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Footwear

4 mins read

Tradeblock, a Black Owned Sneaker Trading Platform Just Raised $9 Million

Tradeblock, a Black owned sneaker trading platform has raised over $8.9 Million dollars in funding from investment partners Courtside VC, Trinity Ventures, and Concrete Rose Capital.

From its humble beginnings in 2020, with just 300 users and just under 5000 shoes, Tradeblock has experienced exponential growth in its 2 years of operation, amassing more than 1 Million shoes listed in users’ virtual closets this year.

May be an image of footwear

The monumental growth of the online marketplace can be attributed to the platform’s unique consumer experience that was key in the vision of making Tradeblock a reality.

Co-Founder and CEO Mbiyimoh Ghogomu, along with Co-Founders Darren Smith and Tony Malveaux, sought out to bridge the gap for passionate collectors who were losing the battle against bots on sneaker drops and those who cannot afford rapidly increasing resale prices; increases that are largely driven by resellers cornering the market on popular shoes for the sole purpose of profits.

May be an image of phone, screen and footwear

Tradeblock will use the proceeds from the financing round to help further invest in growth in its sneaker business as well as expanding and improving its one-of-a-kind authentication and logistics operation, which involves inspecting and authenticating shoes from both sides of the trade simultaneously in a complex and highly-interconnected process.

Additionally, Tradeblock will be investing in more data science capabilities to enhance the customer experience as it continues to define the virtual bartering experience by developing the marketplace further.

The funding raised within this round brings Tradeblock closer to its north star of providing accessibility in the resale market for those who should not let high and unjust prices define the attainability of their dreams and culture and also of ensuring that the marketplace offers the best in class services for its members.

Tradeblock is also driven by a deep passion for building a company that actually resembles the people it serves. “Black and brown communities have always been the backbone of the sneaker industry and sneaker culture,” says Co-Founder and CEO Mbiyimoh Ghogomu. “Showing those folks that they can be the owners and operators of this industry as opposed to just consumers is both a point of pride and a deeply rooted responsibility for everybody at Tradeblock.”

The Tradeblock team embodies this sentiment of representation within their workforce: besides having three Black founders, Tradeblock’s workforce is more than 80% BIPOC, and the senior leadership team is over 75% BIPOC.

Tradeblock | Secure Sneaker Trades

The marketplace is set for a rolling close to end their Seed II round and is expecting an additional $4.5 Million in investment by the end of it. Tradeblock aims to redefine the basis of sneaker culture by focusing on their pillars of community, accessibility and sustainability. The mission and vision resonate with the public and trumpet the goal of leveling the playing field for the BIPOC community who has played a tremendous role within the culture that is the foundation of the sneaker industry.

“Tradeblock is revolutionizing the way forward for the new emergent asset class of footwear. The founding team’s understanding of the nuances of culture and tech gives them an unfair advantage in the industry and the team’s desire to lead with inclusion, representation, and authenticity also provides them with unique and meaningful organic engagement,” says Tradeblock angel investor Jason Mayden, a former Nike and Jordan footwear designer who now serves as President of Fear of God Athletics.

The marketplace’s continual growth goes to show the long lasting impact it will have within the sneaker industry for years to come.

Tony O. Lawson

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5 mins read

Meet The Owner of One of LA’s Most Popular Black Owned Luxury Shoe Cleaning Businesses

Sole Hue is a Black owned luxury shoe cleaning brand based in North Hollywood, CA. This business has become one of the biggest boutique sneaker cleaning services in the LA and the Hollywood area.

Cortini Grange caught up with Sole Hue’s founder, Drew Green to find out more about Sole Hue.

Sole Hue founder, Drew Green

Where did the idea for SoleHue originate?

SoleHue originated in my hometown, Woodbridge, VA when I was a freshman in high school.

Jordan releases in my neighborhood were a big deal on Saturday’s, but my mom couldn’t always afford to buy me new Jordan’s. So, I started charging to clean my friend’s shoes after school. As the semesters went on, I started getting more and more shoe cleaning orders. And, my business mindset grew into an actual company.

The current pandemic has caused a lot of small businesses to take big blows. What has kept SoleHue thriving and what pivots have you made to continue growing during this time?

For SoleHue, our biggest “Big Blows” have come in a more positive light, than negative. We have been able to successfully execute creative marketing techniques that allow us to target a genuine audience, unique to our brand.

It has been rewarding to build professional relationships with clientele that actually needs our services. This pandemic has also allowed me to live, bicoastal, between Los Angeles and Virginia. I appreciate the time to travel back home and connect with the core of SoleHue.

