Interviewed by Renee Huffman
Photo Credit Thomas Northcut
What was it like growing up on the Southside of Chicago?
I grew up in Hyde Park which is indeed on the southside of Chicago. It's a very special neighborhood in and of itself. It's the neighborhood where the University of Chicago is located.
Just around that surrounding that you get a lot of diversity a lot of professionalism, entrepreneurism and highly skilled individuals. It was really amazing to be in that kind of environment that breeds education and a desire for higher learning. And on top of that creativity, since the University is located on the south side of Chicago, you kind of get that academia mixed with a little bit of creativity and artistry so it was amazing.
Take me through the early days of your business, when you started it out of your campus apartment at the University of Southern California?
Well those days were very long and very hard. I went to school during the day. I did my homework in the evening and I worked on my business plan every night. There was no social life. It was a grind for me but I knew it was what I wanted to do. Even though I was working 18 hours of the day, I was happy and feeling fulfilled. I was feeling like I was getting ready to start a new chapter, a meaningful chapter. I loved it, I don't miss it though.
When did you know you wanted to design footwear?
I knew I wanted to design Footwear after I randomly started sketching shoes and realized that I had ideas. Sketching shoes helped me to get through a heartbreak. It was a surprise for me and my parents were just as surprised, because I never expressed any interest in doing anything artistic. My parents and myself all thought I was going to grow up and be a businesswoman, like in finance on Wall Street that sort of thing. That's what I was actually in school studying as well, so it was a pleasant surprise.
Being such a young designer, who supported you the most when you were starting out?
My parents. My family, my grandma my brothers, and they continue to do so. What I found being a young, ambitious female designer is that you don't really get much support outside of your family and really close friends. It's a very lonely life, but my parents are amazing they're the best role models I could have. My parents are entrepreneurs as well so they understood what I was going through at every stage and they kind of catered to my needs. I couldn't have had a better support network.
What were some of the hurdles you faced when starting your business?
Everything was a hurdle. Everything at face value looked like a problem. That's why you have to spend so much time reading, researching and studying case studies of how other people did what you were trying to do. How other people overcame their early stages of entrepreneurship. I never had a job before. I had internships, like little petty jobs. I never had a real job in a real business culture, so I had to learn everything from how to budget, to how to manage people and how to talk to people in an effective way. Being so young and this stemming from just a passion.