“My plan was to get a job as an engineer, pay off my student loans, retire, and teach for awhile,” Kayin Talton Davis says. “It didn’t quite happen that way.” Talton Davis was born in Portland and in 2005, she started Soapbox Theory—a business producing greeting cards, t-shirts, accessories, home décor, and more featuring positive images of Black culture. But before that, she envisioned a career in mechanical engineering.
“There was a lack of people who looked like me. Over the course of [earning my mechanical engineering] degree, I had two classes with another Black woman in them.” On a middle school field trip, Talton Davis met a woman who made prosthetic limbs for children, and became inspired to learn how to use STEM to make kids feel better and more represented where they were not. However, during her college years, Talton Davis started Soapbox Theory as hobby and outlet. “I missed doing a lot more of the creative stuff,” she says of her decision to become an artsy entrepreneur. “I wanted to feel represented and heard. When somebody’s on their soapbox, they’re talking to the world and to anybody who [will] listen. Soapbox Theory is that ‘anybody.’”
“[Everyone] has something to say, and that forum isn’t limited to speaking,” she says. “For some people, it’s easier for them to write, wear a t-shirt, whatever it is to get their message across.”
One of Soapbox Theory’s most popular items is their line of lunch boxes featuring Black boys and girls of various shades as astronauts, cowboys, superheroes, and even Portland icon, Nikki Brown Clown. “When I wanted to go get a card for somebody [before starting my business,] sometimes it just wasn’t really my personality or the skin tones [weren’t] quite for me,” she says. “[With Soapbox Theory,] I wanted to make sure that all the way from super light to very dark [skin tones were] covered, especially because we’re not all one shade. There is no one way to be Black.”
Looking forward, Talton Davis wants her own brick-and-mortar boutique and for national retailers like Target to carry her brand. In addition to continuing to build her product line, Talton Davis would like to make children’s bedding, and, perhaps, a collection of formal dinnerware.
Written by: Jenni Moore
Photos by: Cervante Pope
Published: June 2018