A local entrepreneur and a local musician are working to warm the feet of people living on the edge.
Anthony Porch’s family made the news when he was a kid. But it wasn’t for positive reasons.
“My mom, she made the newspaper because, basically, how broke she was. She was a single mom. She had five kids. My siblings and I were sharing coats,” he said last week, standing in a recording studio at Colfax Avenue and Depew Street.
After the story came out, a woman named Jackie from Florida started sending them necessities.
“I started calling her my auntie,” Porch said.
Porch never laid eyes on the woman who supported his family from afar, but her kindness stuck with him. Decades later, after he moved to Denver and became established in the metro’s hip-hop scene, he still feels an obligation to pay it forward.
Last year, e-commerce entrepreneur Stephen McMillon approached Porch with a proposition. McMillon has been working to build a brand centered on comfortable, stylish footwear, and he wanted to see if Porch – who goes by “AP” on his records – would be interested in putting his name on a new product. Under his brand, Koncrete Eden, McMillon successfully sold a line of sneakers with another local musician, and he thought Porch could be part of his next big collaboration.
But Porch didn’t think he had the fanbase to rally sales. And besides, he had other ideas on his mind. Instead of making a sneaker for sale, Porch suggested that he and McMillon try to raise money and give shoes away to people in need.
“I thought it was brilliant,” McMillon recalled. “Especially during this pandemic, where there doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of hope right now, I think this would be something big and huge to be able to give hope back to the community.”
Last week, Porch and McMillon launched a crowdfunding campaign for their “Denver Shoe Project” with the ambitious goal of raising $75,000. They hope to use the cash to manufacture 1,500 pairs of Koncrete Eden sneakers and boots that they’ll distribute to people experiencing homelessness and families struggling in this difficult moment.
Both men are pursuing their passions through this project.
Porch moved to Denver from Illinois when he was a kid and graduated from Montbello High School before it was shuttered in 2010. He said he’s seen firsthand how families have been devastated by the pandemic and ensuing recession, and he feels a closeness with people living in, or on the edge of, homelessness.
“These are our relatives outside. These are my Facebook friends, my fans – these are their relatives,” he said. “These are our family.”
He didn’t see a “money-making opportunity” in his collaboration with McMillon. Instead, it was an opportunity to channel the kind of direct community service he experienced when he was younger.
“I just want to do something dope in this city. I love this city, and I think that it’s gotta be done,” he said. “It’s necessary.”
And though he didn’t feel like the moment was right to brand a shoe under his name, Porch said he does have a platform and an audience in the city. He said he has a responsibility to use it for something positive.
“Hopefully I can influence the next person to do something dope,” he said, adding that maybe artists in other states might take this idea and run with it in their cities.
McMillon, who said he’s involved in church and youth programs, said he’s using a skillset in his latest endeavor he’s been honing over the last decade.
To make the sneakers and boots, McMillon had to handle both design and production. He’s been a student of the “dropshipping” business model, in which entrepreneurs bring products to market without any of retail’s traditional middlemen. It’s a relatively new way of doing business, enabled by the internet, that helps keep startup costs low. For the last couple of years, he’s taught people how to navigate the e-commerce world and worked as a marketing consultant. Koncrete Eden is his attempt to bring all of these disciplines together.
When he was young, he fantasized about working for Nike.
“That was my dream as a kid,” he said. “So me being able to do this, and being able to grow and expand in it, is a dream come true.”
McMillon said the Denver Shoe Project footwear will be made in China by a manufacturer with whom he’s developed a relationship. Years ago, a project like this might require a large order and a sizable investment just to secure a prototype. But he said the proliferation of small brands has helped open the door for smaller orders and cheaper costs up front. Porch said that approach made sense for his vision.
“I didn’t really have a big plan,” he said. “It was just: Can you make the shoe? Can I get the shoe at the cheapest price you can possibly get it, so we can just give them away?”
For now, McMillon and Porch are waiting to see how many pairs they can make. Then, Porch said, they plan to give the shoes and boots away themselves. They may take boxes to local shelters or places where they know people might want some fresh footwear, like the Capitol Hill McDonald’s on Colfax Avenue. Porch said he’ll probably hear from friends and neighbors who otherwise couldn’t afford sneakers for their kids.
Sekani Turner, Porch’s manager, said they’re planning for a giveaway event sometime this spring. He’d like to do more projects like this if the concept is successful.
Porch added that they’re open to working with local organizations who might help them distribute the shoes, but he’s a little leery of letting the project grow too quickly.
“You lose track of where the money goes. You have to kind of take their word for it,” he said of charities. “But for something like this, it’s up on the wall for everyone to see how much money we raised. We’re going to see how many shoes we have – it’s right there. We can see it all the way through.”