“Son, one day, you will own a business.”
Those are the words that Isaiah Kelly remembers from his summers growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, while watching his father build his own lawn care business. Growing up, it never occurred to him that he would follow in his father’s footsteps and run his own company one day. Fast forward to today, and you will find Isaiah doing just that at Smoove Creations, a software-oriented startup on a mission to make custom footwear the standard for employee incentives and brand expression.
Isaiah has always had a distinctive taste in fashion and an appreciation for unique, custom pieces. But, it was not until he took a job at Shoe Carnival his senior year of high school that Isaiah fell in love with sneakers and the opportunity to create new and unique designs for customers. He began hand-painting custom sneakers, with designs ranging from simple color changes to fully custom designs, like his favorite “Dragon Ball” AF1s. When he headed to start his undergraduate degree in website design at Northern Kentucky University, Isaiah left Louisville with Walmart paint supplies in hand and a steady side-hustle as the “sneaker guy.”
During his time at NKU, Isaiah competed and won in the Global Student Entrepreneur Award Competition, competed in the Rice Business plan competition, was in the Top 30 student entrepreneurs in the nation, and went through Northern Kentucky’s INKUBATOR program, an internationally ranked 12-week business accelerator. If this wasn’t enough, Isaiah turned his sneaker side hustle into a full-fledged business as he worked to complete his undergraduate degree in website design and an MBA.
After graduating, Isaiah turned his attention to growing and scaling his business. While completing the Gener8tor Accelerator program and becoming a Cintrifuse member, Isaiah combined his skills in sneaker customization and web design to launch smoovecreations.com. As demand grew, so did the necessity to move away from hand-painting each custom design. Smoove Studio was born out of this opportunity and is the first 3D modeling software utilized to make custom sneakers accessible and affordable. Smoove Creation’s custom sneakers are now becoming a standard for corporate expression with clients including the Bengals, St. Elizabeth’s Healthcare, Gravity Diagnostics, and most recently, Procter & Gamble. Isaiah continues to leverage the StartupCincy ecosystem to this day. As he looks to complete Smoove Creation’s first seed round with investors like Keyhorse Capital, and is partnering with Product Refinery, a local end to end turnkey solution for product creators and innovators that want to start their own product-based business sustainably.
For Isaiah, the relationships with ecosystem business partners have been game-changing, but what has been most impactful is the people. “In Cincinnati, there is this ability to walk down the street and just start a conversation with anyone you pass. Anytime I mention my startup, everyone is so willing to help. Whether it is providing support and connections or just giving advice, the entire ecosystem is there for me. You can feel that every day.” And he has every intention of giving back to that community. “In the African American community, you don’t see ownership that often. It is so important to me to be able to inspire others to follow in my footsteps, just as I did my father’s. And that starts with being ready for opportunity. The reason I am here is because God has blessed me with so many opportunities. But I don’t let them pass by. I take it on myself to knock down those doors and push myself forward.”
When we had the chance to interview Isaiah about Smoove Creations, he said the best way to support them was just by wearing their products since “sneakers are a walking billboard.” If you are interested in purchasing a pair for yourself or placing an order for your business or next event, head over to smoovecreations.com! We look forward to seeing your new kicks.
Stories like these happen everyday in our community of founders and startups. If you are interested in learning more about Cintrifuse and our membership options, please visit us at cintrifuse.com/cintrifuse-