It all began with a pair of shoes, Sharpies and Instagram.

When Samantha Handler got surgery two years ago, she couldn’t do much. So she turned to something she had always enjoyed: drawing.

Handler, a sophomore psychology major and studio art minor, realized she had a pair of white Keds sneakers, and thought it would be cool to decorate them to wear to classes and tailgates.

After posting a picture of her personally-designed shoes on her Instagram account, compliments and requests began pouring in, and thus, Kicks By Sammy was born.

“It was really exciting that so many people wanted my designs and that the word continued to spread to Boston, New Jersey, Long Island and so on,” Handler said.

She began only designing Maryland sneakers, but demand has risen within the past couple years as did her clientele, which now includes most of the East Coast.

Customers supply the shoes and ask Handler to follow a certain theme, or create specific images they want for the product.

Handler illustrates a pencil sketch, outlines the image in black oil Sharpies, and begins the process of coloring and shading.

Daryn Goldstein, a sophomore prospective communications major, said she asked Handler for random designs with different words and symbols on her pair of shoes.

“It went beyond what I expected,” Goldstein said. “The colors look sick together and the drawings are something I have never seen before.”

University of Michigan student Keren Leshem said she knew Handler back home in New York and remembered when Handler first began designing shoes for people in their town.

“Sam has always been great at drawing and this was a great way to put her talent into something that other people could enjoy,” the sophomore psychology and communications major said.

Handler sells her designs for $100 plus shipping and handling. Although the price may seem steep for college students, Goldstein and Leshem agreed that it’s worth it.

“She puts so much time and effort into everything she makes and I think that her creativity and artistic ability really shows through her products,” Leshem said.

Handler also began designing hats as well this past summer.

“My friends literally don’t understand how she made everything so precise,” Leshem said. “They thought she printed something on the hat instead of just drawing. The quality of her artwork is unlike anything else and I really think that the products are worth the money.”

Handler promotes her business through social media and looks to expand her enterprise, hoping to one day mass-produce her designs through print.

So far, she has nearly 200 likes on her Facebook page.

“Kicks By Sammy is a great business,” Goldstein said, “and I know that she will do really well someday with her products.”

headshot13Maria Kim is a senior Bloc reporter and can be reached at

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