3 small businesses take on the big boys

The secrets of success in business, from leopard-print ballet flats to freelance designing to the back office

Beverly Feldman vs. Stuart Weitzman
Beverly Feldman vs. Stuart Weitzman
The challenge: Grab market share when shoppers are holding back.

What they did: Known for snazzy leopard-print ballet flats that sell for about $200 at stores like Nordstrom and Lord & Taylor, women's shoe designer Beverly Feldman, 64, has steadily grown revenue, from $8 million in 2009 to a projected $9.5 million this year. Feldman, who founded her business in 1979, diversified into overseas markets early. So when the U.S. slowed during the recession, sales in Asia kicked in. To attract U.S. customers, Feldman, whose office is in Norwalk, Conn., makes three appearances a year on HSN. To keep spending down, she teams up with retail partners on cooperative advertising. Women stay loyal, she says, because she makes sure her shoes don't hurt: "When I design a pair of shoes, I make them in my size and wear them."

By Elaine Pofeldt, contributor @FortuneMagazine - Last updated February 06 2012: 1:42 PM ET
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