The specialty footwear and lifestyle chain, The Athlete’s Foot (TAF), announced GRAMMY-winning gospel artist turned entrepreneur, Tasha Cobbs Leonard, as the first female recipient of TAF USA’s new signature program, StAART, which stands for Strategic African American Retail Track.
The program was founded by TAF, in the summer of 2020 at the height of the Black Lives Matter Movement to generate awareness and promote change for one of the great disparities in the footwear industry.
Grateful is the word that comes to mind when I explore my feelings about my new venture with The Athlete’s Foot. I’m grateful that I have an opportunity to be a leader and an example that Black and Brown girls need in order to believe they can be whatever they want to be,” shares Cobbs Leonard about her next chapter as a franchise owner.
The multi-award-winning singer currently owns several successful lifestyle brands and with a passion for the fashion and clothing industry, the self-professed “sneaker head” is now taking on the footwear world. As a new franchise owner of The Athlete’s Foot, Cobbs-Leonard is currently scouting locations for her store which will be located in her hometown of Greenville, S.C. and giving the city its first TAF.
“We sought to bring a powerful black female entrepreneur into The Athlete’s Foot community and I could not think of a better person to fill this spot than Tasha,” said Senior Director of Product and Marketing for TAF, Darius Billings. “Everyone at The Athlete’s Foot knows firsthand what kind of impact she can provide to our business and especially the StAART program and we are excited for everyone else to witness it.”
StAART’s mission is to increase African American representation and ownership within the sneaker industry, particularly through franchising, while championing Black-owned retail and entrepreneurship within the Black community at large. Through StAART, The Athlete’s Foot directly recruits, develops and mentors Black entrepreneurs through its retail franchise model.
The program provides StAART franchisees, including Cobbs-Leonard, with access to resources, systems, relationships with its strategic brand partners, and a mentorship network – directly addressing many of the barriers that typically prevent Black entrepreneurs from launching and successfully sustaining their businesses.
TAF USA has curated a StAART advisory council that includes key influencers within the sneaker industry as well as professional and community organizations that can lend additional support in making StAART a success. For example, The Athlete’s Foot has strategic partnerships with several key organizations such as T. Dallas Smith & Company, the largest African American-owned commercial real estate brokerage firm in the country that focuses exclusively on tenant and buyer representation.
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