Keeyahri is a Black owned luxury shoe label focused on building up the confidence of the shoe wearer every step of the way. Founder and Artistic Director Keya Martin swapped out her corporate career for a more rewarding one in fashion with an emphasis on luxury footwear for the confident woman.
We caught up with her to find out more about her business and entrepreneurial journey.
What inspired you to start a shoe business?
My perspective on life changed once I felt that the corporate world had a way of eroding one’s sense of self value. After feeling unfulfilled, I prayed and searched for signs and guidance. I made a list of things that I took interest in, footwear was on it.
I’ve always had a good eye for shoes and I wanted to create designs that contributed to my confidence. I became passionate about making statement piece designs that women would love to wear. Once I received my first samples back, I would wear my shoes to networking events.
The compliments I received condensed my insecurities and fueled my self-esteem. Wearing “feel good” shoes makes me feel as if my walk in life is elevated. My shoes transformed me. I design shoes for women who are in need of an artistic statement piece to provide a sense of elevation and certainty. My goal is to celebrate women by uplifting and empowering them.
What has been the most rewarding part of your business journey? What has been the most challenging?
The Nordstrom partnership is by far the most rewarding part of my journey. Not only did they invest in my company, but they also gave me their full support to onboard my brand. This partnership opens doors for future growth of all Black owned businesses.
What was most amazing was their continued belief in my potential despite my brand being new to the industry. This is my proudest moment by far. Never in a million years did I think this would ever happen. The journey has been quite challenging but this solidifies all of my effort and hard work.
Congrats on your Nordstrom partnership. How did that relationship come about?
I was connected to their designer buying team earlier this year. Once connected, they expressed that they were already interested in the brand. We set up a meeting, where I was able to share my story and present my collection. They shortly came back with the styles and quantities they were interested in.
What do you need to take your business to the next level?
As a small minority business, access to capital and funding resources remain essential to our ability to profit and thrive. With capital, I can streamline my processes, scale up my operations, hire great new people and continue working on the things I care about most: creating designs that uplift people.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
We never know the outcome of our efforts unless we actually do it. Once I decided to book my trip to Italy to locate a factory, everything started to align and fall in place. My advice would be to make a move, shoot your shot, jump in that dm, make the connection, collaborate. Do not stay stagnant. If you’re scared, do it scared.
Where do you see the business in 5 years?
In 5 years, I see Keeyahri growing into a lifestyle brand. I’m more of an innovator as opposed to being a footwear designer. I foresee handbags, garments, perfume, and home accessories in the near future. I’m looking forward to partnering with more retailers around the globe.