e-commerce platform. The purpose was to break away from their brick and mortar markets so they could offer their services throughout the United States on a massive scale.

With over 100 employees, My Shoe Hospital is a full service, mail-order company that specializes in the repair and restoration of shoes, boots and handbags. “Our intuitive e-commerce site (myshoehospital.com) assists customers in creating orders and getting them safely shipped to us for repair,” said Kelly. “We also have a very successful wholesale repair operation where we partner with dry cleaners, tailoring shops, concierge services and even other shoe repair shops to offer our services at their businesses.”

The Early Years: Kelly was born in Houston and grew up in Austin, where the elder Kelly moved the family to expand the business. Growing up, Kelly was either on a baseball field playing America’s pastime or in a repair shop. “You can have a lot of fun creating and playing games in the back of a shoe repair shop,” Kelly fondly reminisced.

Higher Education: He attended college and played baseball at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. It was there where Kelly fueled his juice for competition while earning a business degree. “I am very competitive and want to succeed in everything I do.”

 Kelly’s love and passion for the art of design and construction were instrumental in him furthering his education at Texas A&M University, where he received his master’s degree in architecture. He worked in the architectural field for four years until the demands of My Shoe Hospital forced him into a full-time focus at the family business. “I still do architecture when I can,” Kelly said. “I’ve been involved in a lot of the store design.”

Bumps In the Road: As with any business in any industry, Kelly acknowledges that the success currently enjoyed by My Shoe Hospital had its challenges along the way, and it has not always been a smooth ride. “Repairing damaged articles is not easy,” he admitted. “But we have used every triumph and failure to make us better in the long run, and has brought us to where we are today.”

Marks of Success: “Make money,” exclaimed Kelly! “If you are making money, that means people like your craft as a whole.”

The second component of Kelly’s success principles is allotting equal distribution between excellence, timing, and profits. “In our industry, you can’t focus too much on quality, speed, or price,” he said. “They are equally important, and the most successful ones balance the three effectively.”

The third layer deals with exceeding the expectations of his customers. Kelly is most proud when My Shoe Hospital “takes someone’s favorite footwear, or handbag that they think is beyond repair and bringing it back to life so they can use it for years after.”

Advice: “Learn! Take the good and the bad as ways to learn and make you better moving forward,” said Kelly. “We use every experience to try and make us better the next day, month, or year.”

Looking Ahead: With the shoe repair industry slowly dying and the confidence that My Shoe Hospital is the most massive shoe repair operation on earth, Kelly believes that My Shoe Hospital is ripe for exponential growth. “My Shoe Hospital will be about the only company offering this craft around,” lamented Kelly. “Bad for the industry as a whole but great for us.”

Game Changer: The customer-centric, self-service kiosk program for the partner dealers of My Shoe Hospital is what the future holds for Kelly’s business. He is ecstatic to present the advantages of implementing this interactive tool to dry cleaners and other dealer partners. It takes the most significant burden of training and order taking out of the dry cleaner’s hands and leads it to the customer. This innovative concept plays a big part in Kelly’s plan to expand My Shoe Hospital’s national reach on both the retail and wholesale side.

Personal: Kelly, who turns 40 in June, is married to Josie, a financial analyst with Wells Fargo. Wil is quick to point out that he often taps into Josie’s expertise for the benefit of My Shoe Hospital. “It’s been a big help being able to bounce financial stuff off of her; she’s amazing with numbers and the business side,” Kelly said of Josie’s financial acumen. “I ask for her input all the time; we wouldn’t be here if it were not for her helping me figure the business side of things.”

When he’s not busy hustling for My Shoe Hospital, Kelly spends much of his spare time shuttling his kids to their various school functions and coaching their team sports. He serves on his neighborhood’s water board, the local community’s baseball board, and is very active and involved with multiple committees where he worships at St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church.

Josie and Wil celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary this month and live in Austin, Texas. They have three children; Vivian (11), Wil (8) and Elizabeth (4).

About John Leano

John Leano can be reached by e-mail: Leano@BryansCleaners.com or Twitter: @JohnLeano or www.facebook.com/johngleano