The Best Female-Owned Footwear Brands: Moolah Kicks
As the proud founder of Moolah Kicks, the first-ever sneaker brand dedicated to female ballers, Natalie White is prioritising creating a world where female basketballers can truly feel at home in their sneakers. Having grown up playing basketball on multiple teams, White would go on to realise just how detrimental it is that women didn’t have their own sneakers to hoop in, on both a social and performance level. She admits that for a long time, she wasn’t phased by this, but soon enough, her desire to rectify the issue became all consuming. Enter the inception of Moolah Kicks. Today the brand is putting female basketballers first, with their models like the Phantom 1 – available in multiple colourways. This is just the beginning for Moolah Kicks and the future of women's basketball sneakers, so read on and get up to speed now.
Was the idea of one day creating your own women’s basketball sneakers always in the back of your mind?
When I was in college, the layers really started weighing on me. Men's basketball is always held as the standard and women's basketball is compared – either legitimised or delegitimised – depending on how closely it aligns with men's basketball. So when they say, 'Oh, she shoots like Curry,' we're still not looking at that female player for what she's doing. We're only saying, 'Oh, and she's almost like this male basketball player.'
When I was in college, I saw an advertisement that was for one of the footwear retailers. And it was four of the top WNBA players holding up sneakers, and it had their name and then underneath it, it had the shoe that they wore which was named after NBA players. And I think it really hit me. What message are we sending that you could be the top player in women's basketball, but still, you're wearing and you're promoting sneakers that not only aren't benefiting you, but are harming you? So when I dug into it, and I started building the sneaker, I quickly realised that there was not only a negative social implication, but also a negative performance implication as well. Because when sneakers are made, and those men's sneakers are made and labeled unisex, they actually don't fit our feet correctly. And that is one of the components to increased risk of injury.
Your design process is so unique due to the level of input from women's basketball players that is implemented. To you, what is the best part about that?
It helps that I’m close in age to a lot of these basketball players. When I get designs and sketches (even when I was back at Boston College), I used to go around and show them to teams that walked in the arena. I'd say, 'Which one do you guys like? I'm starting a new sneaker brand!' And I'd have the kids vote on it. From middle schoolers, to elementary kids. I don't think there's many footwear CEOs going around and asking teams, 'Hey, what do you guys think of this design!?'
But I would let everyone put their input in, if you're a women's basketball player, if you're a girls basketball player, didn’t matter if you’re five or 18. Didn't matter if you're a starter or you're a bench player. I was listening to everybody and hearing what they want. Asking the question, ‘Where do your shoes fall short? Do you like this design? What colours do you want to see?’ And I’d really lean into what they were telling me.
Moolah Kicks is expanding the horizons so positively for women's basketball, and in such unprecedented ways. How does it feel to know that you're driving this?
I'm just so excited about what this is creating for the future of women's basketball, because historically, women's sports has always had a lot of 'feel good' investments. And that's a problem. Right? Moolah is so exciting because this isn't a feel good investment. I'm trying to move away from saying equality and starting to just focus on creating hype and opportunity by being a for-profit business in this space, founded for us and by us.
And it just means that every dollar that we earn goes into either making more products for women's basketball players or into higher sponsorship dollars and therefore more financial opportunities for professional players. And that's something that no other brands can say in any sport. If you cover multiple sports as a big brand, that money goes into men's football, baseball, soccer – it gets divided up so even when brands create a women's basketball shoe, which I hope they do, no one will be able to grow the sport and the opportunity for the players within it like we can.
Since launching Moolah Kicks in 2019 and locking down the partnership with Dick’s Sporting Goods, what changes have you noticed in the market and the response to your products too?
The partnership with Dick's is unbelievable because we now are in over 140 stores across the US but more than that, we have girls walking into the store and finally feeling like they have a place and buying product that fits them. So we've seen a truly positive response of girls walking in and saying that they picked out the box, they read the message on the inside, and that they were excited to put the shoe on. And everyone says across the board, 'It fits me like a sneaker not like a basketball shoe.' And what they're saying is they've never tried on a basketball sneaker that's fit for them. So that's been the best feedback that I could have hoped for.