Meet the very artistic, very inspired and inspiring Ibby Maruca. In one of our favorite kind of connecting stories, Ibby found us on Instagram, we became obsessed with her amazing talent and cool kicks, and Ibby became a part of the She’s Fit To Lead team. Be sure to check out @kicksbyibby to see her great work, and read on to learn more about this Philly area high school student who once again proves, “if you build it, they will come!”
1. What inspired you to start Kicks by Ibby?
At my school they do this thing called college posters, where all the college-bound seniors hang a little poster on a wall with a saying/rhyme/pun on it about where they’re going to college (ex: “Amanda we’re proud of you, you’re going to BU!). I made a few of my friends college posters as a freshman, and people started to tell me that I should draw the way that I did on college posters, except on shirts, or hats, and then someone said on shoes, and the idea clicked! I’ve always loved to draw and to make drawings for other people, and I thought it would be fun to wear my drawings, so I made a pair of shoes to wear to my dad’s college reunion where everyone comes decked out in head to toe apparel, and it took off from there.
2. How did you get your business started? How did you get people to find out what you were doing/give you orders?
Instagram has been a huge part of me running a business and getting exposure. I posted the first pair of shoes on my personal Instagram (@ibbymaruca) to show my friends and other students what I had made. I had no idea that people who hardly knew me would end up messaging me or coming up to me at school and asking that I make them a pair! I initially made my business Instagram (@kicksbyibby) just so that I would have a place to post every pair of shoes I made without filling my personal account up with shoe pictures. But after a few people I didn’t know from school started to follow me, and a few more sent me DMs asking about how to order, I realized that I could use Instagram not only to share pictures but also to be contacted by buyers and to set up orders. I think it’s really great how Instagram has started to serve as not just a social media platform but also as a business platform for a lot of small business owners, myself included.
3.Is it hard to balance being a High School student and having a business?
It’s definitely difficult to balance because a lot of my time isn’t my own. It’s expected that I be in school from around 7:30 to 2:40 every day, and then when you add in my responsibilities with different clubs, I’m often not getting home until 6’oclock at the earliest and as late as 11’oclock when I’m helping to put on a show or club event. Plenty of jokes have been made about me basically living at my school; sometimes it feels like I never leave! I have plenty of work and studying to do when I get home every night, so between classes and clubs and work, and adding on the workload of making and running Kicks, I’m pretty overextended. Because of how
busy things get during the school year, I try to reserve time for kicks specifically during the weekend, but it’s tough when an idea pops into my head in the middle of the school day and all I want to do is start developing upon it, but I have a million other things that require my attention. But at the end of the day, all the extra things I do are things I choose to take on and I love being involved and staying busy, so I wouldn’t have it any other way (unless three or four days of school a week became an option, because I would have it that way!).
4. Do you think you will continue in college?
I would love to continue making kicks in college! I’m definitely just going to have to play things by ear and see how much time in my schedule I can make for it, but even if I take fewer orders or take breaks, I can’t imagine stopping completely. I really want to be as involved as possible in different clubs and activities when I’m in college, so kicks definitely won’t be the only thing on my schedule besides classes and schoolwork, but I still want it to be a part of what I do. I actually fully intend to major in history, and I want to pursue a career in that field; however, art has always been a hobby that I intend to stick with, and making kicks is a great way for me to accomplish that.
5. What’s your favorite thing to draw?
My favorite things to draw are anything with black ink pens on white paper. I’ve done a lot of “zentangle”-ish images, sketches, and geometric plant and animal life. It can be hard because when I have a lot of orders for kicks I don’t really have time to draw other things, but every once and a while I’ll pull a few hours together to sit back and draw something on paper rather than on shoes. It’s really relaxing when I find the time, and I love seeing how all the dots and lines come together in the end as a finished product. My favorite shoes to design/draw are probably any camp themed ones, because I love my camp/summer camps in general and love the idea of campers wearing my designs!
6.What’s next? Do you have any new products planned?
I’ve done a lot of digital design through designing logos for clubs and events, and I’m working on incorporating that into my shoe design. I also really want to experiment more with the types of designs that I’m doing. This includes testing out some more simplified design styles; I really love how my sneakers look before I turn blank white space into patterns. Every pair eventually gets filled up with colors, but I would love to design more simplified shoes for myself and anyone else that prefers that style. Apart from new designs, I would love to eventually expand upon the types of products I make and not just be limited to shoes. I don’t know yet if I’ll end accomplishing this through a user/business name change, or a merging of my art and shoe design accounts, or some other solution. But it’s definitely not something I have to rush to figure out!
7. If you were interviewing you, what would you ask?
I would probably ask myself what my favorite shoes are besides my own kicks! The answer: Birkenstocks or Rainbow flip flops! For someone who spends so much time working on shoes, I ironically don’t love wearing them and I like to stick to sandals as long as I can until it’s absolutely too cold outside.
8. How would your friends describe you?
With responses straight out of the texts I sent to a bunch of my friends: Motivated, passionate, determined, diligent, creative, charismatic, talented, focused, patient, driven, kind, and funny.
9. Favorite Philly food?
I’ve been a vegetarian for most of my life so I’ve actually never tried our staple of Philadelphia Cheesesteaks! But there are loads of amazing restaurants so it’s a great place to live if you love food. One of my favorites is Wawa; it’s a convenience store, and the best one of all time. It’s also just an East Coast thing/really largely in Philly, so it’s tough straying a few states too far and not having access to it. And I also love water ice, which isn’t local to Philly but apparently they call it “Italian ice” everywhere else and I don’t think it sounds right!
10. What’s your style? What’s your fashion call for the Fall?
I’ve always had a pretty simple style, and I prefer to stick with a neutral or cool color palette- lots of blacks, greys, navy blues and whites. If you saw my closet, it’s filled 95% with those colors and 5% with things that are just slightly brighter. One of the reasons that I love making kicks for myself and other people is that they’re great for adding a pop of color and pattern to what might be an overall simple outfit (or in the case of tailgating outfits, adding color to even more color!). For the fall, I love when the air starts to chill and you can break out your favorite sweaters, wear tights with dresses, or throw on cute knit hats. I’m also obsessed with big cardigans or cute jackets! And for casual days, I don’t think you can ever go wrong with your favorite t-shirts or crew neck sweatshirts.
11. What is your binge watch at the moment?
I always need background noise when I’m working on a pair of shoes, so I binge watch a lot! My all time favorites are Scrubs (not season 9 though), How I Met Your Mother, and whatever’s in the historical/biographical documentary section of Netflix!
12. How does someone become a leader?
I feel that a person becomes a leader by being willing to step up and pursue an idea or reach a goal, regardless of what obstacles may be in the way. Whether you’re leading up a school event or starting your own business, I think a person becomes fit to lead when they’re willing to provide their heart and dedication to whatever it is that they hope to accomplish, and that they do so in a way that guides other or sets a good example. I fully believe that if you’re going to do something, you should put your whole self into it, and I think that a leader exemplifies this.
Thanks Ibby! We’re honored to have you as a part of She’s Fit To Lead.