When Vantrell Erving customized his first pair of shoes he did what most of his generation would – post a photo on Facebook.
But the reaction he got wasn’t exactly encouraging.
He didn’t get 1,000 likes or comments saying how awesome they looked. Instead he received comments bashing his shoes in 20 different social media groups. Some aspiring entrepreneurs might have quit after that. Erving sure thought about it. But, just 19 at the time, he decided to give it another go.
“Momma didn’t raise no quitter,” he says. A sly smile spreads across his face as he shares the memory, but his eyes are all business.
That experience made Erving, 24, realize he had a lot to learn. Now, a few years later, he can often be found in his “lab,” which doubles as the basement of his home, repairing and customizing shoes for his growing business, Say It Ain’t Krispy Shoe Repair.
Erving’s love of shoes started at a young age, but it wasn’t until he enrolled at Mott Community College that the idea for Say It Ain’t Krispy was formed, while he was in a business management class. Hoping to create a brand that sparked images of a clean and fresh appearance – without having to actually use the words clean or fresh – he landed on “krispy,” slang for clothes that look good. “Say It Ain’t” is a challenge, referring to the level of quality customers should expect.
He started looking around the Flint area for a similar shoe service or company and couldn’t find anything.
“I was reaching out to California, Atlanta, places like that, and it costs the same price to get the shoe brand new as it does to repair them there,” Erving says. “I wanted to bring that to my city and to my area at an affordable rate.”
Now he’s created something unique to Flint that has become bigger than anything he could have imagined.
Say It Ain’t Krispy’s services are as diverse as his array of Angelus custom paints, from cleaning and removing wrinkles and scuff marks to paint touch-ups, suede re-dyes, and color restoration.
Even though Say It Ain’t Krispy started out a little shaky, once the community saw he was serious about establishing the company, support came rolling in. He calls it a key component to his success.
It was the same for social media. Say It Ain’t Krispy has quite the following on Facebook and Instagram where potential customers can message him about upgrading a pair of shoes. He’s currently working on a website.
Some jobs have tested Erving more than others – like the pair of shoes someone had painted with house paint before bringing them to him – but he says he’s always up for the challenge, even if it means learning a new technique.
“For the people to really react to me like that and show love and tip me … it’s amazing. It’s a great feeling,” he says. “It makes me feel like I’ve really found my purpose.”
There’s an energy and passion that oozes off Erving when he talks about Say It Ain’t Krispy. He becomes electric, his whole face lights up, including that mega-watt smile.
That love shines through in every pair he’s worked on, including his most recent custom job, a pair of Nikes with a black-to-red ombré fade he looks at in the adoring way many look at a puppy, baby, or spouse.
“He doesn’t feel like it’s a job,” says Kevin Smiley, a friend who has supported Vantrell since the start. “So it’s like he makes it that much better because he have fun doing it. You’re going to get perfection out of it every time.”
The reviews at Say It Ain’t Krispy’s Facebook page are full of glowing comments from Flint locals to people who live far beyond the area.
Erving’s beyond humble when discussing how far he’s come in the last few years, but his friends and customers will happily brag for him.
“It’s been phenomenal” to watch him grow, says customer and supporter Xzavier Simon. “Where he was last year to where he is today is completely night and day.”
Now there’s also SIAK (Say It Ain’t Klothing), a line Erving is developing. He says he’s still searching for a manufacturer, but the apparel will include t-shirts, jackets, and different types of headwear. The next goal is a Flint-based brick-and-mortar store before, hopefully, expanding across the globe.
“I’m really trying to make everybody krispy,” he says.
Some, like Isis Seraphis, have already gotten “krispy.” Seraphis owns a few SIAK clothing items and has had Erving repair shoes. Like Simon and Smiley, she says Erving is only going to keep growing.
“It’s probably best for people to just jump on board and support or get out of his way, because that is the one thing I know about SIAK,” she says. “It ain’t going nowhere.”
You can reach Vandrell Erving by calling 810-206-6524.