The support I receive back home is different. This has promoted the consistent strengthening of our values. In Addition, this pandemic has brought SoleHue the opportunities to collaborate with like brands who have also needed help staying creative since face-to-face interactions have been halted due to stay-at-home orders.

It’s been a lot of fun finding artful ways to overcome creative blocks. We have some things in the works with Sneakertopia. I can’t wait to share that.

Luxury sneakers have been a part of Black culture for nearly four decades. From Adidas in the 80’s to the rise of Jordan’s in the 90’s and the current Yeezy craze that’s eclipsed in the billion-dollar net worth mark in record time. Now, we even have a “stock exchange” for buying and seeking kicks (StockX). Where do you see sneaker culture going in the future?

I definitely see technology influencing our sneaker world for decades to come! We already see tech designs that include auto-lacing and fitness tracking.

I believe the ability to try on shoes without actually “trying them on” is coming, as well as more advanced tracking capabilities.

Black Owned Luxury Shoe Cleaning

Outside of the SoleHue brand, what is Drew Green engaged in? What brings you joy in the moments when you aren’t working?

Aside from SoleHue, I spend my time using my platform to influence the youth in my community.

I started mentoring a few young adults, I show them the ropes of business and personal success. And, the things that ultimately bring me the most happiness are working to break generational curses while building generational wealth and educating my family on financial literacy through love and by leading by example. These things are very important to me.

I am honored to be a part of such a platform. Thank you for highlighting myself and my business on Shoppe Black.

Black Owned Luxury Shoe Cleaning

Contributed by Cortini Grange

Cortni lives by the personal motto, “wealth, is the ability to fully experience life”. As such, Cortni wears many hats: he is a father, servant leader, social entrepreneur, spiritualist, and a proud Jamaican (which requires a three job minimum to maintain active status).

Cortni infuses his principles, belief, and life experiences into all he does. When Cortni is not doing 1,000 things, you can catch him dancing to Stevie Wonder or Bob Marley in the kitchen with his son Jameson Mosiah, deepening his knowledge of African Spiritual Science, back on his family’s farm in Linstead, Jamaica, or upholding his car freestyle championship belt at all costs.

 

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5 mins read

Foot Locker Invests $2 Million in Black Owned Footwear Design Academy

Foot Locker Inc. has made a $2 million investment in Pensole Inc., which operates the Pensole Footwear Design Academy, founded by former Jordan design director D’Wayne Edwards. In short time, Pensole has become a signifiant part of the sportswear industry’s talent pipeline.

Pensole features the most sought after faculty in footwear, comprised of both young professional designers and established footwear design leaders from the top footwear brands, with more than 150 years combined experience.

Pensole founder, D’Wayne Edwards

The investment deepens Foot Locker’s long-standing partnership with Pensole and extends the companies’ relationship across all aspects of the design process. It will also give Foot Locker and its vendor partners new access to collaborative design and manufacturing talent.

Edwards will remain the majority owner of Pensole. In a recent interview, he said Pensole will stay on the same trajectory and the money will help “create a better academy.” He expects to use the money to expand class offerings, hire more staff and design exclusive products for Foot Locker.

Edwards, who has worked in the athletic industry for three decades, created a pipeline of new designers through the academy that offers free tuition and a learn-by-doing curriculum that teaches students the entire footwear and apparel process, from product inspiration and concept development to manufacturing and branding.

“My relationship with Foot Locker goes back over 30 years, from consumer to designer to educator and now partner,” said Edwards. “I am excited to deepen our relationship with Foot Locker so we can empower consumers to create their future through innovative educational programs.

Suzette Henry, the founder, and director of the MLab at Pensole

It has always been our joint mission to foster the next generation of emerging footwear and apparel design talent, and I am confident that our collaboration will contribute to the continued growth of the academy, success of our students and accelerated innovation in the footwear industry.”

Together, Foot Locker, its vendor partners and Pensole will collaborate on new educational programs and the design and manufacturing of exclusive products for the Foot Locker family of brands.

Angela Medlin, Founder and Director of the The Functional Apparel and Accessories Studio (FAAS) at Pensole

Foot Locker first supported Edwards and his vision for Pensole in 2015 through an annual master class design competition, “Fueling the Future of Footwear.” Thirty students who have gone through the Foot Locker and Pensole Master classes are working in the industry. Foot Locker has also sold three styles created from the class globally.

“Through this investment, we are excited to extend our partnership with Pensole, an organization that shares our deep commitment to fostering education and driving design innovation and excellence in the industry,” said Richard Johnson, chairman and CEO of Foot Locker.

“Pensole’s position as a leading footwear design academy will enable Foot Locker to deepen our relationships with our vendor partners and leverage the next generation of talent across our brand partners for exclusive consumer-facing concepts. We look forward to working closely with D’Wayne and Pensole’s talented students and world-class faculty as together we design and produce the footwear of tomorrow.”

