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Helping Black entrepreneurs become franchise owners

Entrepreneur supporting Black-owned sneaker stores
Entrepreneur launches initiative supporting Black-owned sneaker retailers 02:31

Isom Lowman has owned an athletic shoe store in Atlanta for more than two decades and now he wants more Black people to follow his entrepreneurial path.

Lowman and an employee at his Athlete's Foot outlet have launched a new program aimed at inspiring young African Americans to become store franchisees, particularly in the sneaker industry. The StAART, or Strategic African American Retail Track, program is also designed to give budding entrepreneurs access to capital, business mentors and contacts at major vendors. 

Owning a business with help from StAART will hopefully push Black Americans to start creating generational wealth, Lowman told CBS News correspondent Elise Preston.

"It's unfortunate there's only a handful of African-American retailer owners in the sneaker industry in the whole world," Lowman told Preston. 

Isom Lowman believes there should be more African-American sneaker store owners. He opened an Athlete's Foot location in Atlanta more than 20 years ago. Athlete's Foot

StAART is the brainchild of Darius Billings of Atlanta, the retail brand marketing director for Athlete's Foot. Billings said Black applicants who enroll in the program will be matched with a mentor who is Black and can help guide them toward owning a franchise. Some of the mentors include Karla Duncan, a sales manager at Puma, and John Scipio, the CEO of Schuykill Valley Sports.

The capital for their startups will come from Black-owned Citizen's Trust Bank of Atlanta, Billings said.

Billings and Lowman said shoe stores are a potentially rich avenue for Black entrepreneurs because of the nation's burgeoning sneaker culture and because sneaker sales are projected to grow 5% every year and eventually become a $95 billion industry globally by 2025, according to Grand View Research data

Darius Billings launched Strategic African American Retail Track in April 2021 with hopes of encouraging more Black entrepreneurs to consider franchising shoe stores. He works as a retail brand marketing director for The Athlete's Foot.  Athlete's Foot

Lowman opened his first shoe store at age 22 and said other Black Americans can do the same. It's just a matter of showing today's youth that there are real benefits to entrepreneurship, he said. 

"When you have Black ownership, not only does that help them economically, it helps other people believe they can be Black owners as well," he said.

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