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Sierra Thorn Photo: Krista Rayford

By Shelby Sanford
COI Communications and Events Student Assistant

Isaiah Kelly, a junior in the College of Informatics at Northern Kentucky University, hasn’t always been in the business of customizing shoes, but recently found an ignited passion for the art form. Isaiah originally had plans to play college football, but this path was shifted when he received an Educational Diversity scholarship from NKU.

“Playing college football had always been my dream since I was a little kid,” he said, “and while I had college football offers, I decided to take this opportunity from NKU and run with it and see how far I could get.”

Isaiah continues to do just that as he pursues a Bachelor of Arts degree in Media Informatics with minors from the Honors College and in Computer Science. Aside from his studies, he has been a member of Norse Code Radio, Black Men’s Organization Executive Board, National Honors Society of Leadership and Success, an Orientation Leader, and a Residential Assistant. In addition, he holds a position at 1N5 as a Graphic Design/Web Design intern.

James Buss, Dean of the NKU Honors College, attested to Isaiah’s ability to succeed.

“Isaiah is passionate about what he does and is willing to invest his time and energy into those passions,” Buss said.  “He exhibits a curiosity about the world around him that will lead him well into the future and I am simply amazed at Isaiah’s maturity, which is well beyond the years of a typical college student.”

Isaiah’s relationship with the Honors College Dean led him to ask Buss to be his faculty advisor for his honors capstone project. His project relates to the silencing of African American History and how it is happening right on the Banks of Cincinnati where there used to be a settlement called, “Little Africa.”

Isaiah’s goal is to establish this area as a historical marker and, utilizing his Media Informatics and Computer Science knowledge, set up an online prompted tour for visitors to the area to download.

“I’m eager to dive into this project because I feel that it has the potential to shine light on something that has been placed in the dark for so many years.”

Recently, Isaiah has been presented with yet another fantastic opportunity to further his entrepreneurial endeavors, which started only two short years ago with Smoove Customs.

“Essentially Smoove Customs is a shoe design business that customizes, cleans, and restores shoes based upon the needs of the client,” Isaiah said.

To further his business, Isaiah applied to and has been accepted into the Inkubator program here at NKU. The Inkubator is a 12-week program in which those accepted gain monetary support, office space, management training, and business instruction from professional business owners.

The program is highly competitive and requires an application and in-person presentation to a panel of individuals. Of those who applied, Isaiah received the highest business presentation score. At the conclusion of the program, he will be required to give a presentation in front of another panel, including the NKU Board of Regents and President Ashish Vaidya.

Acceptance into the Inkubator has opened a new set of opportunities for Isaiah to attend various business conferences across the United States, and he intends to continue growing his business and even begin to produce customized shirts, hats, etc.

“I remember watching his dream come into realization when he would be watching videos on how to customize shoes nearly every day after class,”  Garrison Simpson, a close friend and customer, said. “His progress has been nothing but exceptional to watch and I am proud to display just one those works that show his dream coming true.