“Having Vincent As My Partner Makes Me A Better Kelly:” How This Couple Is Revitalizing A Popular Detroit Brand And Their Marriage

January 7, 2016  |  


There was a time when the Pink Pump shoe and clothing brand was all over Detroit. Then the company decided to go in a different direction and shut down. But entrepreneurial husband and wife team Kelly and Vincent Kirkwood didn’t want to let Pink Pump dieand decided to resurrect the brand by purchasing the intellectual property rights and opening a brick and mortar sotre in West Bloomfield, MI, just in time for this past Christmas season.

The original Pink Pump closed its last four locations in 2014, but the Kirkwoods are determined to make the resurrected company even more successful than before. Here, Kelly Kirkwood tells us how she plans to do that.

MadameNoire (MN): What made you want to relaunch Pink Pump?

Kelly Kirkwood (KK): I have always yearned for entrepreneurship and creating an impactful brand. I had countless meetings with my husband, family, mentors and close friends about my desires to open my own business. My thoughts and conversations became my reality. The conversations turned into an opportunity to purchase the intellectual property rights for Pink Pump. I was inspired by the previous owner and her success story and the positive impact she had in the local community. Timing was everything! I believed in the brand and the brand aligned with who I am as a person. I knew that I could grow the brand and take the brand to the next level and beyond. I will have many businesses; Pink Pump is the stepping-stone to many more businesses that will make a difference.

MN: Can you give me a little history about Pink Pump prior to the relaunch?

KK: The very first Pink Pump store opened in June of 2006. Within six years, the previous owner, an ambitious business women, expanded ten-fold, opening stores in Bloomfield Hills, Birmingham, Ann Arbor, West Bloomfield, Troy, and Royal Oak of Michigan. She transitioned out of the retail sector and sold Pink Pump’s intellectual property to my husband and I.

MN: How do you plan to recreate Pink Pump’s success?

KK: As the new owner, I intend to take the Pink Pump brand to the next level. Pink Pump is a well-known brand in Metropolitan Detroit. Our efforts are on honing in and evolving Pink Pump’s brand into a lifestyle brand for women nationwide. Not only do we want to expand Pink Pump throughout Michigan but throughout the nation.

Pink Pump will be successful because we are focused on inspiring women by making them feel confident and beautiful. I take pride and time in selecting brands, styles and quality pieces that women will be proud, excited and confident to wear. Pink Pump also empowers women by helping them find and explore their individual style. Pink Pump customers become Pink Pump family members. The store space was meticulously and thoughtfully designed for woman to feel pretty, feminine, bold and edgy. Pink Pump offers the opportunity for our customers to be able to utilize the space to host women empowerment events and share in the space with some of their most personal and special occasions at Pink Pump (bridal showers, baby showers, girls night out, and more). Lastly, Pink Pump has an amazing team (VK Management Group, Guru PR, and Bradley Creative Group) that works steadfast in ensuring the success of Pink Pump.

MN: What have been some challenges working as a couple in a business?

KK: My husband and I are both go-getting, strong-willed, passionate, individuals. Our main challenge has been learning to understand each other’s “Grey Space.”

Since we both want what we want, when we want it we both only saw solutions to obstacles as either black and white or A or B. We had to quickly learn and respect each other’s “Grey Space.” There are multiple steps, solutions, and ideas to obstacles and plans. We’ve learned to trust and believe in each other’s process. But then again…happy wife, happy life; right?!

Also, my husband and I have completely different career backgrounds. My husband works as a senior director for a fast-paced marketing company, while I was a former elementary school principal. I was accustomed to a slower-paced cycle with lots of compassion and patience while Vincent deals with sharp deadlines and a fast-paced work environment. We both learned that our individual skill sets, ideals, opinions, work ethic, and beliefs combined are what has propelled and fueled our current success.

MN: What are the pluses of having a businesses together

KK:  As Neyo sings, “I’m a movement by myself, but I’m a force when we’re together.”

Having Vincent as my partner makes me a better Kelly. We build and uplift each other. That’s my love, who better to work with! Being in business together we won’t let each other fail. We are able to be raw with one another; there is no beating around the bush, we are completely frank with each other. At times I already know what Vincent is thinking and what his next move will be. Vincent is hilarious! He has the gift of making others laugh and feel comfortable. And plus, Its always a bonus checking out that handsome face!

MN: What were some start up challenges and how did you overcome them?

KK: A major challenge of start-up businesses is the unknown. Although we conducted extensive market research we still did not know the complete picture until the doors open – until actual customers are buying our products. Pink Pump is nestled in a quaint neighborhood community. However, with Pink Pump having several locations we also get many destination shoppers, the differences of these shoppers and completely different. Are buying process is very intentional to appease everyone.

As mentioned before, I had a background in education. My job was fulfilling and I felt I was making a difference in my student lives. It was risky to become and entrepreneur. Self doubt sets in. Am I making the best decision? Am I capable of running a business? Is this the right time? Turning those self-doubt and negative thoughts into “I will,” “I can” become an intentional process to overcome the challenge of self-doubt.

MN: How did you fund the startup?

KK: Pink Pump was funded through my husband and I’s personal savings and mentors who believed in our vision and goals for Pink Pump.


MN: How do you separate personal life from business life?

KK: My husband and I have a joyful and beautiful 18-month little girl. Having a little one forces us to separate personal life from business. Our daughter is number 1. She commands our attention and time. She already has her own little schedule, we make sure we never miss nor are late for any of her activities. A major reason I aspired to become an entrepreneur was because of her–to create a legacy for her. Most importantly, we set-up “no business talk time” whether it’s 10 minutes or an entire day. Each day we set aside “no business talk time.” We also try to have a date night weekly.

MN: How do you not let business stresses affect your relationship?

KK: We turn our stresses into solutions through constant conversations and being creative. We don’t sweat the small stuff and are realistic about goals.  Our family is our main priority, we try our hardest not to bring stress into our home.

MN:What’s next for 2016?

KK: 2016 is the year of Pink! We have big plans for Pink Pump in 2016. We plan to open our second location in downtown or midtown of Detroit. We want to be apart of the resurgence of Detroit. 2016 we also plan to host Pink Pump pop-up shops in major cities across the nation. We currently have customers and subscribers that follow Pink Pump through social media and purchase on pinkpump.com–we have a strong following in Atlanta, and Cleveland and intend to pop-up there first! We are excited for Pink Pump to expand locally and nationally in 2016.

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