The Milwaukee custom sneaker painter found success on Instagram, Tik Tok
Mikayla Enriquez literally sits at the center of her business.
In what was designed to be a small dining room, there is now a desk, table, rolling cart, chest of drawers, flattened boxes, paperwork, office supplies and three sets of shelves with neatly organized goods – all within easy reach of his wheelchair.
Enriquez paints and sells sneakers that both honor and draw inspiration from his Mexican-American heritage. She is the driving force behind Moe Kickz, and her social media followers are growing rapidly. In about a year, she amassed 36,000 followers on Instagram and 40,000 on TikTok, with some videos hitting half a million views.
“I feel like I’m doing something good if I get a lot of people interested in what I’m doing,” she said.
What she does is mix two of her passions: footwear and art. Hundreds of bottles of acrylic paint are stored inside and above a white desk and in the rolling cart. Boxes of Nike shoes waiting to be painted lie just beyond.
Her parents and boyfriend help her out when needed, but most of the time she paints, packages, creates online content, and runs the Moe Kickz online store herself.
The artist’s journey
Enriquez, 25, says she’s been making art since she “knew how to hold a pencil.” Growing up in Waukesha, she was also interested in tattoos, graffiti, photography, screen printing and painting.
She painted her first pair of shoes, Timberland boots, in high school and continued to paint “here and there” through college. In 2020, a year after graduating with a fine arts degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, her boyfriend’s brother requested a custom pair and she began painting shoes more frequently.
Around March 2021, she started taking the business more seriously.
Then, in June 2021, she took a leap of faith and abruptly quit her job at Metro Market. She credits her boyfriend, Jordan Taylor, who shares their apartment, for reassuring her and taking care of some of their expenses after her decision. She said she couldn’t have come this far without his unwavering support.
The first step: build your presence on social networks. Her online name is a spin on the initials of her full name: Mikayla Olivia Enriquez.
“A year ago, nobody really cared about anything (about me), but I kept posting,” she said.
Then, in July 2021, she joined TikTok at the request of her cousin. TikTok videos featuring Chicano-inspired designs have sparked a surge in Instagram followers.
The company’s expansion, while exciting, has come with challenges.
In November 2021, her Black Friday sale received over 30 orders for a design she has since pulled because it was so complex and took so long to complete. For weeks, she worked up to 15 hours a day.
“People who just found my page think I’m a full-fledged business and have employees or a large inventory of products, or don’t understand why it can take me four to eight weeks to get their shoes ready. sent,” she said.
Moe Kickz’s hand-painted shoes may include Mexican flag detailing or Aztec designs, but she’s also drawn inspiration from anime characters and other pop culture icons.
“I always wanted to be a famous artist, but I never felt like my type of work would fit in a museum,” she said. “Now to see people wanting to wear my works on their feet is just an amazing feeling.”
People have the option to send in their own shoes or choose from its stock of Nike slides, Cortezes, Air Force 1s or Vans slip-ons. Shoe prices range from $75 to $375 depending on who supplies the shoes and whether customers choose a pre-made or custom model.
Many of Enriquez’s designs are heavily inspired by his connection to the lowrider car culture popular in Latin American communities. Designs include a bandana painted over Nike Slides or Cortezes, shoes synonymous with West Coast and Chicano streetwear.
Enriquez’s parents introduced her to the culture. In her youth, she helped her father custom paint his lowrider, a 1964 Chevrolet Impala. He has since traded that car in for a ’50s Chevy Fleetline Deluxe, which they plan to work on together.
One of his most popular designs now is a “slow and low” design – originally requested by his father – which refers to the slow, highly stylized cars that became increasingly popular among Mexican Americans in California about half a century ago.
The popularity of the design encouraged her to create more designs inspired by Chicano culture.
But, she says, her shoes are for everyone. Most of his orders come from Los Angeles, but “I get messages from Brazil, Australia, London, Spain, Germany – lots of random places. I’m just like, ‘How do you find me- you guys?’
Recently, a buyer in Tokyo placed an order for Cortez babies to hang from a rear view mirror.
It is not immune to supply chain issues. Most men’s sizes from Nike Cortezes, for example, have been unavailable for months. She suspects she could have filled “thousands” of orders if she could have gotten them, but she adapted.
“I want to take people’s attention away from Cortezes and maybe do like Converses or just something more accessible that people can access,” she said.
Her other products build on the shoe-centric theme and she says the shoe will always be at the heart of this business. She has a T-shirt with Moe Kickz on the front in the shape of a shoe. She recently introduced hand-dyed socks, keychains of a few popular shoe designs, and sticker packs. She designs each of her products herself. While she orders the socks and key rings from a supplier, she prints the stickers from her home office.
“I know $300 shoes are pretty expensive. But I have a lot of people who really like my stuff and I want them to be able to say they got something from me,” she said. .
So far, it has been limited to online sales. While she would love to have a tent at the Milwaukee Mexican Fiesta, or perhaps sell at local markets, she is avoiding in-person sales for now.
Hopes for the future
Surrounding Enriquez’s Upper East Side apartment are clues to his favorite TV show: a picture frame around his peephole; a plush Hugsy the penguin lying on his couch; a Central Perk mug that she uses frequently.
She’s seen “Friends” so much that she leaves it in the background while she works. The words to the theme song – “I’ll be there for you…” – explain how she hopes her business will grow.
“Now the main goal is to make my business family-oriented,” she said. “I guess I want everyone in on it.”
She thanks her parents for encouraging her creativity. While some people questioned her decision to go to college for art, her parents let her passion guide her.
“My parents were always supportive of me. They never said, ‘You should go to business school,’ which I should have done,” she said. “They never doubted me.”
While at UWM, years before Moe Kickz, her mother, Theresa, told her colleagues about her daughter’s talent. A group of them ordered Packers-themed sneakers to wear to the games.
Enriquez considers his story part of a family legacy. Each generation has strived to do better – not just individually, but as a way to help previous and future generations. His father, José, was also an artist growing up, but had to support his family and put his interests aside. Today, he runs a warehouse and channels his creativity into his low-rider.
He is happy that his daughter was able to go further in her passion.
“I don’t think I can be more proud of her,” he said with tears in his eyes. “Who knows where this case will take her.”