Kassie McClure Rempel is an accountant by trade, a focused entrepreneur, a sports fan and a shoe lover at heart. She has managed to combine all of these things into not one, but two thriving businesses.
After graduating from the University of North Carolina with a master’s degree in accounting, Kassie initially began her career in the tax department of Ernst and Young. It was there she discovered a passion for shoes.
“Business casual was not incorporated into the corporate workplace, so I wore my suits of black and navy and maybe got crazy with a gray suit. But the only way to express myself was through shoes and accessories,” she says.
During the years she worked at Ernst and Young, Kassie amassed a large shoe collection — so much so, she jokes that her colleagues placed wagers on how many pairs of shoes she had in a particular color. Little did she know shoes would become even more important to her career than simply a way to express herself in the workplace.
Kassie eventually left Ernst and Young and started her own financial planning company. After landing five affluent clients, one asked Kassie to work for him exclusively. His wife was opening a spa in Washington, D.C., and they wanted Kassie to help open the business and manage their money. That experience inspired Kassie to explore her own entrepreneurial spirit, and she found herself returning to her first love — shoes.
“Shoes are much more than fashion. I can change how I walk, how I look, how I feel just by changing what’s on my feet.”
In 2004, while continuing to manage her client’s money, Kassie decided to open her first shoe company — Simply Soles, an online and direct mail business. As she was looking into how she wanted to form her business, Kassie wrote a letter to the owners of a catalog she admired. “I had zero connections to them. I just wrote a letter and explained that I loved their catalog and I was thinking of starting a shoe catalog.”
She received a lengthy letter in return full of business advice as well as contact information for their own printer and mail house broker. “It was the blueprint for how I started my business,” Kassie says.
Kassie continued to grow the Simply Soles business and eventually launched her own shoe line, Lillybee — named for her daughter, Lilly, and her son who loved bees at the time. She sold Lillybee products alongside high-end brands to further the experience of customers getting something unique. But a single shopping trip during a visit to Hong Kong changed the course of her business.
Kassie remembers, “I went out shopping in a little village, and I bought a pair of striped flats for my daughter. I remember thinking, ‘I’m a big sports fan, and I would love to wear something like this to the game. What if we did really cute shoes in stripes in a team’s color?’”
Intrigued, Kassie began researching the idea and found that there was an entire market segment businesses were missing out on: the female sports fan. “Sports is a $4 billion a year industry in just collegiate consumption alone, and the segment for women is less than 8 percent,” Kassie explains.
She saw a need that wasn’t being fulfilled, and she saw an opportunity. Knowing this was a big idea that would encompass a lot of her time, Kassie decided to sell Simply Soles so she could focus exclusively on the new Lillybee brand.
The new Lillybee launched in 2013 selling striped flats in Pantone-specific colors for different universities and sports teams. Since then, Kassie has expanded the line to include rain boots, flip flops, wedges and, most recently, handbags. Lillybee also has a sorority line, inspired by Kassie’s time as a member of Alpha Sigma Chapter at the University of North Carolina.
“Through Tri Delta, I’ve learned the importance of supporting those that you may not know that well. We had more than 200 women in our house, so even though I didn’t know all 200 well, when tragedy fell or when we had something incredible to celebrate, we would rally behind those women… it’s a community you can take and incorporate into your life, business and neighborhood — that experience has changed the way I am as a businesswoman, as a neighbor and as a friend.”
Kassie also wants to impress upon her Tri Delta sisters the power of mentorship. “If you are in the position to be a mentor, please understand the impact you could have on another individual — a Tri Delta sister. I was able to start my business because someone took me under their wing and is a mentor to me to this day.”
She says she’s “grateful for the opportunity Tri Delta has afforded me and for those relationships that have come out of that decision I made in college.”