JeVon Bausby, The Black Bear – This small one bedroom apartment on Kimbrough Avenue immediately hits you with the sharp aroma of paint.
In one corner sits a number of shipment boxes along with dozens of customized sneakers. In another corner there’s a variety of spray cans and a small fan.
The living room table is filled with even more sneakers that are organized properly. This is the ideal workspace for Missouri State senior Kiaun Baptise to work on his craft.
Baptise, a human resource management major, began customizing shoes in early March after being disappointed with the results from a fellow shoe designer.
Baptise discovered the designer on Instagram and was pleased with his quality of work.
He then reached out to have a pair of his own shoes customized and was not impressed with the outcome.
“There was this guy I saw on Instagram who customized shoes and I paid him $150 to fix a pair of mine,” Baptise said. “I had to pay him $75 to ship the shoes and another $75 for him to ship them back. When I got the shoes, it was nothing how I wanted them to be.”
“…If he’s doing it, then it really must not be that hard,” Baptise said.
It took some time for Baptise to get over his frustration. In spite of that, it inspired him to embark on a new journey of customizing shoes on his own with the help of a friend back home.
“When I got back home for winter break I seen a guy who customized shoes and he was really good at it,” Baptise said. “So I figured, if he’s doing it, then it really must not be that hard.”
After receiving some advice from his friend on beginning to customize shoes, Baptise went out and bought a compressor gun and paint. He wanted to test it out and play around with it on a pair of one of his old shoes.
His first experience at customizing a shoe didn’t go so well.
“I did my very first shoe just by trying and they were trash,” Baptise said. “I hand-painted them and sprayed it with my compressor gun, I would’ve given it a six out of 10.”
Baptise may have been a little hard on himself with the outcome of his first customized shoe. He posted his work on his social media and received some decent feedback from his followers which gave him motivation to keep going.
One of the most interesting pieces of feedback came from a friend who sent a direct message asking if Baptise paid someone to customize the shoe or if he fixed them on his own.
The friend went on to ask Baptise if he could customize a pair of his shoes. Baptise took the offer, landing him his first client.
This is not what Baptise expected and it allowed him to continue to practice on more shoes of his own to get better.
“I have a lot of shoes, so in my spare time when I would go home from class I would start to play around with my shoes,” Baptise said. “With the practice I got here at school there were already a number people from my hometown waiting for me to fix theirs.”
The same night Baptise arrived back home for summer break, he picked up five pairs of shoes for him to modify.
This was just the beginning of an eventful summer for Baptise. He worked full time and customized shoes in his free time.
But the long and tiring days didn’t discourage him at all.
“I got home on the 21 of May, and from that point up until the 20 of August, I did anywhere between 40 to 50 pairs of shoes,” Baptise said.
Baptise accomplished a lot during the summer. He gained more experience and was also able to network with other shoe designers. The attention he received on social media increased in a big way as well, providing even more confidence.
“Right now, based off all of the practice and experience I got over the summer, I’m to a point where it’s almost like I’m doing this professionally,” Baptise said.
As of today, Baptise has completed over 100 pairs of shoes. He genuinely enjoys doing this work.
“The thing is, I actually have a passion for it. I like doing it, Baptise said. “It’s not even a job for me, it’s more like a hobby.”