Sat09202014

Business & Real Estate

Sister act : Special-occasion shoe company founders aim to go big when giving back


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Jessica and Emily Leung, from left, recently announced the addition of a charitable division to their shoe company, Hey Lady. The former Los Altos High students started their company in 2009.

Entrepreneurial twins Emily and Jessica Leung are adding new titles to their resumes – budding philanthropists.

The sisters, Los Altos High Class of 1999 graduates who co-founded special-occasion shoe company Hey Lady in 2009, recently announced that they’re adding a charity division to their burgeoning business. The duo is kicking off its newest endeavor with a 45-minute charity spin class Tuesday at Stanford Shopping Center’s SoulCycle, titled “Whoop Cancer! Give Big! And Win a Date with Twins!” Proceeds from the event will benefit rare-cancer research and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Reached by the Town Crier, the Leung twins explained that the motivation behind their company’s charity work is simple – Jessica’s 2012 diagnosis with nasopharyngeal cancer, which affects the upper area of the throat. Within days of the news, the 31-year-old found herself in Hong Kong, where she received cancer treatment for the next eight months.

“I just dropped everything,” said Jessica, who is now several months in remission after initially receiving a stage four – and later stage five – cancer diagnosis. “I was very healthy. … I don’t smoke (and) I eat healthy. Even a couple of months before (the diagnosis), I ran a half-marathon.”

Emily added that the Thursday event is just the beginning when it comes to Hey Lady’s charitable work. The sisters are already brainstorming ways to make a difference for others in the community.

“Everything we do with our charity work is going to be either cancer research or empowering women. … We want to do anything that uplifts people,” Emily said.

As for their five-year-old business, the twins noted a mutual desire to develop a woman’s special-occasion shoe that would remain comfortable and fashionable after a long night of dancing at a Las Vegas wedding. What started as a joyous night of cutting a rug in pricey, name-brand shoes ended with swollen, painful feet for all involved.

“It hurt so badly that I almost blacked out from the pain,” said Jessica, who was working in the fashion industry in Los Angeles at the time.

Coupled with a shared disdain for shoes “without personality,” the former Los Altos Hills residents soon made the life-altering decision to form their own business venture aimed specifically at making a comfortable wedding shoe.

“I literally quit my job the next day. … There’s never a perfect time to start anything like this, so you just have to jump in and swim,” Emily said.

The Mountain View-based company has since expanded to sell shoes fit for several events. It has sold and shipped its products – which the twins describe as “classic-with-a-twist” inspired in part by icons like Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Onassis – to 28 countries.

“We say we’re for brides, bridesmaids, mothers of the brides and dancing queens,” Jessica quipped.

With better days seemingly ahead for Jessica, the sisters added that they’re attacking their philanthropic efforts the way they’ve approached everything else – with a fearless, positive attitude.

“The reason I’ve come this far is because I have so many people rallying behind me. … Attitude is probably 90 percent of everything,” she said.

“It feels uncomfortable not to do something, to watch other people maybe do something while you sit back,” Emily added. “We’re just grateful and we want to give big.”

For information on “Whoop Cancer! Give Big! And Win a Date with Twins!” visit eventbrite.com/e/whoop-cancer-give-big-and-win-a-date-with-twins-tickets-10488257661?aff=efbevent.

For more information on Hey Lady, visit shopheylady.com.

Emily and Jessica Leung give back sole through Hey Lady - Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

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