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JEMS, the first Black-owned athletic shoe company in the US

I pitched and wrote this article for the Craft Industry Alliance — JEMS is the first Black-owned athletic shoe company in the United States and it’s in Somersworth, NH. Read it here!

My husband Andrew mentioned seeing this in the local news and I thought it might be a good fit for the Craft Industry Alliance, a trade organization for craft professionals (makers, pattern designers, folks who sell on Etsy or at craft fairs, craft teachers, and so on). I’ve written for them before and it was a great experience. I dragged my kiddo out on a car ride to see the JEMS factory and snap a few pictures of downtown Somersworth to add to my pitch, and then I wrote it up and sent it out. The CIA got back to me quickly and I had two and a half weeks to write the article.

Downtown Somersworth

This was a fun challenge–I actually interviewed folks on the phone, including someone at City Hall in Somersworth, who pointed me to a local historian and put me in touch with contacts at JEMS. I spoke to the president of JEMS and to its founder, Dr. D’Wayne Edwards. It was fun to get back into reporting, and it felt really exciting to share this story with a new audience. JEMS is a great story: it’s named after a Black immigrant inventor, Jan Ernst Matzeliger; it’s a revival of shoe manufacturing in Somersworth, which used to have three shoe factories; it’s the first Black-owned athletic shoe company in the US; and it’s a new factory in America. Telling all these different stories and making them make sense in 1000 words was tricky, and I really liked it.

The JEMS factory


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