Beautiful, bold and bonded together, Toni Hall and Natalie Prather never stray from their ambitious goals. The pair of 20-somethings have been playing off each other’s ideas since their days of strutting the halls together at Magruder High School in Gaithersburg, Md. Ironically, it was there that the design for their latest endeavor was drawn out. But it wasn’t until a separate pair of post-graduate journeys joined them back at the hip at Size 12, a shoe and accessory retailer that specializes in women’s shoes from sizes 10 to 14 in Gaithersburg’s Lakeforest Mall.

For Hall, a size 12 in shoes since high school, shopping for designer shoewear was everything but easy for the 5-foot-11 interior design major. The absence of affordable but still flattering footwear forced the purchase of a $230 pair of senior prom shoes that still prompts her to shake her head to this day. Rather than continuing to invest in just shoes, Hall decided to invest her money into the shoe business, leaving the confines of her interior design company to open the first Size 12 in the summer of 2010 in a separate location. Slow traffic and leasing issues proposed a move to Lakeforest Mall where Hall would then share her store with another retailer. But after about a month of slow business, Hall had reached her limit. “I was about to give up,” she admits.

With her nerves frying and patience thinning, a familiar and friendly voice pumped some new life into her system and gave her budding business one last push. “She wasn’t always my partner in business but she was always there,” Hall says about Prather. “She Jay-Z says. You got to give the people what they want.”

Despite a frustrating recession, going into business for themselves was both a risk and a want the two friends and finance partners had to take. “I can’t even imagine being afraid of that,” says Prather about the fear of entrepreneurship. “Honestly, I’m afraid of sitting at someone’s desk forever. The freedom of being an entrepreneur is incredible.” Behind their new business tag team, Size 12 is own the rise. The company was recently awarded $10,000 by rap mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs as part of a contest promoted by 100 Urban Entrepreneurs, a nonprofit organization which supports young business owners.

Since their award, media coverage and a spike in business has followed. From CNN to a slew of newspapers and online sites, people just can’t stop talking about Size 12. “People just got to get with it,” Hall says.

The young and edgy duo like to liken their tandem to some of America’s other trendy tag teams. The LeBron James and Dwyane Wade of the shoe game or the Lil’ Wayne and Drake of the fashion industry, Hall and Prather have several designs on what this partnership can do for them and it doesn’t just stop at shoes. “Bigger and better, we’re going to the top,” Prather says. “Individually we’re strong.  I know who I am, I know what I bring to the table and it’s the same with her (Hall). So when we come together…Wow!”

For more on Size 12 visit mysize12.com

 

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO