Happy Chinese New Year! At first glance today’s HOT Chat may not seem relevant for celebrating the Year of the Rabbit but traditional customs include getting new clothes, paying off all debts, cleaning the house, feasting with family and friends, giving out red envelopes…and getting new shoes.

This is where new Melbourne-based shoe store CMUK Shoes comes in, because coupled with the HOT Chat with CMUK Shoes founder Steve Chambers is a giveaway for readers to win a pair of shoes! Thanks Steve.

Steve, tell me a bit more about your background and how you came to start  CMUK Shoes?

I’m someone who has always enjoyed change – I’ve taught in Aboriginal schools in the Northern Territory, worked with compensation programs for Holocaust survivors throughout Eastern and Central Europe, spent time in Banda Aceh with re-construction projects following the tsunami and most recently worked as barrister in Melbourne.

A couple of years ago I went to a friend’s wedding in South America, was in awe of their beach culture and love of colours and thought it was time for another change! CMUK Shoes is a St Kilda based company that imports its own sneakers focusing on style, comfort, bright colours and cost efficiency.

What makes CMUK Shoes different from other designer sneakers on the market?

I firmly believe that cutting-edge style doesn’t have to come with a lead weight for a price tag, so our sneakers retail for under $50.  CMUK Shoes are very lightweight and comfortable, which makes them perfect for a day at the beach, a walk in the park, a stroll down the shops or out for a bite to eat or drink with friends. They also dry very quickly in the sun so customers having been buying them for boating or for non-running activities at the gym as they can also be machine washed on a cold cycle.

You may also have seen in the Herald Sun last weekend that Miss World and her runner up, Miss World Africa, called in to pick up some CMUKs (check out the picture)!

What do you enjoy about the world of retail versus working as a barrister? What advice would you give to people wanting to give up their day jobs to start their own business?

Retail has been a fantastic way to connect with people so as listen to their input, find out what they like and don’t like and what they would like to see next. It is also really enjoyable to go to work knowing you’re going to be running into smiling people most of the day, as opposed to people who come to see you due to often extremely stressful and often unpleasant circumstances occurring in their lives.

My advice to people wanting to start their own business is plan well, get a good mentor, do your homework and then roll the dice. Life is too short to be left wondering!

What has been the most challenging issue you’ve faced starting up  CMUK Shoes?

Establishing relationships with suppliers has been a taxing process but when you are putting all the pieces of the puzzle together it is integral to the success of a business such as ours. Luckily I enjoy working with people and negotiation comes with the territory.

What are your next plans for CMUK Shoes?

We are currently having a new website built and pushing hard with SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) to focus on our online presence. To not do so would be madness. We are working on new designs, colour ways and researching new materials that comply with the global organic textile standard for our next range, so what you can see now is only step one. Stay tuned.

Finally, what are your HOT tips for where to take your CMUK Shoes around Melbourne?

1. Jock’s Ice Cream (83 Victoria Avenue, Albert Park +61 3 9686 3838): the Hokey Pokey is unbeatable…
2. Newmarket Hotel (34 Inkerman St , St Kilda +61 3 9534 2385)… great for a beer after work if you can get in!
3. Mahjong (165 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda +61 3 9534 8833): nobody has a better yum cha trolley going around than Max on Sundays…
4. Prince of Wales (29 Fitzroy St, St Kilda +61 3 9536 1111): you can take your dog, sit in the sun and get view over the bay… sensational…
5. Claypots (213 Barkly Street, St Kilda +61 3 9534 1282): spaghetti marinara served for weekend lunch is mouthwatering… little tip though, always order for 3 even if there are only 2 of you! (it’s that good)…

Giveaway: Steve is kindly giving away three pairs of CMUK Shoes to three lucky blog readers! All you have to do is check out the photos from the CMUK Shoes website and write a comment picking your favourite style. Entries close 5pm Thursday 10 February and the winners will be drawn randomly and announced on Friday 11 February. Good luck!