Our student entrepreneur of the month is Chineva Smith, Founder of Crowned Soles. Chineva is pursuing her master’s degree at UWM in Administrative Leadership and is pursuing certificates in Adult & Continuing Education and Teaching. Get to know more about Chineva, Crowned Soles, and the mentorship program, in her interview with MJ Horinek, Innovation Intern at the Lubar Entrepreneurship Center.
MJ: What is Crowned Soles?
Chineva: Crowned Soles is an e-commerce and pop-up shop footwear retailer. Crowned Soles will change the way people find and buy women’s shoes.
MJ: What is the origin story of Crowned Soles?
Chineva: After gaining experience in the footwear industry, we found that our passion was in assisting customers with finding the final statement piece of their attire; their shoes. Our direct footwear retail and customer service experience derived from retailers such as Foot Locker, DSW Shoe Warehouse, and in the women’s & men’s shoe departments at a Carson Pierre Scott chain store.
MJ: Where do you see your startup going in the next 5 years?
Chineva: Crowned Soles is NOT your traditional footwear retailer and has a few surprises to come. We see Crowned Soles continuously growing and expanding our products and selections to best serve our customers. Ultimately, we will scale from national operations to international operations.
MJ: What has your entrepreneurial journey looked like?
Chineva: For years, I was given the vision to create, own, and operate Crowned Soles as an e-commerce footwear retailer. Every day and night, Crowned Soles was on my mind. Of course, life circumstances and fear played a role in the delay of bringing Crowned Soles to life. Fear played the biggest part. I did not know how to start, where to start, there was a lack of entrepreneurial support, and e-commerce was not well expanded at the time. Through it all we decided to step on the other side of fear and transition Crowned Soles from a vision to a living dream. When you don’t know where to start, just start somewhere and it all will come together eventually. We have made mistakes, had many moments when we were lost, and have also been discouraged. However, we still chose to fight to bring our dream into fruition.
Chineva is one of eight students in a new mentoring program put on by UWM Alumni Association, UWM Black Student Cultural Center and Lubar Entrepreneurship Center. The program provides UWM Black Student Cultural Center students with an African American, UWM alumni, entrepreneur/business owner mentor. Chineva was matched with Alexia S. Brunson, Founder and Editor and Chief of the CopyWrite Magazine. Alexia is a UWM Alumni and winner of the 2018 CEO Student Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
“The program is still new, but its Black Cohort is connecting people with a cultural connection to each other when they otherwise might not have gotten the chance to meet. It’s helping to alleviate some of the anxiety of searching for a community where you will find that connection. It’s helping to promote social growth.” – Alexia S. Brunson
The program also provides learning moments for mentors in addition to providing them with a student to whom they can pass on valuable professional knowledge.
“Mentoring is beneficial to both the mentor and mentee – because as I’m helping her to breakdown and process things, it’s helping me to see things in a new way. We are both teaching each other at the same time.” – Alexia S. Brunson
MJ: What professional or entrepreneurial advice would you give to others?
Chineva: Every entrepreneur must know that there truly is no instant gratification when your vision correlates to your passion & purpose. Time x Sacrifice x Investment + Patience is our entrepreneurial equation.
Chineva Smith is an inspirational entrepreneur with a business on the rise, a keen eye for her customers, and truly powerful determination. Chineva is currently in the process of rebranding and officially launching in 2021 (a big virtual round of applause is deserved there!). To help support Chineva’s growing business, and give your shoe wardrobe a refresh, check out the Crowned Soles Website, follow them on Instagram (@crownedsoles), and check out the Facebook page (@thecrownedsoles)!