We had the good fortune of connecting with Jeneba Barrie and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jeneba, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
When I first thought of the idea of Jeneba Barrie Nude Footwear in 2011, there were no other products on the market that provided diverse and inclusive nude (skin tone) shoes. It was very interesting to me that 95% of the population were not properly represented in the fashion industry. Nude shoes are a staple in most womens’ closet, so the idea that no other company had created this product boggled my mind. There was a huge vacuum and I wanted to fill that space while providing quality products. When I finally launched in 2018, there were similar products on the market, but they were extremely expensive, not inclusive enough or had poor, unflattering designs. I saw this as my opportunity to make my brand the most diverse, inclusive and affordable brand on the market, with a simple, yet beautiful design.
What should our readers know about your business?
Jeneba Barrie Nude Footwear is the most diverse and inclusive luxury skin tone shoe line on the market. We officially launched in 2018. I had the idea back in 2011 when my sister and I had the same “beige” pumps that the market called “nude” but did not match mine or my sister’s skin tone. At this point I started thinking about why there were not pumps on the market that truly matched our skin-tone. Our products are different because we have 13 skin-tone shades, the most on the market. We are considered entry luxury and all of our pumps are hand-crafted in Italy. Our pumps are not only great quality, they are also affordable and cost less than our competitors. Our journey from idea to launch to being on the market has not been easy. We originally launched through our Kickstarter Campaign with a goal of $15,000 and ended up raising a little over $23,000. Funding was tough. Before the Kickstarter Campaign, all prototyping, advertising and business cost was funded by my husband and I personally. The Kickstarter was a little breather as it allowed us to build out our original inventory. Before getting to this point, one of our BIGGEST hurdles was finding an Italian manufacturer who would work with us in prototyping and making our products. A lot of manufacturers did not want to work with us because we were a small company and oftentimes could not meet their MOQ. But, alas, we found a manufacturer and we started producing our luxury nude footwear. The lessons that I have learned is that success is never a linear progression. There are ups and downs and the trick is to ride the wave and be patient. I have also learned that no one will care about your business more than you so you have to be 110% dedicated and passionate about your business. I want everyone to know that my brand is a labor of love. Every shoe we send out is inspected for any minor defect (any defect found disqualifies a shoe from being sent to customers). We have the best customers and we do everything we can to build our relationship with them. We care for them and always accept and listen to their feedback. We will be adding more products soon and are extremely excited about that.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well, I am more of a homebody so I am not up on the latest and greatest spots. But from time to time I do enjoy brunch and soul food. So anywhere that allows me to have a great brunch with a great soul food menu would definitely be my spot. Ellen’s been old faithful to me. I loved Jonathon’s Oak Cliff as well. As far as drinks, I have not had an alcoholic beverage since 2016 (yikes) when I found out I was pregnant with my first born, so I will be the absolute worst person for drink recommendations. But, I do look forward to a good Bloody Mary when I am done nursing my newborn and start drinking, again.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My husband, Dr. Mohamed B. Barrie, Pharm.D. deserves a shoutout for all of his support, encouragement and advice that he has given me throughout the years. We have been married for 10+ years now and have been together for almost 13 years. I have not always been a confident person and that was a project that I had to work on. However, my husband has been my #1 cheerleader in every aspect of my life. While applying to law school he encouraged me to apply to all of the schools that I disregarded “too hard to get into.” Well, taking his advice to consider all schools allowed me to get into a solid school with a good scholarship. While it took me 7 years between my idea (when no one else was doing it) to officially launch, some other companies sprang up that offered the same product. I expressed my hesitation about starting my line and he told me to go for it because my product will be different from my competitors. I mean, if you don’t have competitors is your product/ service really needed? The crazy thing is, had he told me not to pursue the endeavor because of other’s entering the market, I would not have gone forward with the plan. With his advice, I continued my prototypes and launched a year after. Now, I consider how many different types of cereal and bread brands are in the grocery store and I have realized that competition is not only good, but it’s an indication that the product/service is needed. Competition also forces you to be the very best. I am so grateful for him.