Today’s sneaker culture and its members take for granted the financial investments that parents put into clothing their children. While we bragged as teens about the shoes that we wore, some people couldn’t afford the latest and greatest sneakers. The jealousy and the impact of not having clothes and shoes caused self-esteem issues for many. For others, they chose illegal routes to gain the money to buy the sneakers. For the past three decades, kids and adults have lost their lives in an attempt to have or “take” clothing and shoes.
Thomas Mitchell, Founder of SnkTrd (Sneak+Trade), found himself in a jam. His love for shoes grew as he became a teen. His mom was adamantly against purchasing high-priced shoes. So Thomas found odd jobs and made money to buy the shoes for himself. As he got older, the sneaker culture became more advanced. With advancements in technology, fraud and crimes also come along with the territory. Many teens participate in the sell and trade of sneakers. “Meet ups” and internet trading have been taking place for years. But these are not always the safest routes to buying and trading sneakers. In comes SnkTrd to save the day.
SnkTrd (sneak+trade) is an online community for users to buy, sell and trade sneakers. As an online community, users are given the opportunity to interact socially by sharing pictures of new pick-ups or connecting with other sneakerheads globally. The goal of SnkTrd is to provide a secure and simple platform for users to complete transactions using various forms of payment, whether it is by credit card, PayPal, or our eventual financing option. SnkTrd’s mission is to provide a global platform where virtually anyone, anywhere can buy, sell and trade sneakers.
Thomas was gracious enough to talk about the social aspect of the sneaker community, the real deal about “Hypebeasts” and how sneakers are on their way to being considered art pieces for the next generation.
I. For collectors, the sneaker game was once the battlegrounds for fashion, style and competition for supremacy in collection. Now it’s morphed into an industry that has monetized. When did you realize that the industry was ready for the concept that is SnkTrd?
Of course there is Ebay and all the sneakers sold through them. I’ve sold several pairs on Ebay. You can also buy a toaster and millions of other things on Ebay. So immediately, I was able to recognize the need for a more focused marketplace.
Then I started to notice the amount of sneaker groups on Facebook and accounts on Instagram that had large followings in the thousands. These accounts on either Facebook or Instagram were set up specifically for the purpose of sneakerheads to not only interact, but to buy, sell, and trade sneakers of any condition. That is when I realized that I was onto something and that there would be a large enough market to support a community like SnkTrd.
II. SnkTrd is as much of a social network as it is a shopping site. How important is the social aspect of the site?
It’s extremely important to the identity of the site. At its core, the goal of SnkTrd is to join the two worlds of social media and E-commerce. Not only is developing an innovative approach to E-commerce a goal of ours, it’s a vital of part of how the site functions. When a user wants to put a pair of shoes in the marketplace, they’re pulling the shoes directly from their already pre-loaded collection within their profile, then placing them in the marketplace to be bought, sold and traded. This basic function of the site forces the two features to work together seamlessly. A part of any social media platform, is an active community with features like the SnkTrd shop, the soon to come discussion board, and the online magazine. The goal of the community is to keep users on the site and to develop that community. I’m really looking forward to making a site that sneakerheads can be on for hours at a time. I pay so much attention to other tech companies like a Facebook or a Tumblr whose worth is in the billions because of the large user base they’ve built, however, they’re still trying to solve the question of revenue and how do they monetize that base. Since SnkTrd is marrying the worlds of E-commerce and social media from day one, it allows us to monetize from launch and grow our user base simultaneously.
III. In our talks, you’ve mentioned growing up and not being able to afford high-priced sneakers. You took that desire and energy and turned it into something positive. What would you say to a 12 year old today that is in that same position you were in as a kid?
Get a job! Lol, no but seriously. I worked hard for any kicks that I had when I was younger because my mom definitely wasn’t buying any. I shoveled snow, raked leaves, anything for some Flightposites lol. I remember when my feet got too big and the prices changed up. The funny thing about it, when my mom was buying the sneakers, I didn’t take care of them at all. I would run through mud, walk all over the laces and never ever clean them. But when I bought my own shoes, everything changed.At this point, I’m finding all types of cleaning supplies around the house, using old tooth brushes and tucking my laces in. My approach was completely different because I had to pay for my own sneakers now.
IV. @TomTheHypeBeast is one of your social media handles. I was under the impression that “hypebeast” was a negative connotation in the sneaker world. Explain the “hypebeast” concept.
Honestly I really do it to make fun of the name. So many people go overboard with the term and use it so loosely. It used to be a name for anyone who really wasn’t into sneakers like that. People who were just a part of the hype pretending as if they’ve always been into sneakers and they really weren’t. Now it’s at a point, if someone doesn’t have a certain amount of sneakers in their collection then they’re a hypebeast. Or if that person thinks that a shoe is “wack” and you happened to really be into then, you’re a hypebeast. Or if you don’t have any OG (original deadstock) Jordan’s in your collection then, you’re a hypebeast. It really just starts to get ridiculous with all the “rules” and different definitions people have for being a hypebeast. You should wear whatever you feel like. Personally, I love Foamposites. I’m not going to dog somebody else just because they don’t like what I like.
But one thing I will say that I don’t like about the sneaker community is people who will camp out for a shoe and buy eight pairs with no intention of ever wearing any of them. Their purpose is only to sell them that exact same day because they “need them gone” but for double retail. That’s what I hate.