Spring 2018 Student Exhibition (Pensole)

Partnership with New Balance

Pensole has now partnered with NewBalance for the 3rd annual 3-Week Design and Marketing “Co-Op.” This course features on the job training in Footwear Design, Color + Material Design, Functional Apparel Design, and Marketing.

Students will be selected by category of submission for a hands-on learning experience at the New Balance HQ and a chance to earn a 1-Year Paid Apprenticeship. For details and submission requirements, visit www.Pensole.com.

 

Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG @thebusyafrican)

7 mins read

Black Owned Footwear Brand Blends British and Jamaican Culture

Uptown Yardie is a Black owned footwear brand that makes you stop and stare. Ever since we discovered this brand, we’ve been in awe of their bold and unique styles.

We decided to chat with the owners, husband and wife team, Rohan and Natasha Clarke to find out more about their brand.

black owned footwear
Rohan and Natasha Clarke, owners of Uptown Yardie

What inspired you to start this business?

The designer behind the brand is Rohan Clarke. He trained at the London School of Fashion Cordwainers and had worked for several shoe companies. But the one thing that frustrated him was being told that his designs couldn’t be made.

black owned footwear

He knew that this wasn’t true because not only does he design shoes he also makes shoes. He was disillusioned, but his wife convinced him that he could do this himself and so with some gentle persuasion this husband and wife team started Uptown Yardie.

black owned footwear

How did you come up with the name Uptown Yardie and what does it mean?

Uptown Yardie is a British company inspired by Jamaican heritage, selling a lifestyle, captured through shoes and clothes.

The name is inspired by a Bob Marley quotation “me ah bring downtown uptown” meaning he is bringing the man dem from the ghetto to where he was living uptown at the time. The original uptown yardie is someone who comes from the more affluent parts of Jamaica.

For us using the term Uptown Yardie is about reclaiming the name from a negative association to a positive. To the true meaning of the word “yard” which to a Jamaican means home. For instance, “nowhere nah better dan yard” mean nowhere is better than home.

black owned footwear

What separates your brand from the numerous other shoe brands in the market?

The Uptown Yardie brand creates for a progressive man or woman who does not follow fashion. We design for people like us who have a passion and love for things that are well crafted and that has more longevity than one season.

We believe that a shoe should have a distinctive and individual character that is shaped through the ideas and vision of its designer and craftsman who are united and driven by a common goal, a common spirit to create the most beautiful shoes.

Each piece has been carefully selected by our team to ensure it embodies the qualities of style, elegance, and exclusivity synonymous with the Uptown Yardie brand whilst reflecting the unique philosophies of design and craftsmanship for which Rohan Clarke the designer is renowned.

What has been the most challenging and most rewarding part about owning your own business?

The most challenging part of owning your own business is realizing that you have to have many strings to your bow, you have to be more than a creative to make it work.

What we mean by that is the creativity of what we do is our passion but we need to be able to market what we do, we need to be able to understand how to maximize our online sales, we need to be social media experts.

All of these things take skill, expertise, and time. Juggling this, whilst maintaining creative time is a constant challenge. But we are learning and we are pulling in people who do have that expertise.

The most rewarding thing about owning your own business is loving what you do, seeing your passion come into fruition. In the past when we’ve worked for other people they want to be safe, they want to follow the crowd, it stifles innovation.

black owned footwear

Where do you see your brand in 5 years?

That it has an appeal to a diverse audience across the globe. Although the brand is inspired by our Jamaican heritage, Uptown Yardie is created to appeal to people that think outside the box.

It is a brand that crosses boundaries, ages, and races. Ultimately if we can do that and make the brand self-sufficient that’s where we want to be in 5 years’ time.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Be prepared to put the work in. Owning your own business is not a 9-5. The other important aspect is to know your business inside out, costings, business forecasts, risks, and opportunities.

If you’re a creative, this isn’t the sexy stuff but it’s vital if you want what you to do to be more than a hobby. Ask yourself “If I was standing in front of a group of potential investors and they put me on the spot.

black owned footwear

How confident could I answer questions about my product and my business model?” If you’d struggle, then there is some homework to do. We did it, wrote a business plan with costings and forecasts. It was long, believe you me but we are more confident about exactly how much it costs to manufacture every aspect of a shoe, what the wholesale cost is, and the retail price based on a formula.

black owned footwear
Besides the above, if you have a dream and want to do it. Go for it. Don’t listen to the naysayers. You never know your idea might be the next big thing.

-Tony O. Lawson


 

Related: Black Owned Men’s Shoe brands

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