StAART (Strategic African American Retail Track) is a signature program of The Athlete’s Foot that aims to increase African American representation and ownership within the sneaker industry while also championing Black-owned retail and entrepreneurship within the community at large.

our

program

goals

build wealth

create opportunities for ownership – one of the greatest pathways for wealth creation – within one of the most thriving industries in the U.S.

build legacy

promote Black entrepreneurship, particularly within the sneaker industry, as a means to the creation of legacy and generational wealth.

build community

create an active network of support for current and future Black entrepreneurs within the sneaker industry and beyond.

Black people are the primary consumers and influencers of sneakers and athletic apparel but are not represented in positions of leadership or profit.

How do we close the gap?

ownership is key.

Ownership is directly tied to wealth. If we can create more African American retail owners, the ripple effect in the industry and the community stands to be remarkable.”

Darius Billings

Senior Director of Product and Marketing for The Athlete’s Foot and creator of StAART

StAART impact areas:

how we’re closing the gap

To achieve our goals for StAART, TAF has outlined three areas of impact: expose, educate and activate.

each impact area addresses one or more of the traditional barriers faced by Black entrepreneurs: 

  • lack of access to information
  • lack of access to relationships
  • lack of access to capital

Because of TAF’s unique business model and position in the industry, StAART will be able to support the entrance of Black entrepreneurs into the industry through franchising. TAF has a long-standing reputation for its commitment to diversity, inclusion and community and remains the only retailer with a 100% franchise model – all stores are locally owned and operated. TAF has successfully supported hundreds of entrepreneurs in franchising in its 50-year history and has a reputation for providing its franchisees with the tools and resources needed to be successful.

StAART, however, will not only welcome new franchisees into the industry, but also inject hope, optimism and action into others who will follow along in the journey. 

expose

We’re pulling back the curtain on the industry, showing various pathways to ownership and highlighting industry success stories.

educate

By providing access to tools, resources, and information, we’re eliminating barriers and closing the wealth gap.

activate

Ownership in the sneaker retail industry is vital to our mission. We win when we can successfully open doors for Black retailers and franchisees.

why StAART matters

01. Black influence disproportionate to Black ownership

Black consumers in the US have $1.3 trillion in annual spending power, with purchases having a halo effect that influences all consumers. However, Black people own only 7 percent of the businesses in the U.S.

06. sneaker industry exclusivity growing

The sneaker industry is becoming more and more exclusive every year. Black-owned sneaker stores account for less than 1% of the current retail doors.

05. inequitable growth within sneaker industry

The evolution of the sneaker industry shows no signs of slowing down and is forecasted to reach $95 billion by 2025. Despite this growth, Black people only represent less than 1% of leadership and ownership positions within the industry.

02. ownership is key to closing the wealth gap

The median net worth for Black business owners is 12 times higher than Black non-business owners. The gap in average wealth between Black and White adults also decreases from a multiplier of 13 to 3 when you compare the wealth of business owners by race.

03. ownership through franchising can help Black entrepreneurs bypass systemic barriers

Black entrepreneurs have thrived in franchising for years and are choosing this route over founding traditional small businesses at a faster rate than the broader population. Franchising, by design, allows entrepreneurs to bypass some difficulties of getting a business off the ground, including access to business connections and support.

04. Black ownership creates ripple effect of opportunity

Black business owners are wealthier than their peers, and business ownership creates new wealth faster compared to wage employment. Small businesses also tend to hire from the community, creating jobs for neighborhood residents. Therefore, opportunities for Black entrepreneurs to succeed are critical for economic empowerment in Black communities.

why StAART matters

01. Black influence disproportionate to Black ownership

Black consumers in the US have $1.3 trillion in annual spending power, with purchases having a halo effect that influences all consumers. However, Black people own only 7 percent of the businesses in the U.S.

02. ownership is key to closing the wealth gap

The median net worth for Black business owners is 12 times higher than Black non-business owners. The gap in average wealth between Black and White adults also decreases from a multiplier of 13 to 3 when you compare the wealth of business owners by race.

03. ownership through franchising can help Black entrepreneurs bypass systemic barriers

Black entrepreneurs have thrived in franchising for years and are choosing this route over founding traditional small businesses at a faster rate than the broader population. Franchising, by design, allows entrepreneurs to bypass some difficulties of getting a business off the ground, including access to business connections and support.

04. Black ownership creates ripple effect of opportunity

Black business owners are wealthier than their peers, and business ownership creates new wealth faster compared to wage employment. Small businesses also tend to hire from the community, creating jobs for neighborhood residents. Therefore, opportunities for Black entrepreneurs to succeed are critical for economic empowerment in Black communities.

