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By Andrea Williams

At age 19, when most people are fresh out of high school and just beginning to enjoy their “adult” freedoms, Natischa Harvey was already making significant strides on a well-constructed path that was sure to lead to her dream life.  She was married to her high school sweetheart, who happened to be a professional athlete, and she was studying to become an attorney at Clark Atlanta University.  Needless to say, people close to her were completely shocked when she decided to take a job at Bakers during her sophomore year.

They questioned her sanity while she juggled her $6/hour evening shifts at the retail shoe store with her demanding political science classes during the day.  But Natischa had a plan.  There was a definite method behind the perceived madness, and the end result was Fever Shoes – a $1.5 million-and-growing brand that has firmly established Mrs. Harvey as a true contender in the highly competitive designer shoe industry.

It is widely understood that the road to entrepreneurial success is treacherous at best, and Natischa was faced with a major obstacle before she could even begin.  Though Natischa had been designing shoes since the 10th grade, her mother dissuaded her from such lofty pursuits and instead encouraged her to pursue a safe and reliable career.  So, when Natischa felt like she could no longer suppress her high-fashion fantasies, she knew she would have to gain her mother’s blessings first.

“My mother always knew that I loved fashion and designing shoes, but she felt it was too risky as a career choice,” she said.  “Studying political science and becoming a lawyer was safe to her because she knew I would always have an income, and she needed that level of security and comfort.  But I wanted to open a boutique, so I had a talk with her.  My mother told me that if that was what I wanted to do, I needed to go out and do it full force or not at all – no half-stepping.”

Armed with her mother’s well wishes and cash from a stock investment that was initially intended to pay for her college tuition, Natischa opened her first boutique in 2004. She calls her time at Bakers a “paid internship” that gave her the hands-on experience and confidence she needed to strike out on her own.

“I definitely believe you have to crawl before you can walk,” she said.  “So I decided to work at Bakers, and my manager helped me learn pretty much everything about how to manage a store, from counting inventory to managing employees.  I was in college, and I definitely think college prepares you for a lot of things, but I knew that if I wanted to own a boutique I had to learn how to run one.”

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