It was the make of cars (mainly Jaguars and Aston Martins) in the car park at an ACE taster day back in 2015 that for one MD, Matthew Bagwell, was a sign an Academy membership might not be quite right for him. He says, “Being honest it felt a bit out-of-touch, especially coming from the companies I was used to directing, a bit too ‘golf club'”.

Fortunately Matt stayed long enough to enjoy a world-class speaker session with the Olympian Matthew Pinsent, meet his (now) business partner Ian Cartwright, and above all rate the “honesty and candour” of the other Academy members during the “Board You’d Love to Afford” session. When Matt secured £60,000 of incremental business from a single client following an ACE session on negotiation the ROI was clear for both him and his board to see.

Fast forward to November 2016. After sharing many conversations with fellow City of London Ace member Ian Cartwright, the pair decided to turn their frustrations with the traditional retail and fashion industries into an opportunity. They launched Seven Feet Apart, a digital shoe brand that sells its own unique designs directly to consumers so they get the best deal. Ian explains “Cutting out the retailer from the supply chain means we can offer a level of quality and technical functionality that customers would not normally be able to afford. We make premium luxury accessible. More importantly, the brand is rooted in its purpose which is to make things that are beautiful, brilliant and better and this will continually drive us forward”.

Asked about the differences between being entrepreneurs – running their own company – as opposed to running someone else’s, Matt says, “If I have a challenge or issue, I have to sail right into the heart of it. It might be a professional weakness that I have to address. It might be a situational challenge. Whatever, I cannot put it off and hope it goes away. It doesn’t. I’d suggest that in the companies I have worked for, there has always been a status quo that drives behaviour. No such thing exists in this start up.

Both Ian and Matt admit their ACE groups (they now attend different groups to ensure they get as wide a range of advice as possible) have supported them from the beginning. Ian explains “The expert speakers I have listened to and learnt from over the past three years keep coming back to me and what once didn’t seem to apply to my role at the time comes in useful now”.

Matt adds, “They have praised our successes and challenged me when it’s been necessary to. There is no pretence in our Group, we want the best for each member and knowing this provides a safe haven for open discussion about Seven Feet Apart”.

As a token of the considerable benefit Matt and Ian feel they’ve experienced from the Academy of Chief Executives platform, they’re kindly offering ACE members and exclusive 10% saving code (including sale items) to buy a pair of Sevens in lieu of expensive advertising. They would welcome you to use the code PARTNER-ACE at the online checkout.