by Matt Feinberg
In the summer of 2014, I was in my friend Danny Bracco’s basement. It was just another typical warm summer day playing NBA 2K on the Xbox. We took a break, and with nothing else to do during the day, he pulled up his eBay account and started looking at basketball sneakers. He found a pair of new Nike Foamposites, a bulky, bright, red and white colored sneaker for $120. He said I should buy them and resell the pair for a profit. I was skeptical, but after talking with my parents, I bought the pair with the little money I had saved up in my bank account. I was hoping that I would be able to sell the pair for $140 and make a quick couple dollars, but I sold them for $160. I knew I was onto something special.
I bought another pair from eBay, a basic LeBron James colorway with hints of green and pink throughout to resemble the vivid colors of South Beach, Miami. I paid $270 for this pair. I thought it was insane that these shoes could be valued at such a high price, but I trusted my gut and the advice I got from a few friends. I took this brand new pair with me to the Sneaker Con sneaker trade show in New York City. Tens of thousands of “sneakerheads” were present in a huge warehouse; all were looking to make some money by selling their own pairs of sneakers while purchasing more sneakers as well. While walking through the aisles, I held my single pair in my right hand as high as I could so everyone in the venue could get a good look at the pair. After hours of walking around the event, I sold the pair for $350 and earned yet another quick and substantial profit. I was ecstatic!
But I soon learned that while being involved in the world of sneakers, I would fall into deals that “were too good to be true” set by scammers and several counterfeit sneakers. My newly-developed business was now on the edge of becoming nonexistent.
For the next six months, my luck was gone and inexperience in the industry was catching up to me. I bought sneakers online, but they would turn out to be fakes. I bought shoes through eBay, but they would never arrive. For months, I had zero success purchasing another pair. I would find a pair of shoes worth $300, but priced significantly lower. With my inexperience, I would fall for the deal. There was a point where I felt foolish, filled with frustration and anger, and I thought about quitting.
While considering giving up and finding a typical high school job, I debated the pros and cons of throwing in the towel. If I stopped selling sneakers, I would be able to provide for myself by earning an hourly wage while having a stable source of income for the next couple of years. However, if I were to push through the challenges that I continuously ran into, I knew that I would be able to turn this hobby into something larger.
When I talk to people about starting from basically nothing, it is hard for them to grasp how much time and effort it took me. I have talked with other sneaker re-sellers throughout the years, and a significant difference between them and myself is that they acquired funding. Many relied on their parents to cover the cost of the shoes, and then they would just simply keep the profit they made and spend it elsewhere — instead of reinvesting. When they wanted to buy another pair, it was the same cycle over and over. If I did that, I would never achieve any sense of accomplishment. I realized that having an abundance of money was not what I needed to grow my business. I needed to learn. I needed to teach myself how to turn one dollar into two.
When I was 14, the money I had to invest was minimal and it was a constant struggle to have funds readily available to purchase inventory. In 2014, I bought 17 pairs of sneakers over seven months. In all honesty, it became an immense challenge for me to expand networks and buy inventory regularly. I kept pushing. Learning the ropes of how to start a business was more important to me than anything else. If I never gave myself the opportunity to learn about the back end of business operations, it would have been nearly impossible for me to expand into what I wanted my business to become.
As months went on, I began to experiment with new ways to buy and sell. Prior to the fall of 2015, I only resold sneakers on eBay and occasionally on Facebook. I began to observe how some of the bigger names in the business sold their sneakers and I followed in their footsteps to see if it would work for me. I found success!
Branching out and discovering new ways to sell sneakers allowed me to network and work alongside some of the largest aftermarket sneaker shops in the world. In the sneaker market, shops like Urban Necessities (urbannecessities.com) and Flight Club (flightclub.com) generate millions of dollars in sales per year. When I learned how many shoes these stores sell, it was a no-brainer for me to connect with the owners and with other people who conduct business with them. These stores sell on consignment; I ship them my sneakers to sell on my behalf. They take a percentage of each sale and give me the remainder.
Without a proper network behind my business, I would not be able to continue expanding. I value my network greatly. In any business, networking is essential. I’ve traveled up and down the East Coast and across the country to meet people, conduct business, and simply get my name out in the world of sneakers. With a solid foundation of people who support my business and can see the goals that I strive to achieve in the future, it makes it so much easier to sell a product to someone.
As for the future, I plan to travel to San Francisco to broaden my network at one of the largest sneaker conventions in the country. Additionally, I plan to host an event later this year to discuss sneakers, while bringing in some of the best-known industry experts to discuss how they found their success in the world of sneakers. While I have profited from selling sneakers, it is more important for me to value what I have been able to accomplish in just a few short years. Going to college with this much experience in the field of business will aid me greatly. As for the network of friends and industry experts that I have developed, I will always have someone across the country or around the world who has the same interests as I do, and who can help me continue this business. To me, that is priceless.