05. inequitable growth within sneaker industry

The evolution of the sneaker industry shows no signs of slowing down and is forecasted to reach $95 billion by 2025. Despite this growth, Black people only represent less than 1% of leadership and ownership positions within the industry.

06. sneaker industry exclusivity growing

The sneaker industry is becoming more and more exclusive every year. Black-owned sneaker stores account for less than 1% of the current retail doors.

A lot of times people from our community aren’t given the same opportunities to build generational wealth. The StAART program will really help level the playing field by giving Black entrepreneurs the tools and support to be successful. 

Isom Lowman

20+Year TAF Franchisee and StAART Advisory Council member

get StAARTed

learn more about StAART, its programs and how to get in the game

StAART owning

become a StAART franchisee

StAART strong

access resources + events

partner up

become a StAART partner

spread the word

become a StAART ambassador

StAART here:

Ready?! Share your contact info below and we’ll respond with additional information and next steps based on your area of interest.

StAART q+a

why franchising?

Franchising can provide entrepreneurs access to a proven system and business model, which can significantly decrease traditional start-up risks.

This often results in quicker store openings, more availability to capital, greater access to resources and training and faster generation of revenue. there’s also the benefit of built in marketing, branding and customer loyalty. with The Athlete’s Foot in particular, ongoing training and support are provided to help fast track the franchisee’s knowledge base and expertise in the industry.

There is also significant growth potential with franchising, especially through TAF’s model, which puts considerable control in the hands of the franchisee. most of TAF’s franchisees are multi-store retailers, including Isom Lowman, who has owned 39 stores in his 20+ years with the company.

is StAART only focused on creating new Black TAF franchisees? Are there other areas of focus?

The Athlete’s Foot has outlined three areas of impact and focus for StAART: Expose, Educate, and Activate. These three areas are in direct response to the traditional barriers Black entrepreneurs face in business: lack of access to capital, lack of access to information and lack of access to the relationships with key decision makers and gatekeepers. Through StAART, we’re pulling back the curtain on the industry, showing various pathways to ownership and highlighting those who have already achieved success. StAART will also provide current and aspiring entrepreneurs direct access to tools, resources, and information, beginning in high school.

Activation, however, will be key. StAART will recruit and develop the next generation of Black retail owners through its unique franchise model.

who is the ideal StAART candidate?

TAF is looking to support Black men and women entrepreneurs with a passion for the sneaker industry. Potential new owners must be willing to make TAF their primary focus as dedication, presence and focus are essential to developing a successful retail business, additional criteria include: proven business acumen, alignment with TAF’s core values, proven leadership experience, and critically important, a commitment to community.

what is TAF’s ask of the community?

We’re asking the community to engage with us. Explore the program. Share it within their networks. Connect us with the people and organizations who can help us make a greater impact or connect us with the individuals who believe that this program will help them propel their futures forward. We can’t do it alone.

meet the StAART advisory council

the StAART Advisory Council is a collective of industry and community leaders and influencers who provide valuable insight, perspective and partnership to TAF and mentorship and support to the StAART program participants.

Isom Lowman

TAF Franchisee

Adrienne White

Citizen’s Trust Bank

Karla Duncan

Puma North America

John Scipio

SV Sports

Darius Billings

TAF Senior Director of Product and Marketing, Creator of StAART

It’s inspiring to see what The Athlete’s Foot is doing in launching StAART, as a program for Black entrepreneurs to become retail owners in this great industry.  I especially like their expose, education and activate approach to close the gaps that currently exist when it comes to ownership in this business.  We at PUMA North America support TAF’s efforts and look forward to innovating with the future Black leaders that come from the StAART program in the future.

Bob Philion

President of PUMA North America

media contact

Sigele Winbush 

 

Sigele Winbush Consulting

Get in touch via email 

+1 404 862 2081

press release

Download.pdf

 

official launch press release for the StAART program

media assets

Download.zip

 

access the official StAART logo, promotional images and materials


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about the athlete’s foot 

The Athlete’s Foot is more than just a retail store; it’s a destination for athletic street style. At TAF, we want to be known for encouraging our customers to break the rules and explore the unexpected. We are also a heritage brand rooted in American sneaker culture. Our founders, Robert and David Lando, opened the first TAF store in 1971 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Athlete’s Foot was new and bold: the first athletic specialty store of its kind. Today, TAF is represented around the globe. We do more than sell athletic gear: we curate items that celebrate an active lifestyle. We are community-driven, locally relevant, and globally known.

We are The Athlete’s Foot.