When a person thinks of luxury brands, names originating from Italy and France may be the first to come to mind. One HBCU graduate from Clark Atlanta University was able to find inspiration in design that led her to create her own luxury shoe brand.
Keya Martin is the founder of Keeyahri, a luxury shoe brand, who created her business and took a leap of faith during the COVID-19 pandemic to pursue her dream full-time to craft the trendy shoes. Martin says she found inspiration in designing after spending years working in corporate America feeling unsatisfied with what she was doing.
“I prayed for guidance and clarity on the next phase of my life. I wrote down a few things that I absolutely loved, and footwear was on the list,” said Martin in an e-mail interview with BLACK ENTERPRISE.
“I sketched some shoe designs for my friends and asked their opinion. They urged me to go after my dream. Years passed by after researching online and not being able to find a factory to make samples. After saving up some funds, I took a trip to an Italian tradeshow, searching for a factory to make my samples. After I made the trip, everything started connecting.”
Despite the challenges of entering the luxury market and competing with European luxury brands, Martin says her passion and business savvy ultimately pulled her through to find success.
“Building and developing a trustworthy, well-valued brand has been a difficult task to accomplish,” she says.
“Attempting to secure funding, making connections, and building infrastructure were a few other challenges I have had to face. I’m competing with major retailers and brands that have numerous employees and a budget. I had no clue it would be this difficult. My passion for creating and the purpose that was placed on my heart keeps me going.”
With new discussions around Black ownership and supporting Black-owned brands, Martin says the Black community has always supported the brand with their patronage and it has experienced an increase in sales since the summer. “Redirecting funds to Black-owned businesses is an investment in our community,” she said. “Inclusion, collaboration, publicity, and support can tremendously catapult Black businesses if only there were more of it.”