When Lauren Cahill, Co-Founder and chief shoe designer of Petit Barcelona, was nominated as a Westfield Local Hero in 2019, little did she know she’d soon be connecting with new customers and growing her brand through a newly-leased space at Westfield Chermside.
Lauren was voted as a Westfield Local Hero because of her work raising money for the Children’s Tumour Foundation of Australia (CTF Australia), the only charity in the country that supports children and their families with the little-known genetic disorder, neurofibromatosis (NF).
The first time Lauren heard of NF was when a young girl with a tumour on her brain stem came into her Camp Hill Marketplace shop. Young Emme touched Lauren’s heart and, on the spur of the moment, she decided to design a brand-new shoe in her honour, and donate all profits from the sale of the special shoes to NF Australia.
Now, girls all over Brisbane (and the world thanks to Petit Barcelona’s online store), are wearing the beautiful hand-made rose mocha glitter sandals called Emme’s Shoes. Through this small, simple act, Lauren has raised funds, awareness and compassion for NF, which can be both debilitating and disfiguring.
When trying on the shoes, Lauren says mothers often take the opportunity to have a conversation with their daughters about compassion.
“They talk about Emme, about her illness, and that their contribution is making a difference. That they are helping others, through the act of giving,” says Lauren.
Westfield Local Heroes are nominated and voted for by their communities, with the three top finalists at each Westfield centre awarded a $10,000 grant for their affiliated organisation. In Lauren’s case the grant went to CTF Australia.
Lauren says winning the nomination made her cry with happiness. She was delighted by the community support, which she says is like, “two gigantic arms wrapping themselves around Emme and her family.” But the ripple effect of Lauren’s altruism, and the exposure Petit Barcelona received from the Westfield Local Heroes program, has had wonderful knock-on benefits for her business too.
Originally launching as an online store in 2016, Petit Barcelona then opened a flagship store in the Camp Hill Marketplace in Brisbane. The business has gone from strength to strength ever since, so much so that when a short-term casual lease came up in a prime spot at Westfield Chermside, between May and July 2020, Lauren was quick to sign up.
Scentre Group BrandSpace sales executive, Maddy Narramore, was responsible for supporting Lauren to open the pop-up store. She says that Lauren’s story of innovative small business owner to pop-up retail tenant exemplifies Scentre Group’s ongoing strategy to create the places more people want to visit, more often.
“The success story of Petit Barcelona, what the business has done for a local charity and the gorgeous products they are now offering customers at Westfield Chermside, perfectly demonstrates Scentre Group’s focus on partnering with local businesses, building community and investing in local leaders,” Maddy says.
Maddy’s opinion is echoed by Scentre Group BrandSpace Sales Manager, Lauren Walls, who says she is incredibly proud to offer such a suitable opportunity to such a worthy local business.
“I think there can be a tendency to associate Westfield with just big-name brands and there is a perception that we don’t offer much to local businesses, especially when it comes to leasing,” she says.
“This couldn’t be more wrong. We have a big focus on connecting with local businesses offering interesting, innovative products. It’s mutually beneficial, of course. We can help them build their brand and give them exposure to new customers, and they help our centres live up to their promise of being extraordinary places that connect and enrich communities.”
Scentre Group National Community Experience Manager, Pam Wilson, says Petit Barcelona’s story weaves together all the different elements of the company’s national community recognition and award strategy.
“Westfield Local Heroes is, at its heart, a community recognition program designed to discover and celebrate those people who are building social wellbeing and harmony in their communities. The program essentially brings Scentre Group’s purpose to life and offers a deep recognition that our centres are more than just shopping hubs, they are lifestyle destinations that genuinely serve our local communities,” she says.