Jamela is a dual US/UK citizen, and her vision for the company was born in London. After completing her postgraduate studies overseas, Jamela decided to stay and work for a finance company for a while. After realizing that finance wasn’t her dream job, she quit, and a week later the idea for Kahmune came to her.
“I saw a picture of a celebrity in a full nude outfit and I thought to myself, ‘Why have I never thought to do that?’ That turned into a four-hour search for nudes for my skin tone, and I realized, nude is not for my skin tone. Nude is tan and beige. So I was like, ‘If I am having this issue, most women must be having this issue. So I’m gonna do something about it. I’m going to start with nude footwear.”
Kahmune’s three brand pillars are: diversity, representation, and inclusion. Their goal is to provide a true nude option for all women, of all complexions. They have ten shades of nude ranging from very very fair, to very very deep.
“All of our products are handmade in Italy by artisans with decades of experience. Our manufacturer’s grandfather did it, and his dad did it, and now he does it, he said his son is being a little stubborn, but fingers crossed, haha. So they are sourced in Italy, manufactured in Italy, and then shipped out to us. Started with a pump and a sandal and now we are up to five styles and the pump also comes in four heel heights.”
Kahmune launched bags about eighteen months ago and sold out quickly in two shades. The totes have an insert to go with them and it has a mini bag as well. so if you’re running into the grocery store you can just grab that to go. For customers to find the best shade for their skin tone, customers can order up to four shades of leather swatches to find their best match. Once they know their best nude, they can come back and pick their shade in the styles they like best.
“For sure black women have been incredible. They, like me, have noticed this issue in the market, so they really have understood our mission and what we are trying to do. I think all women though. Just getting emails and messages from even white women who are like, “I love what you’re doing, I’ve never thought of it this way,’ is amazing, and I think that is exactly the point. Lifting other women up and giving them a seat at the table.”
“A strong brand purpose. Your customers and your following should always know why you do what you do. It’s important. Even as a brand founder you have days where you are like, ‘What am I doing? And why am I doing this?’ Because when things get tough, you have to remember why you’re doing it. And if you don't know that, you’re going to be lost. It’s also easier for your customers to form a connection with you, and you with them. One lady was like, ‘I’ve been looking [for your product] my whole life.’ I choked up at that one. That’s my why, you know. And I know it’s not always about outside validation, but it definitely helps.”
After Kahmune’s launch in the UK, she quickly received a lot of recognition and demand in the US, so Jamela decided to return stateside. She’s had some pretty big wins in the four short years Kahmune has been in existence, and has won a pitch competition sponsored by Uber and Girl Gang, for female entrepreneurs. Lupita Nyong'o & Tamera Mowry have worn her shoes, and Tamera even commented, “I love these shoes. They’re my favorite.” Moving into Saltbox and having her own mini showroom where she can present her product every day is a personal big win for Jamela as well.
“I wanted to move to Atlanta from Maryland. I know I found Saltbox really early before they even launched. I was trying to figure out how I am going to do fulfillment, where I am going to do warehousing and all that stuff. So I came across Saltbox and I reached out and was talking to them a little bit but then the move didn’t happen right away because of COVID. So then when it did happen I got back in touch.“
Jamela mentioned she has always wanted to have a brick-and-mortar store, but has had to make sacrifices up until this point, “But being in an environment where I get to see my product every day and it’s laid out like this and I have a dedicated workspace...I love this.”
“Compare and you will despair… A lot of times we look at other people and their progress and what they’re doing and we are like, ‘Why not me? Look what they’re doing. I need to be there.’ But you have to understand at your own pace. Business is so competitive that it’s inevitable that at times you’re going to be like ‘look at them and look at me,’ but no. Compare and despair.”
For more stories about small business owners making waves in their communities, follow Saltbox on Instagram: @joinsaltbox