Abana Shoes, Launched by Two African American Women
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"For every pair of shoes purchased, we give away a pair of shoes to a child or family in need. This outreach is done as an expression of our gratitude." Abana Shoes
In 2004, Abana Shoes' owners, Shirmodda Robinson and Cynthia Matthews, were managers at Shoe Show in Shreveport, LA where they had an encounter with four young boys that changed the course of their lives. Robinson credits Matthews for receiving her first job in the footwear industry. The young men entered the store and requested to try on several pair of shoes.
"We always treat every customer regardless of their age as if they are important and as if they matter," said Matthews. Robinson put each pair of shoes behind the counter after the young boys decided that they did not want them. When Robinson returned from retrieving the last pair of shoes, she looked behind the counter and saw that all of the shoes were gone and all of the kids had left except one.
Recognizing that the young boys took the shoes, Robinson told the other young boy that if they brought back the shoes by the end of the day, she would not call the police. As she was preparing to close the store, she looked across the parking lot and saw one of the young boys returning with the stolen pair of shoes. The emotional Robinson sat him down and explained to him why they should not steal shoes. He replied to her that they took the shoes because they did not have any shoes and the kids in the neighborhood bullied and teased them. That day Robinson bought each pair of shoes for the young boys out of her own pocket.
After this experience, Robinson and Matthews had a vision to design their own footwear. They started designing the prototypes from their home in 2004, but due to the lack of capital, did not officially launch Abana Shoes until 2012 when they opened their online webstore. As they searched for capital, they continued to do give aways in their area for individuals and families that were less fortunate.
"God blessed us to where an African American businessman saw what we were doing as far as the give-aways and touched his heart and he invested into the company," noted Matthews. After Robinson and Matthews received their initial investment, they opened their first brick and mortar location at 2934 E Texas Street, Suite 101, Bossier City, LA in 2015.
The response has been great and it has been positive. Their most popular pair of footwear are the Abana Shoes "Original". On the bottom of each pair there is a “Walk By F8th” message in script of the soles. As Robinson states it, "a thought became a word and the word became exposed". They have partnered with the Caddo and Bossier School District in Louisiana and designed a reward system in which they give away a pair of shoes to kids that are classified as homeless every time a customer purchases a pair of shoes.
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Abana Shoes, which means "Everlasting" hopes to make their shoes and apparel into a global brand. "We see Abana as an inspiration, being positive and using the business as an avenue to help others. It's not selling the shoe, it's the message behind the shoe." Abana Shoes is currently working to get their products into other stores.
Abana Shoes has geared up for the consumers that would like to purchase footwear and apparel for the holidays. Since 2014, there has been a movement in America to #BuyBlack and to financially support Black-owned businesses. Abana Shoes and apparel can be purchased through their webstore at www.abanashoes.com or in-person at their brick and mortar at 2934 E Texas Street, Suite 101, Bossier City, LA.