Natalie White, Founder and CEO of Moolah Kicks, attends Yahoo Finance Live to share her journey into women’s basketball shoe design and her observations on gender gaps in professional sports and athletic footwear.
ZACK GUZMAN: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance Live. When it comes to gender equality in sport, some top athletes may receive a lot of attention. When it comes to basketball in particular, you can take a look at Steph Curry’s $ 45 million and compare it to the top earning WNBA player and find the discrepancy there. But aside from just numbers, it’s also worth noting that many of the shoes basketball players wear come from companies run by men. And it’s a bit ironic to think of women who play in basketball shoes that aren’t specifically designed for them.
And that’s the idea that is getting our next guest into the room and now launching their product, Moolah Kicks, nationwide. Natalie White, Moolah Kicks Founder and CEO, joins us here. And Natalie, thank you for coming to chat. I mean you got some high honors. Mark Cuban also tweeted last month about partnering with Dick’s Sporting Goods to roll these things out nationwide. Talk to me about where the idea came from and how you could implement it so quickly.
NATALIE WEISS: Absolutely. Thank you for having me with you, first of all. Thank you for giving us some time there to point out DT versus Curry and the pay gap. But my name is Natalie White, and I started Moolah Kicks because I recognized the inequality gap between men’s and women’s basketball. I’ve grown up with basketball all my life.
And I remember going to tournaments and seeing that my game tickets were $ 5 and boys’ game tickets were $ 10, or when I went into a shoe store and saw that there wasn’t a single option for that were basketball players, my entire career and up until this year at Dick’s Sporting Goods and Moolah Kicks, women in the kids’ and men’s departments bought their sneakers. So I am very happy to have founded Moolah Kicks two years ago with the mission of fighting for gender equality, igniting a culture of its own in women’s tires and of course making sneakers that are especially suitable for female players.
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AKIKO FUJITA: Natalie, I don’t play basketball but I can tell you that as someone who wears size 5 to 5 and 1/2 shoes, I have to testify that I have to go to the kids’ section because there are simply no sizes for those one size for men. Talk to me about the fit here. How does it differ from other sneakers traditionally designed for men?
NATALIE WEISS: Yes absolutely. On the inside of each individual sneaker it is actually made in this form, which is called a last. And it’s basically a skeletal shape of either a man’s or a woman’s foot shape. For example, all sneakers that have historically been on the market have a last on the inside that is suitable for a man’s foot, while Moolah Kicks, the inside of our sneakers, has a higher arch and a narrower width, a narrower heel and these small differences that the inside of the Sneakers actually biomechanically adapt to the shape of the feet of female players. And this in turn leads to a lower risk of injury when hooping in women’s sneakers and in moolah kicks.
ZACK GUZMAN: Boston College graduate, we should point this out here too, and noted basketball players myself– I don’t think I’ve ever reached the level you did during my college days or even earlier. But when we talk about it I think it’s obviously Dick’s Sporting Goods, 140 stores, right, more than that. Talk to me about what the next steps in the partnership are to get this up and make sure the options are available for more women.
NATALIE WEISS: Absolutely. Well, first of all, it’s amazing to be in 140 stores across the country. And I really couldn’t be more grateful to partner with Dick’s on this initiative so that women can walk into the store, girls walk into the store, and for the first time ever walk a section of sneakers dedicated just to them.
Where this brand is growing is really an embedding in the women’s basketball room, part of developing a unique culture of women’s basketball and ultimately the backbone of the women’s basketball to bolster sponsorship money, television and really everything that the women’s space needs to grow and start with, the pay gap approach that you mentioned at the beginning of this segment.
AKIKO FUJITA: And finally, Natalie, when I heard about Moolah I couldn’t help but think of Allyson Felix, Olympian, who started her own Saysh line of women’s shoes. She actually left Nike because she felt like they were treating female athletes. And I wonder if you think of this area, number one, is there enough funding and support to keep growing, specifically geared towards female athletes? Or is it ultimately about getting the big names like Nike to embrace this idea that they need to be more about women in terms of what they sell?
NATALIE WEISS: Yes, what’s so important here – and I’m glad you brought that up – is that women asked baskets, right, – women’s sports, women basketball players – we’ve been asking for resources to invest for so long. And what Moolah Kicks is is actually a vehicle where we don’t have to ask anymore because we have the keys to our own future, right? And since we continue to have women buying themselves at Moolah Kicks, rocking them on the court, and the brand itself continuing to expand, we will actually be able to capture these opportunities in our own community instead of these systems continuing to ask that they were not built to focus on women’s football.
ZACK GUZMAN: That’s a big step – no pun intended – in the right direction with the introduction here and the rollout. Excited to see how it plays. You need to come back and keep us posted on the progress of business. But Natalie White, founder and CEO of Moolah Kicks, appreciates that you took the time. Thanks again.