Ahriana Edwards is the founder of Vaila Shoes, a brand she started after failing to find her shoe size in quality high heels. Growing up, she had extended shoe size. By 8th grade, she had double-digit shoe sizes.
“Therefore, I’ve always struggled finding footwear that were appropriate in my size,” she told Canvas Rebel. “Fast forward, I found myself in college majoring in Business Administration and always having to show up as my best self professionally – but I couldn’t do that! It one of those feelings where you have all of the main ingredients in a recipe but you’re missing that one key ingredient. That was me and my fashion wardrobe.”
She said she found herself having all of the blazers, trousers, and accessories, but she could never find the shoes in her size. “I always find myself dressing down in my outfits for business because I didn’t have the appropriate shoes. In fact, I had ran down black flats that was the only thing that could fit my size 12 shoe. It was a pain having an event or internship coming up and not having options,” Edwards recalled.
In her despair, she decided to turn her misfortune into a business, leading to the founding of Vaila Shoes. The brand, a modern dress shoe brand for women who wear extended shoe sizes (9-14), was started in 2021.
With over 5,000 annual customers, the shoes are engineered for a larger foot structure and also designed with modern fashion trends in mind, according to Forbes. The brand operates mainly online, nonetheless, it is also sold in Macy’s.
For Edwards, launching Vaila Shoes was a way for her to become part of the “solution that filled in the gap.” Describing her step as a game changer, she noted that becoming an entrepreneur had always been part of her. However, it took her pain to push her toward her passion in order to put her plans in motion.
“I took my passion, business knowledge, and desire to provide a solution to the problem and began pitching. Not only to receive funding to build Vaila, but to be a voice for this global problem,” Edwards said on the brand’s website.
She participated in a pitch competition called the Black AMbition Prize founded by Pharrell Williams and won a finalist grant. “Winning that pitch competition and many more where many brilliant entrepreneurs alike presented their ideas showed me that I was ready,” she said.
Speaking on the goals for her company, she noted that she wants to build the brand into the go-to place for women with extended shoe sizes to depend on for quality heels.
“To cater to women who want to show up and own every room she walks in,” she added. “To provide inclusivity and space for women who deserve just as much catering as anyone else. We’re bringing your feminine power back through the power of shoes.”