Don’t think painting sneakers is a thing? Think again. Or at least that’s the drive for Samantha Handler, who wasn’t one to reach out for basic ink and paper for her artwork. As she embraced her artistic skills during her college years, she discovered creating eye-catching, one-of-a-kind, fun art on sneakers and accessories was what she loved doing. We sat down with Samantha to discuss how she — as a young woman entrepreneur — seized the opportunity to turn her passion into a business.
Grit Daily: You had your own adventures before KicksBySammy. Share those.
Samantha Handler: As KicksBySammy begins to grow bigger, I often look back at life before it and reflect on my experiences that shaped me into the woman and businesswoman I am today. Before I was an artist, I was an athlete. Being an athlete was a huge factor in shaping my leadership abilities, confidence, and outgoing spirit. Soccer was my life from 6th to 12th grade. I traveled all over the USA for games and tournaments, held captain positions, and made life-long friends with diverse backgrounds, life experiences, and views.
As my transition to college began, I started to embrace my other passion: Art. It was a secret passion of mine since most knew me as an “athlete.” As a young girl, art was something I always did for myself as a stress reliever, and I never wanted to be judged or criticized. I began to draw on sneakers and paint more that summer, which ultimately led me on a path that would change my life forever. Who would have thought a pair of painted kicks would change my life.
Grit Daily: What’s behind the KicksBySammy name?
SH: KicksBySammy originally began with a pair of shoes and sharpies.
The summer going into my Freshman year of college in 2013, I was bored at home and found an old pair of white Keds in my closet. Eager for college and desperate for some cool tailgate outfits, I had the idea to draw on the sneakers with Maryland logos and fun doodles. I loved how they turned out (at the time) and decided to post my creation on Instagram. I began to receive numerous comments and requests from friends and family who wanted a pair of hand-painted shoes for their college. I decided this was a great way to make some extra cash, and I began to take orders all summer.
Fast forward, I wore the shoes out, and people constantly approached me asking who made my shoes. More inquiries started to roll in from people I didn’t even know. One night, while hanging with my college friends they all said, “Sammy, you are on to something big with the shoes. You should make a business account for it and take more orders”. Hesitant at first, I decided to go for it. My first question to my friends was, what do I even name this business? My friend shouted out, “KicksBySammy!” Not thinking twice that this would turn into my full-time business by 2017, I immediately went with it, and KicksBySammy was born.
Over the years, KicksBySammy has evolved into way more than custom kicks, but the name always stuck and has deep sentimental meaning. It shows my followers that a simple idea as a teen can evolve into something much bigger with time and hard work!
Grit Daily: For the uninitiated, what’s special about KicksBySammy?
SH: KicksBySammy is proud to be a women-owned and women-led business. We offer eye-catching custom accessories that provide my hand-drawn artwork on a variety of products. It is as simple as 1, 2, 3. Customers select their product, pick their favorite design, and personalize it with any name, initials, or phrase!
Our customers love our high-quality products, uniqueness, and how hip every design is. Through social media, they get to know me, the face behind the brand, on a more intimate level. What is super special is we show cool art process videos, a lot of behind-the-scenes footage, and give business advice to all of our amazing followers.
With increasing interest in my designs, we are proud to collaborate artistically with celebrities and corporate clients to create artwork for events, promotional products, murals, and more!
Grit Daily: Women’s History Month is here, what kind of initiatives will KicksBySammy take on?
SH: I love using my artwork to bring smiles to the faces of my customers.
As a young, female entrepreneur my goal is to embolden girls of all ages the belief that passion and hard work can make anything possible. I hope to inspire & guide my followers, fans, and customers to pursue their dreams and shoot for the stars!
I am a proud donor for specific KBS collections to charities. For example, my limited-edition Women’s History Month collection of custom and DIY phone cases, canvases, and pouches give back to girls and the arts. KicksBySammy has partnered with Creative Action – a non-profit that utilizes the arts to inspire creativity, unlock hidden potential, and transform the lives of students of all ages. We proudly are donating 15% of all March sales from this collection to this amazing cause.
Grit Daily: What is one conventional wisdom about young women entrepreneurs that is just plain wrong?
SH: Figure out what careers are most lucrative or easy to succeed in, and explore those jobs. This advice is not good to follow because if you do, you won’t be truly happy, despite earning a lot or putting in partial effort. Figure out what makes you happy. Then find a way to make money doing it. My passion for what I do drives me every day to grow the business, to push my creative boundaries, and to never give up.