Melissa Carnegie wears multiple hats–or should one say shoes?
Carnegie not only oversees communications for the global haircare brand Cantu, but she is also growing her own platform. Her vision for her company, Kicks and Fros, is to make space for women in the male-dominated sneaker industry.
By utilizing the full scope of her network, Carnegie is carving out a niche as a prominent voice in the shoe game. Many say the time has come for Black women, such as Carnegie, to have a place in the industry to express their “sneaker style” and connect with like-minded others.
From her insight into business from prior experience to how she has found the Charlotte, North Carolina, community to be the perfect support system, Carnegie is ready to step into this spotlight.
BLACK ENTERPRISE connected with the entrepreneur on how she manages it all to discuss the challenges and triumphs of being a Black woman CEO and how Kicks & Fros has its foot in the door.
The Melissa Carnegie of Kicks & Fros, how do you feel today, and where is your brand now?
Melissa Carnegie: I feel like my brand is growing so much. We’re trying new things, launching new products. This is a moment, a year, of growth. Of stepping out to try something new. I’m here in our Kick & Fros headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, in an area called Camp North End.
Basically, it’s an old Ford Motors plant that became a military campground during wartime, then they revamped it, so now it’s home to a lot of small businesses. I was just ready to get out of the house, and I called them to see if they had any space because I wanted to connect with other like-minded creatives. And luckily, they had air streams out here that they converted to office spaces, and I was so down. It became its own branding moment, with pop-ups and our outdoor space, and that’s what we’ve been able to do.
What makes your business stand out the most with so many sneaker and apparel brands catering to the Black demographic?
MC: Women really dominate this space when it comes to sneakers and personal style; we give that style and that fashion. And I felt like we weren’t being catered to or talked about as we should be, especially Black and Brown women. I wanted to change that.
I started out as an “inspo” page, just to share for women looking to find their sneaker style or trying to rock them and where to purchase them. That has grown into a full-fledged business catering to women in the sneaker space because this is such a male-dominated field, and I wanted to figure out how to talk to women. I have a passion for sneakers. I love wearing and styling them with their versatility and the comfort, and I knew there was a community of women who probably felt the same way. Starting as a content creator, we built a community, a merch shop, a blog, and a newsletter. Now we have our own space for it.
You felt there was a lack of visibility for women to participate in the sneaker game. Was that the main reason you built this space, or did you think this was your niche that you could really grow into?
MC: As I mentioned, I started as a content creator. I had a blog and talked a lot about sneakers and my personal style, and that’s where the questions began: “How many sneakers do you have in your collection? What are your favorites? How do I style them for myself?”
I realized with these questions that there may be some opportunity there, and I just wanted to create this community and have a space for us to feel heard and supported. That’s really where it started, as I can do something here where we can converse and feel inspired by one another.
Where do you see Kicks & Fros going?
MC: I want us to be that household name for women and sneakers. We did a brunch tour last year and connected with women in those places, not just sneaker lovers but artists, shoe customizers, and even teachers! The list goes on, and we want to be able to continue doing that and supporting different communities of Charlotte and beyond. We’re also working on a sneaker cleaner that launches in October, so we’re super excited about that. I just want to continue providing, whether that is merch, items to help protect your kicks, or events to build sisterhood.
You say you are not a household name yet, but all your big-name partnerships with Jordan and Nike show that you are one in the making. Do you have any other collaborations on your bucket list?
Have you faced any serious setbacks when building Kicks and Fros? How did you overcome them?
MC: I started slow. I won’t start anything fast or do anything too much. I always want to learn, of course. With our merch shop, I’ve ordered some things in the past without getting a sample and then had hundreds of dollars worth of products that were totally wrong. Making sure something is exactly what you want before ordering large quantities was a lesson I learned early on. So I start small and then build upon that, ease into it.
Lastly, from the sneaker guru herself, what’s your sneaker style?
Source: Black Enterprise