V. Having a business where goods are shipped and delivered can be risky. Is that your biggest obstacle/fear? If not, what is your biggest fear? And how have you been able to cope and/or overcome that fear?
With companies out there like USPS and PayPal who streamline their services, they make it extremely easy to integrate what they do into SnkTrd despite our size. Whether it’s printing shipping labels and free package pick-ups or providing a secure way to exchange money on the site, they eliminate a lot of the obstacles that we would have faced four or five years ago. With our third party shipping option and the obvious warehousing needs that will come along with it, there is possibility that it could become costly, but that’s something we are prepared for.
Our biggest issue is really authenticity and keeping the integrity of the site intact. When you’re dealing with shoes being sold over the internet there will always be questions of authenticity and if the shoes are real. It becomes even more of a problem when you’re on a platform that others are allowed to put their own sneakers on the site and sell them. Keeping that in mind, we’ve taken several steps to address authenticity. Everyone will get a chance to witness first hand when the site launches.
VI. Parents are so reluctant to allow their children to participate in “meetups” to trade sneakers. Seeing that the youth will be a huge part of your consumer base, how are you planning on providing information to parents to reassure them that this mode of trading is safer?
Apart of what drove me to create SnkTrd was to get away from the old way of trading sneakers that was really confined to meet-ups, an Instagram post or a Facebook group. The fact that its online means it’s a global community that not only allows you to buy, sell and trade with people across the globe but to do so in the safest way possible because it’s all virtual.
VII. You are the CEO of this venture. But, you have a team that you are surrounded by helping behind the scenes. Give us some insight on the structure of the company. And what leadership skills have your learned while navigating as an executive?
I’m fortunate enough to have a good group of people helping me out along the way. Right now the team is mostly made of freelance help from friends and referrals from friends. It really allows them to gain more experience and grow their body of work. I would suggest this method to any small business owner. If you’re able to do so, only hire people when you absolutely need to.
However, for the most important part of what we do, the building of the site, that is handled by our team of developers. I had the opportunity of connecting up with two young really talented developers from Prince George’s County, Maryland who I was able to contract out the development of the site to. I’ve really learned through this process that I have to have more than one option when it comes to getting certain projects done. I never want to be in a position where I’m stuck relying on one person to get the job. Whether its graphic design, PR, social media management, I make sure I know at least two or three people with the expertise that I can trust.
VIII. If not a direct competitor, at the least, SnkTrd will be attempting to put a dent in eBay’s hold on the user-to-user trade/sale concept. That’s like a David vs. Goliath battle. How does that make you feel?
eBay is obviously the standard bearer in our space, but them being so large is really a good and bad thing. It’s bad in the sense that they have a trusted brand and when it comes to selling sneakers online as a consumer their the primary option. It’s good in that we are a niche market and our focus at this time is directly on sneakers. Not to mention, we just offer a lot of features that eBay doesn’t. Our transaction fees are very competitive, our users are able to stay up to date on the latest news through our online magazine and be a part of an online community completely built for sneakerheads by a sneakerhead. Also a major portion of the sneakhead community is trading sneakers, that’s something we not only encourage but facilitate and at this point eBay does not offer. We’ve put a lot of effort into addressing eBay as our main competitor so we’re really excited about how things will turn out.
IX. I believe that sneaker collections will be the next phase of “art” collections in households of the next generations of homeowners. Do you think it will go that far? How far can the value of having a sneaker collection go?
I can definitely see that being the case. This whole idea of collecting sneakers is relatively new. Jordan was drafted in 1984 so the first “sneakerheads” are really only in their 40’s. At this point there is no way of really being able to tell when people “age” out of being a sneakerhead. For a lot of people who are not a part of the sub-culture (because that’s what I believe sneaker collecting is, a sub culture), they don’t really see it as a collection but that’s exactly what it is. It’s no different from art, dolls, stamps or any other collector’s item. If you think about it, if I have 75-100 pairs of sneakers at an average post retail value of $150 to $200 per sneaker, you’re looking at some sneaker collections valued at or around $10,000. There aren’t a lot of people collecting art or porcelain dolls that can say that their collection is worth that much. What many people don’t realize is that the sneaker market is one of the very few collectors markets that an item can be sold used or post retail for more than the retail price. Currently, and in years past, Jordans really made up a large part of the sales in the sneaker industry. What’s different now is we’re seeing a lot premier players not only getting signature lines from Nike but selling really well. What’s really been proven since Jordan retired is that superstar status doesn’t automatically translate into long lines on release dates. But with LeBron’s line doing so well, to the tune of 300 million dollars in sales in 2012 alone, we are really seeing a lot of potential for growth in the industry.
X. I can’t let you leave without telling us which sneaker is your all-time favorite. Give us your favorite sneaker and an interesting story about what you went through to “cop” that pair.
It’s so hard to choose a favorite pair, there’s always jay’s and there are so many of those that I love, but my favorite line has to be the Foamposite and Foamposite pro. I love everything about them. I would cop most of the color ways. But I do remember the first pair of Jordan’s that I ever had. They were the black 17’s. I got them in the 8th grade. My father bought them for me. They didn’t even fit, they were like a size 11 lol!!l I wore a size 9 at the time. I’d wear like three pairs of socks just so they would fit. Yea I’ll probably never forget those.
Personal Twitter & Instagram: @TomTheHypebeast
Company Twitter: @snktrdonline
Company Instagram: @snktrd
Company Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Snktrd?fref=ts
Company Website: http://www.snktrd.com/index.html