Sneaker Wars

Ella grew up at the sneaker factory. Her family had a house, but the company was her father’s pride and joy. Every day after school, Ella went straight to the factory. That’s where her Dad was, so there was no point in going home, not after her mother died anyways.

Together they looked over shoe designs and profit margins and performance reviews. Their company was going to be big someday. Really big. And then Dad would retire and Ella would be in charge. But Dad would never really retire, of course. He just wanted to sleep in late every once in a while.   He’d still be there to talk things over with Ella in the afternoons.

One day, Dad went away to a shoe convention in Las Vegas. He came home married to someone new. Ella’s stepmother had two girls around Ella’s age. Dad introduced them to Ella with his isn’t-this-great smile. It wasn’t great.

Her new stepmother wanted Ella to call her Mom, but she kept forgetting Ella’s name and called her Emily. Her new stepsisters were into fashion, shopping, getting their nails done and texting their friends. Ella tried talking to them about sneakers, but they just rolled their eyes.

In the afternoons, Ella hurried over to Dad’s office, but her stepmother was already there and sent her away to play. Dad never asked Ella’s advice anymore or showed her the new shoe designs. Ella hardly ever saw him at all. And then one day, just after Ella graduated from high school, he died.

“Emily,” her stepmother said. “With just a high school diploma and no other skills, I could hire you to do custodial work, but not really anything else.”

“But I know what Dad had planned for the factory,” Ella said. “I could help you.”

“I know enough to run a shoe factory,” her stepmother said. “Of course, I’m hoping that it’ll eventually be bought out by a bigger company. That would leave us all free to move on to bigger and better things.”

“Like what?” Ella asked. What could be better than the sneaker factory?

“Well, my girls want to be fashion designers.   They’re starting here with shoes, but a bigger company would be able to launch their careers. I’ve already begun talks with Crown Sneakers.”

Ella frowned. “They don’t have design experience.”

The stepmother frowned. “They know what’s popular with teenagers today. That’s what’s most important. Are you going to take the custodial job?”

“No thank you,” Ella said. And she started applying for scholarships.

She worked nights doing custodial work at the local college. But, with a few scholarships and a lot of hard work, she got through school with minimal student loans.   And then, she used crowdfunding to start her own sneaker company.

She knew what she was doing. Her education had begun at her father’s knee, and her design degree filled in the gaps. Her line of sneakers was the talk of social media.

Sadly, her father’s company hadn’t done as well.   Over the years, all the new lines of sneakers had bombed. Her stepmother had been caught embezzling funds, and was forced to resign. The company eventually declared bankruptcy.

The day that Ella got the news, she put down the phone with a sigh and started to go through her mail. She had a letter from Crown Sneakers asking if she’d consider a merger.   Instead, she took out a loan and bought her father’s shoe factory.

Ella started to follow her Dad’s plans for the factory. It took a few years, but after some of their designs were seen on runways and red carpets, the company finally started to grow again.

And then came the glass slipper. It was the nickname for their newest sneaker, because of its ice-blue color and shimmery fabric. They couldn’t keep up with the demand. Once again, Crown Sneakers came calling.

This time, the company president sent his son, Royce.   He was just a little older than Ella, and very charming. “Ella,” he said. “We’d still want you in charge of your factory. You’re doing a great job. We just want to help.”

“For a share of the profits,” Ella said.

“Of course,” he said. “But don’t you need to expand? We have factories that could start manufacturing glass slippers for you as early as next week.”

“I’d still be in charge?” Ella asked.

“Of course,” he said.

“I want to see it in writing, and then I’ll take it to my lawyer,” Ella said.

“Of course,” he said.

When the merger between her company and Crown Sneakers was announced, Ella got some angry letters from her stepmother and stepsisters. But there was nothing they could do about it. When she married Royce, they tried to crash the wedding. “I hate you, Emily,” her stepmother said as security dragged her away.   Ella lived happily ever after, and designed amazing sneakers for the rest of her life.

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