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Conversations with Candace Chen

Today we’d like to introduce you to Candace Chen.

Hi Candace, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
It all started when my feet hurt! I was out one night and after a long night of dancing, my feet were hurting in high heels. So being an engineer, I was like, “I can fix this, I’m going to make heels comfortable”. No one believed I could do it. Everyone I spoke to told me that if it were possible, it would have been done already. Heels have been around for more than a century.

I spent a lot of time in lounges and restaurants all over Scottsdale and feet-watched (like people-watching but feet instead) to get a sense of popular styles. I went to a couple of global fashion trade shows to understand the current state of the industry, as I had zero experience in neither fashion nor footwear.

Then I basically locked myself in my room for 18 months like a mad scientist, prototyping and innovating. I took apart more than 20 pairs of heels from the thrift store. I created 67 versions on the 3D printer (that’s 66 failed attempts!). The prototyping process was challenging, and at the end it was incredibly rewarding to be finally happy with both the comfort and aesthetics of my design.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The main difficulty so far has been making sure the stilettos fit everyone. This is something I learned the hard way about the footwear industry. Even with standard sizing, there is a significant difference between someone who is size 7, long toes, narrow foot, and someone size 7 with short toes, wide foot. Even though the stilettos are designed to accommodate a wide range of widths and arch heights, it’s still important for women to try them on to ensure a perfect fit and no discomfort.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
Protégé means student. Lifelong learner. Always improving, curious, innovative, open-minded, determined. It’s all about breaking down walls and achieving what was thought to be impossible, starting with (but not stopping at) comfort. Designed for go-getters, dreamers, ambitious women driven by a sense of purpose, the stilettos were designed to be the most comfortable high heels in existence, but you need to try them to believe it. The stilettos retail for $265 MSRP and launch May 1, 2021.

Any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general?
Be specific in what you are looking for! For example: “I’m looking for advice from a marketing mentor specializing in SEO. If this sounds like you, I would love to connect over coffee on Tuesday.”

Another great online resource is GrowthMentor.


  • Black or White Stilettos ($265)
  • Extra studded ankle strap; gold or silver ($15)
  • Extra plain ankle strap; gold or silver buckle ($10)
  • The stilettos are currently $265 online, but I’d like to offer the readers of Voyage Phoenix the price of $185 as a huge thank you for sharing my story. The link is live through the end of May:

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Credits to Ali Tso (IG: alitsophoto) for most of the photos.

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