In 2020, Moolah Kicks became the first basketball sneaker brand made exclusively for women. Boardroom sat down with company founder Natalie White to discuss her inspiration and hopes for the future.
Natalie White grew up on basketball courts in and around New York City. From the first time she picked up a ball, she was hooked. Her journey took her through the city’s AAU program and to Boston College, where she served as the manager for the women’s team while pursuing a degree in finance.
It was her proximity to the game that opened her eyes to the differences between how boys and girls – and as she got older, men and women — experience the game.
“As a girl growing up playing basketball in the city, I’d see all of the things that so many female athletes do, which is different than the people in the stands,” she told Boardroom. “[Differences] in future opportunities, a difference in the way that you’re treated, [how you’re] talked about and respected.”
Prior to her senior year, White completed a summer internship in investment banking. She was intrigued by the ways that brands marketed themselves and the stars they tapped to worked with. And, one day, she had a revelation.
“I saw this advertisement for four WNBA players. It was for a sneaker brand who we shall not name, but four WNBA players holding up sneakers named after NBA players,” she said. “The four top [women’s] players in the world, and that just hits you. This is why young girls want to be in the NBA, not the WNBA, because even if you’re in the WNBA, you’ll be holding up promoting and selling a sneaker named after your male counterparts.
And when I saw that, I knew I wanted to create the first women’s basketball brand.”
Cue Moolah Kicks.
With offices located in New York City, the company was born after White moved on from Chestnut Hill. As she started her next chapter, she set out to change the footwear game.
She continuously asked herself, “How can I get other people to see women’s basketball? The way that it truly is? And, how can we really get that appreciation?”
Since launching Moolah Kicks in 2020, White has been committed to tailoring a shoe that meets the specific needs of women, but since day one, she’s been committed to a larger goal of growing the game of women’s basketball. As she does so, she wants athletes and fans to think of the sport as distinct from – as opposed to in direct comparison with – men’s basketball.
White expanded on this, saying, “No one should compare us to men’s basketball because we are legitimately in our own game.”
As White embarked on the new business adventure, her research led her to a shocking realization about a key difference between men’s and women’s hoops. Not only is it simply smart business to develop a brand with women at the center, but also women’s feet are distinctly different from men’s in five places. Yet there was not a single basketball sneaker brand on the market specifically for women. In fact, every hooper she spoke to — even those with the most prolific kicks collection — struggled to come up with their women’s shoe sizes.
Why does this matter? Since the dawn of hoops, women have been cramming their feet into shoes that are fundamentally misaligned to their physical needs, and the results can be career-ending. White puts it bluntly, saying, “every female basketball player from age five to professional is putting herself at risk for increased likelihood for ankle and leg injuries.”
With this in mind, she worked with her design team to build a shoe that catered to these differences. And pretty soon, people took notice.
Growing the Game
As White and her team grew Moolah Kicks, they attracted the attention of some big names.
Last November, the company launched a distribution deal with DICK’S Sporting Goods, dropping four colorways in 150 stores around the country. This week, Moolah Kicks is back with the Paint Shop Pack just in time for summer. The second edition harnesses an ice cream pallet of the custom construction, featuring lavender, grey, lime green, and pink hues.
Additionally, in the offseason, Moolah teamed up with the Connecticut Sun in advance of the team’s 20th-anniversary celebration. Together, they will launch a season-long series called “Moolah Kicks for a Cause,” teaming up with artist Wally Champ for custom designs and benefiting causes like Title IX, LGBTQ+ pride, and more.
“In working with us, [the Sun] are teaching this next generation how important it is to bet on yourself and that you can have any future you want in women’s hoops,” White said of the partnership.
Looking Toward the Future
White is optimistic about what’s to come, both for Moolah Kicks and women’s basketball.
She is quick to correct people when they point exclusively to the gaps in opportunities between men’s and women’s hoops and encourages them to dive deep on what is happening in the sport.
“To think about how far women’s basketball has come in 50 years tells an unbelievable story about how far we can go,” she said.
And her commitment to building a brighter future is far-reaching. White discusses this with a noticeable passion that is nothing short of infectious:
“I founded Moolah Kicks with a mentality of purpose and performance. … We are the only brand in women’s basketball. We are also the only for-profit business operating in this space. And what it gives the women’s basketball community is an outlet where every dollar we earn goes into either more products for us or higher sponsorship and marketing dollars, which is an investment in individual players and individual programs.
“And so while at one point this brand was born out of what wasn’t there, we are so focused on the community, the players, and the hype that is there. … We’re laser-focused on elevating the performance on court along with the culture outside of it.”
What’s next for Moolah Kicks and Natalie White? Only time will tell. But the brand has already made an indelible mark on women’s basketball.