Tausha Sanders Is Creating Space For Women in the Sneaker World

"We want the same attention you pay to men."

By DeVaughn Douglas November 29, 2022

“Please don’t shrink it and pink it,” shouts an exasperated Tausha Sanders as she leans back in her chair at A Ma Manière, the boutique clothing store and restaurant sitting off West Main and Upper Kirby. She laughs a little, but she is still very serious.

The phrase “shrink it and pink it” is used often in the sneaker industry to describe the lack of attention paid towards women consumers in the industry. Brands would simply shrink the shoe down, add pink, and call it a women’s shoe. It was that lack of attention that inspired the Houston sneakerhead to make changes and appeal to an underserved demographic.

“We want the same attention you pay to men,” Sanders says plainly when describing the industry’s treatment of women. “We want shoes in our correct sizes. There are some shoes that would sell more with women, but they aren’t offered in our size because women’s feet tend to run smaller. And when some brands create shoes for women, they just give us the colors that people think are girly.”

Speaking up for women in the sneaker market—a market that has been valued at $79 billion dollars and growing—is Sanders’s passion, and she uses her brand Her Grails to create sneaker events catered towards women.

The Nebraska native attended The Art Institutes International in Kansas City for fashion marketing and it was there she began to develop her skills in the industry. But as her friends moved towards stores like Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, Sanders found herself gravitating towards streetwear. 

After a pit stop in Boston for a social media internship-turned-full-time job at Karmaloop, Sanders was approached by Sneaker Summit in Houston. The brand is known for its Shepherd Drive storefront as well as the massive annual conference held at NRG stadium. It was there she began carving out a space for women after seeing the need for them to have a place in the conference.

Sanders created an inviting atmosphere by providing booths catered towards women, where they could get their nails done with sneaker-related designs and shop with vendors carrying their clothing and shoes. “We did it during the summer and the winter of 2019 and the response was great,” she said. “The winter show was the biggest show they had ever had with the highest number of women participants in the conference’s 17-year history. It showed us that if space is created, people will come.”

The success prompted Sanders to move forward with a new business. She linked up with a longtime friend and business partner, Wendy Franklin, to form Her Grails. The company is focused on fostering sneaker experiences tailored towards women, and while shoes are the foundation, the company’s main goal is to create a platform that highlights women. 

A Her Grails event is personally curated by Sanders so that every vendor, from caterers to nail techs to DJs to decorators to photographers and more, is owned and operated by women. Her roster includes events like Graceful Laces, a sneaker ball where ticket proceeds are donated to local charities, Grails & Grapes, a themed co-ed happy hour celebrating national rosé day, and Kicks & Crafts, a women-only event where participants created sneaker-themed arts and crafts. As Sanders created more events, her idea about the direction of Her Grails began to expand.

“Her Grails has come a long way and we’re getting ready to celebrate our five-year anniversary in February. It has become much more than I originally imagined. The goal has always been to help create a space for women by throwing sneaker events but over the last five years we have become a creative agency that specializes in sneaker experiences for women.”

Her work hasn't gone unnoticed in the industry. She's been highlighted by brands and publications like FootLocker, HTX Laced Up, Travelnoire, Nike, FinishLine, and others. Last spring she was honored at a Rockets game for her philanthropy and contributions to the community.

The event was attended by family, friends and supporters, including her parents, who often come down to see the spaces she is creating in Houston. As she prepared to shoot an opening free throw before the game began Sanders’s parents, Huyen and Leon Sanders Sr., looked at their daughter with admiration.

“I always say she sells shoes, but I know it’s so much more than that,” chuckled Huyen Sanders as she looked around the Toyota Center. “Every time my husband and I come down here we are just in amazement at what she has done.”

Her father, from whom Huyen says Tausha gets her entrepreneurial spirit, is equally impressed with the path his daughter has taken.

“She’s accomplished some amazing things,” said Leon Sanders Sr. “As a black man in this country, I know there are obstacles to work past and I know for her there are even more because she is a woman. But things are getting better and she is part of that reason why they’re improving. I’m proud of her.”

While her parents might not always be clear on exactly what she does, they are very clear about the pride they have for their daughter and the work she is doing for women and the sneaker world as a whole. 

 “We accomplished a lot of our goals this year and moving into 2023 our aim is to hit cities that we haven’t been to before," Sanders said. "We had a great time bringing Her Grails to New Orleans, Chicago, and Dallas, and now we have women asking to bring our experiences to their city. This upcoming year is going to be about making that happen.”

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