Custom Shoe Site Milk & Honey Gets Tripped Up After TV Spot

Recognition–it can be a blessing and a curse.

Dorian Howard found that out the hard way when her small e-commerce start-up, Milk & Honey, crashed after E! reported on Monday night that celebrities–such as Ginnifer Goodwin of the HBO Series “Big Love,” Busy Philipps from ABC’s “Cougar Town” and Disney star Selena Gomez–were using it to design their own shoes.

In the 48 hours after the segment, Milk & Honey’s servers slowed to a crawl as thousands of women tried over and over to order something special that no one else had.

“Our site went bananas,” Howard said. “No one can order shoes because it’s totally crashed….I had no idea how much bandwidth we had. I’m a shoe designer. I don’t speak tech.”

The site, which is back online as of this morning, was founded by Dorian, who lives in Los Angeles, and her older sister, Ilissa, who lives in Hong Kong. It’s Ilissa’s job to manage the cobblers who bring to life the crazy shoe combinations people come up with.

Woman can pick from pumps or flats–round, pointy or peep toe, sling backs and closed backs–and from a variety of colors and textures, from leather to faux snake skin. Metallic studs and bows are optional. Each pair ranges from $200 to $325, depending on complexity.

Popular right now are nude-color shoes “because they go with anything in winter or summer, and they make your legs look really long,” Dorian said. A close second is red glitter.

Over the past six months, the self-funded sisters have flirted with the realities of building a business from scratch.

During slow months, they were convinced they “were the only people in the world that cared about customized shoes,” so when the servers crashed with people actually wanting to buy, Dorian stayed up all night tracking down server administrators on the other side of the globe who were still awake and could recover their site.

“We’ve had a few people who’ve called or were able to order over live chat, but we haven’t been able to process orders,” she said.

While the site was down, they added 1,500 Facebook fans, so hopefully those fans will come back to buy later. But in the frenzy, Dorian forgot completely about their Twitter community.

The urgency of the matter was heard audibly Tuesday afternoon, as users accessing the server caused a constant pinging in the background. “It’s amazing, it’s great, it’s what we are dreaming of,” Dorian said.

The sisters, who were previously in the film industry and toy business, have learned a lot of lessons. “At least we are consistent,” she joked. “We fuck up everything the first time, and then the second time we knock it out of the park.”

At times, they were close to the brink. “If we didn’t hit our number in December, we might not be in business today. We hit it by one [pair of shoes], but January exploded, and we hit our first-quarter goal in the first month of January.”

Next up, the two are considering talking to investors to help open a boutique so women can design their shoes in person. They also have their eyes on creating a spring collection.

“We wanted to see how long we could get away on our own. We are pretty close to our limit. It’s been tight, but it’s been working. I wash my own car now, and I mow my own lawn.”

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