Two visionary groups in the footwear industry have joined forces to tackle a rising issue.

According to a press release shared with AFROTECH, Pensole Lewis (PLC Detroit) — the first and only HBCU in Michigan — and sneaker trading platform Tradeblock have teamed up for a funding campaign to benefit aspiring designers. Launching in February 2024, the campaign’s mission is to cover costs of travel and moving expenses for admitted PLC Detroit applicants who don’t have the financial means to attend the school.

With a campaign goal of raising $22,500, PLC Detroit and Tradeblock aim to offer 15 travel stipends ($1,500 each) to future students, according to the campaign website.

“By removing financial barriers for talented students from underrepresented communities, Tradeblock and Pensole Lewis are opening doors to a wider range of perspectives and voices,” Tradeblock Co-Founder Mbiyimoh Ghogomu shared in a statement. “This cultural impact will ripple through future collections, design aesthetics, and the very essence of what sneakers represent.”

As previously reported by AFROTECH, Tradeblock was co-founded by Ghogomu, Tony Malveaux, and Darren Smith and was created to tackle sneaker inaccessibility and build community for people of color. According to the press release, the Black-owned tech-enabled sneaker marketplace has pledged to donate $1 to the campaign for each trade completed on its platform through the end of February.

In addition to assisting students as they pursue footwear design opportunities, PLC Detroit and Tradeblock hope for their funding campaign to be a call to action for the sneaker community, including brands, retailers, and collectors, to not only champion diverse talent but also to play an active role in shaping footwear into a more equitable industry in the near future.

“Let’s pave the way for a future where dreams take flight, fueled not by financial anxieties, but by raw talent and boundless creativity,” the press release details. “Together, we can make Pensole Lewis a stepping stone for the next generation of sneaker and fashion icons, shaping a future where inclusivity and innovation reign supreme.”

To find out more about how to donate to PLC Detroit and Tradeblock’s campaign, click here.