This PEAK scholar is building relationships - and his future - with one pair of shoes at a time
Many teens have a hobby they pour themselves into - skating, video games, sports. But not Kevin, one of our PEAK scholars from the Class of 2022.
“I don’t have a hobby,” the PEAK senior said. “I have a brand.”
For the last two years, Kevin has been building up his own successful business buying and reselling high-quality, in-demand athletic shoes. He loves the whole process – from standing in line to buy the product to visiting the neighborhoods where his customers live.
He’s become an expert in the market. He regularly scours Chicago-area shoe stores looking for shoes he knows young people want, looking for deals to build his inventory and then marketing to customers online. He gets feedback and much encouragement from his mentor, Kevin Harrington, who works for CIBC advising small business owners.
You can get to see Kevin by tuning in to this year’s virtual “Coffee With PEAK” at 9 a.m. Wednesday, April 27. For more information and to join in on the fun, please go to https://one.bidpal.net/coffeewithpeak/browse/donation(details:item/1).
During the pandemic lockdown Kevin heard about people starting “side hustles” to make money while at home, and he started searching for ways to do the same. When a friend asked him to go with him to a local shoe store to search for shoes to resell, Kevin’s curiosity was piqued; he checked online businesses and saw the market for athletic shoe resales was booming.
Sneaker reselling is a huge market, largely because the limited editions designed by the likes of Nike and Yeezy are in short supply and only a few pairs are distributed to each shoe store. Those willing to trawl multiple stores in search of the prized sneakers can command high prices from people who lack the time - or access - to do so but are willing to pay for the kicks of their choice.
Kevin’s dedicated to the search, and has spent countless hours scouring shoe stores and departments to provide customers with their ultimate sneakers. He’s been successful enough in his side hustle that he’s turned a profit since he began - and his business continues to grow.
He’s also managed to keep his grades high as he builds up his customer base, and stays active as a member of Holy Trinity’s track team as well.
Kevin attributes his success at both school and in his business to three core qualities: being friendly, maintaining a “can-do” attitude and approaching every task with integrity.
“‘Friendly’ means to me that I always have a smile on my face and a positive attitude,” Kevin said. “My smile is who I am. They say smiling is contagious, and I want to put a smile on each of my customer’s faces.”
Creating a warm relationship is a tactic he learned at his first job at a local barbershop, Kevin said. His boss taught him that in addition to dressing professionally to let customers know he was serious and making them comfortable when they entered, being friendly and kind made customers feel welcome and kept them coming back.
Staying positive even when things get challenging keeps Kevin focused on his goals, he said. When he started the resale business, he realized that he’d have to pound a lot of pavement to hunt down the sneakers he needed to provide customers with adequate inventory - and the prospect was daunting. Then he reminded himself about “can-do” and started looking. “I went to every shoe store,” often spending entire weekends looking for the right styles and sizes to build his inventory, he said.
If he got tired, he reminded himself, it was “can-do.” When he couldn’t find what he was looking for and got discouraged, he pushed himself to think “can-do.”
As he kept pushing to go to one more store, and one more after that to find more sneakers, his searches paid off. The business grew.
Kevin’s commitment to integrity grew along with his resolve - even when someone scammed him.
“I know that establishing long-term relationships based on honesty and trust takes consistent effort,” he said. “And I have great relationships with my clients now, but I was close to quitting when I got scammed.”
After a dishonest seller failed to deliver shoes that Kevin had already paid for, he lost half of his investment in one day. He considered closing up shop, but knew customers had started to depend on him for consistent quality and good deals. He also knew he’d miss the relationships with both customers and sellers he’d built up.
So he started rebuilding his inventory, and eventually recouped his losses. Knowing he didn’t want customers to suffer the same sick fear he’d felt when he realized he’d been scammed, Kevin makes sure he always follows up on what he promises and goes the extra mile to fill orders. “Clients know that they never have to worry about getting scammed when they work with me,” he said. “My integrity wouldn’t allow it.”
All of which has helped build his business while having an equally positive effect on his academic plans. When applying to colleges, Kevin made sure to discuss his business and philosophy in his essays. It’s been a winning formula; after graduation in May he’s headed to Bradley University in the fall - with fully funded tuition.
As for Kevin’s intended major? He plans to study business.