23-Year-Old Ahriana Edwards Lands Her Size-Inclusive Footwear Brand In Macy’s Within 1 Year Of Business

Ahriana Edwards has a size-inclusive shoe line that will hit the shelves at select Macy’s stores.

Vaila Shoes

In response to brands not considering women who wear shoes in the size range of 9 through 14, the Gen Z founder birthed Vaila Shoes.

As a result, customers now have access to more thoughtful features, such as thicker heels, spacious toe boxes, and insoles that cover the entire foot, the company shared with AfroTech.

Edwards describes her vision as a “dream,” and she believed in it so greatly that she left her full-time job to build the footwear startup.

“There’s no credit that I can give to anyone else except for the man up above,” The 23-year-old wrote on Instagram. “He gave me the vision and told me that it was time to MOVE. It was time to execute. I left my FULL-TIME JOB to achieve this dream of building this shoe company for women with extended shoe sizes.”

Raising Capital

Vaila Shoes has gained traction since its official launch in 2022 and has been supported by over $80,000 in non-dilutive funding.

This is significant when you consider how difficult it is for Black women founders to secure investors. In spite of the statistics, Edwards was determined to get her company in front of investors.

Edwards pitched in over 20 competitions, which included the Black Ambition Prize and Techstars, without a physical product on the market.

“When I started the concept for Vaila in 2020, I knew in 2021 that I needed to raise as much upfront capital to launch and sustain the business,” Edwards told AfroTech in an email interview. “2021 was imperative, because it was the time being where individuals truly saw how underfunded Black founders were. Although I didn’t have any product in market yet, I took that opportunity and ran with it.”

She continued: “That $80,000 in non-dilutive capital was able to sustain me through my entire first year of business — and that’s something that I’m proud of.”

Edwards’ determination to bring forth her vision to life has been rewarded with an expansion into five Macy’s locations around the country: New York City (Hearld’s Square), Atlanta (Lenox, Cumberland, and Stonecrest malls), and Washington D.C. (Pentagon City location).

The feat follows after being in operation for only six months.

“It took a lot of grit to be a 23-year-old founder pulling off this six-figure contract,” Edwards expressed. “I experienced the most difficulty raising funding for this partnership, but I kept persisting and doing whatever it took to make it work.”

“Ahriana is so inspiring creating a business that will help others feel their best having shoes that will support their shoe size that currently isn’t supported much in the marketplace,” Grace Jacobson, Associate Shoe Buyer at Macy’s, shared with AfroTech. “I also admired how Ahriana is showing that regardless of your age you can still be able to make a change in this world and to just start.”

Customers can see Edwards’ labor of love at Macy’s now as well as look forward to a spring and summer collection, which can be found online as well.

As she looks ahead, Edwards feels confident about replicating her expansion into Macy’s by working with other partners and securing additional funding.

Some of her confidence can be credited to her experience at the HBCUFI Accelerator program, where she joined other intermediate stage entrepreneurs to learn how to scale her business.

“I came into the program with minimal knowledge about VC, and I left the program with a better sense of how to utilize this Macy’s launch to start fundraising and secure additional partnerships,” Edwards told AfroTech. “I’m grateful for my experience at HBCUFI.”

Edwards also competed in Washington D.C. at the HBCUFI and UNCF’s Better Futures pitch competition where she took home first place and $15,000 for the win.

Editorial Note: This piece has been updated to reflect Edwards’ victory at the Better Futures pitch competition.