Every member of the Johnson family finds a way to contribute to the success of new small shop Little Penguin Shoes. “I had wanted to pursue my own small business while being a stay at home mom and decided to take on the adventure. My husband Jeremy is super supportive and we used our tax refund to launch this business. No one believes in me more than he does,” exclaimed Carleigh Johnson. “My husband also helped design a new shoe pattern and we are both so excited to reveal it.” Johnson’s children, son Wesley, age four, and daughter Aubreigh, age one, provide endless encouragement and inspiration. “My children are my whole world. My son Wesley sat down one day and said he wanted to design a pair too, so he started drawing emergency vehicles because he calls himself ‘Officer 911’…so that may become a shoe in the future too. I love that the possibilities are endless and can appeal to so many kiddos out there.”
Since May 2019, Little Penguin Shoes has specialized in limited runs of stylish footwear for little feet. “I design the patterns and colors and I import from an amazing company in China,” Carleigh explained. “Once I finalize my designs, then it takes about three weeks for them to send over the completed product. During that time, it is a lot of late nights because of the time difference and we go back and forth with a variety of questions, but it is such a fun and exciting process seeing your designs actually come to life.” The shop name is actually derived from Wesley’s beloved nickname. “Since he was born, I have called him my little ‘Penguin’ and it stuck. We give penguin kisses (rubbing noses) and I knew when we decided to start this shoe company that it was a perfect fit,” she shared. Certain of the shoe style names also pay homage to the Johnson family members. “I launched four styles from the start and the most popular is the mermaid print in the “Aubreigh” t-straps, named after my daughter,” said Carleigh. “Just like Wes is my little ‘Penguin,’ Aubreigh became my little mermaid, so this design was the most special too. My daughter’s room is all mermaids and tropical decor and it was so fun to create that shoe. Everyone has loved it and I am even re-launching again with a coordinating boys style with sharks and whales.” I really like the gray “Wesley” high top sneaker, a perfect neutral for back to school.
At only $20 a pair, the Little Penguin Shoes styles are also budget-friendly. “With Little Penguin Shoes, I feel like I get to make affordable and adorable shoes for not only my little Penguins, but also lots of other kiddos too,” said Carleigh. “My favorite part is seeing the pictures of the kids wearing their shoes with big smiles. I love nothing more than seeing a post submitted of a son or daughter wearing Little Penguin Shoes from a mom that is happy with my quality and designs.” The shop has already seen measurable growth in customer interest. “My Facebook group has grown from around 50 friends and we are coming close to 1,000 members now. I have already met some amazing mommas out there and they have shown me so much love and support. It is absolutely incredible!” she gushed. “It gives me chills just thinking about it. My customers are not just customers; they are becoming friends and my inspiration too.”
Stay tuned because the Johnsons have big plans for new colors and styles this fall. “I am focused a lot on unique designs and prints, but also on having popular solid colors to coordinate with clothing too,” she said. “We are adding three new styles and lots more to come after as well. I am hoping to have a new launch at least monthly. I have so many ideas that it is hard sometimes to narrow it down but as we grow, we will add more and more.” Join the Little Penguin Shoes VIP Facebook group and shop the Aubrey, Wesley or one of Carleigh’s other styles on the shop website here. Use the code JAIME to save on your next purchase. Thanks Carleigh!