When serial entrepreneur Thabiti Stephens, 19, graduated high school, he had an epiphany. Not only did he realize that he’d spent a lot of his allowance on sneakers, he had a pressing need to pay it forward. Now, a student at Morehouse College, majoring in business marketing, Stephens shares how he developed the concept for his sneaker brand, Steps by Stephens, and how he fulfills his two missions. –yvette caslin
Tell us about Steps by Stephens:
Steps by Stephens is a shoe company based in Atlanta that produces unisex leather and canvas shoes. We design, manufacture, and retail our shoes – the whole nine yards. We oversee every step.
How did you come up with this idea for Steps by Stephens?
In high school, I started a few businesses – some were successful and others were failures. During the week of graduation, I realized I spent too much of my own money on shoes. I decided that I could create better shoes while making a profit, and give back.
You use the term “we”; who else is in business with you?
It’s me and my vice president, Malcolm Conner. He’s my college roommate and we’re both rising juniors. We co-manage the day-to-day responsibilities.
What makes your sneakers stand out above other sneaker brands?
Our shoes are very comfortable, stylish and a portion of the proceeds from the sales support a cause: hunger. Overall, it’s a good product made from durable material. We market to all demographics who can wear the shoes anywhere.
How are you addressing hunger?
For every pair of shoes we sell, we provide three meals to a child in need. We have a partnership with Communities in Schools, a dropout prevention program that partners with Atlanta Public Schools. They connect us with the students in need of the meal, whose parents are experiencing hardship. We provide a free meal and/or non-perishable goods.
What colors are available?
Right now, we have dark brown and navy blue. We’re releasing the red ones in time for the Fourth of July. They will be available online by July 2, 2012, at stepsbystephens.com.
What is your vision for Steps by Stephens in the next 2-5 years?
We are definitely going to be available in mass retail locations. Without sharing too much before a deal has been signed, we have offers now to go nationwide.