Port Arthur entrepreneur creating sneakers from recycled materials

Published 12:40 am Thursday, March 9, 2023

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Kristeen Reynolds was a born an entrepreneur.

Even before the age of 10, the Port Arthur native was creating business ideas and pitching them to her mother.

But Rebecca Jean was a born entrepreneur, too.

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“I would get a phone call at work, and I always knew what she was up to with that particular phone call,” Jean said of her daughter. “She would always ask how much time I would have that evening. She started several businesses, all of which were profitable, and she was looking for me to be her main investor.”

But mom wasn’t going to just hand over the funding.

“She knew for that to work, you have to present me with your business plan, what you anticipate your profit margin is going to be, and she did that at least 200 times.”

Reynolds said she would create PowerPoint presentations as well as business plans organized in plastic folders. The first, around the age of 7, was a drink stand.

“She would always be my investor and get her money back,” Reynolds said.

Jean had also come from a family of business owners.

“Entrepreneurship runs through our veins big time,” she said.

And that is the foundation Reynolds gave behind the creation of her new company that creates sneakers from recycled materials and food waste.

“It dates back truly to my grandparents,” Reynolds said. “My grandmother was the first Black social worker in Southeast Texas. She graduated from Huston-Tillotson but was told she couldn’t use her degree because of the color of her skin.”

Rosa Jean began teaching instead, and in the meantime became a licensed realtor. Nearly two decades after obtaining her license to be a social worker, she was finally able to use it. But she had to forfeit her realtor’s license.

“My grandfather with an eighth grade education took over,” Reynolds said.

Sam Jean grew up in Opelousas, Louisiana and served in two wars. He wanted more for his children than he had growing up.

His wife helped him study to become a realtor, taking over the business she created. Ultimately it grew to where they were building from the ground up.

“All of my siblings and I grew up in that atmosphere,” Rebecca Jean said. “I was writing out contracts for him when I was 9 or 10.”

Jean also planned to have a business of her own.

“I wasn’t sure what it was,” she said. “And I always made sure I had something to fall back on to provide for my family. My thought process was, if I know how to read my own books, no one can steal from me or short-change me, so I became an accountant.”

Reynolds took the same route. After graduating valedictorian of Memorial High School in 2011, she became an accountant.

But it was during 2020, while browsing in a social media app, that she began developing DrinKicks.

“I was in a sports room and met my co-founder, Michael Fletcher, who was a sneaker designer,” she said. “He made a point that shoes are important to everything — health and wellness, posture, our backs.”

They started off with a drink that was a Snapple for sneakers.

Then we found out how much it cost to put the ink inside the cap that doesn’t poison you,” Reynolds said. “Yeah, that ink is expensive.”

But while pitching ideas in Virginia, the duo began focusing on education and ultimately landed on a mission to “turn climate change into climate action.”

DrinKicks turns recycled waste and biodegradable materials into sneakers.

The first prototype was made with rubber, bamboo, plastic, apples and corn.

“We named the company DrinKicks with the notion of turning your drinks into kicks,” Reynolds said. “We’d love to grow to the point where people are tracking their carbon footprint.”

DrinKicks was recently selected by Greentown Labs as one of 16 startup companies that received a $25,000 grant and a year-lease at a Houston-based facility.

The shoes, which will soon be available online and through an app store, will also come with a chip on the bottom that, when scanned by a phone camera, will tell the customers what recycled items were used to make them.

“We are very much education first — teaching about sustainability and recycling,” Reynolds said.

But none of it, she noted, would have been possible without coming from a goal-oriented family.

“Our family was truly raised, no matter what you do, do your best at it,” her mother said. “God blessed us to all have a fairly good level of intelligence. Kristeen is amazing. She truly continues to surprise me.”

For Reynolds, it’s not just about making a mark on the world, but more importantly showing the people in the hometown she loves that they can achieve their goals.