After meeting with my research advisor T. Margaret this week, I decide to take a detour from my study of entrepreneurship in general and explore something very interesting and specific to the concept of a socially responsible business. As mentioned in my blog post last week, I have been engaged with a movement called “Life > Shoes” recently. The movement was started by Derek Lew, the founder of Sole Supremacy, an online sneaker resell boutique, and it focuses on advocating a healthy lifestyle to sneaker enthusiasts. In today’s blog post, I want to talk more about how “Life > Shoes” and share such a powerful movement with all of you.
The founding of Sole Supremacy was dated almost 10 years ago. Back then Derek had just lost a stable job due to economic recession and could not find a way to make a living. According to Derek, “I honestly didn’t look for work because I was still in shock from what happened. I had been in the same routine for years and that routine was broken.” Finally, Derek made up his mind to sell his shoe collection so that he could support himself. As a sneaker collector, of course Derek was not willing to sell the sneakers he had been collecting since middle school, but “[he] knew that [he] needed to sell them to take care of the NEEDS in [his] life.” Now when I look at his story, I realize that this is just the foundation of his later movement “Life > Shoes.”
Gradually Derek’s business grew larger, as he recognized the potential of the sneaker resell market. Over the next two years he advertised himself actively on eBay and Craiglist and quickly made a name for himself as a trusted sneaker seller. Also, Derek started investing and purchasing shoes from other sellers so that his business can become more multifaceted, but that is not the only reason he started buying. “Losing my job made me realize there are people out there just like me, people needing to sell their shoes for various reasons. Lost job, car payments, rent, food, bills, etc so I made the decision to offer QUICK CASH on my site. That way I can help someone in need and in return I can make a living going through the process of selling shoes.” It is amazing thinking about how Derek was not only working for himself but also helping others in need while running a sneaker resell business back then, and again that piece of story set the tone for the later start of his movement.
Not until summer 2010 did Derek finally find a partner to expand his business; however, it was another move that corresponded with the concept of “Life > Shoes” – he hired his friend because his friend had just lost his job. Now operated by a team, Sole Supremacy grew larger over the next couple years. “Through this venture I have had the opportunity to partner with my best friend, provide full time jobs to 5 of my friends, and part time jobs for 2 others on a per need basis.” Now according to High Snobiety, “Sole Supremacy sells over $3 million in sneakers per year.”
Now, what does “Life > Shoes” exactly refer to? Let’s take a look at how Derek responds to such a question. “Why do I say this? Because too many people take this “game” way too serious. Enjoy LIFE. Don’t let shoes ruin your day and make you feel some type of way. Don’t lose friendships over shoes, don’t lose relationships over shoes, don’t scam others, don’t get jealous, don’t hate, don’t get mad because someone got a release and you didn’t, and don’t put yourself in financial burdens because of them. Let shoes be a compliment to your life and style. If you don’t get a pair, don’t worry about it and move on to the next one. Skip a release and use the money to take your significant other on a date, buy your kid a toy or better yet just save. The sneaker community is great and powerful and many of you, including us have made some powerful connections and relationships with others because of shoes.” I personally resonate a lot with Derek because I used to share the kind of frustration he mentioned above, and now I have realized that it is not necessary at all. When I first started my business, as a maverick, I often missed Nike releases and restocks, which used to make me very upset and nervous; gradually I understand that collecting and reselling sneakers is my passion, and I should not get upset because of a passion. A passion is supposed to make me excited. I also agree a lot with Derek that sneakers should be a compliment to my life and style instead of necessity. If I have a family take care of, family should be the priority instead of the many sneakers I desire. That’s why I have developed the habit of saving up the money I earn and buy my parents some gifts once in a while. Relationships are always more important than the sneakers you own, even for sneakerheads. Another reason why I support “Life > Shoes” is that I have heard of stories in which people attack one another for limited sneakers, and such stories make me extremely worried. I want to see a community where sneaker lovers support each other instead of hating each other due to jealousy. No matter where you are and how much you love sneakers, you should always remember that people’s life weighs more than shoes.
There are many ways we can support such a movement. For example, as I mentioned above, purchasing shoes and providing quick cash for those in need is just one of them. Now as my business is growing larger, I am also finding opportunities to buy out a sneaker collection from someone in need and help him out by giving him quick cash. Two months ago we spent $3k buying out a collection from someone who was trying to make money for a living. Besides this, our business also firmly follows the rule that we never deal with fake sneakers. We understand why people are into sneakers and how people can be upset because of getting fake sneakers. That’s why we never scam. Being an honest business owner has been a standard I often use to inspect myself.
The reason why I use this week’s post entirely to talk about “Life > Shoes” is straightforward – I want to spread such a message to more people around me. In fact, it is not only “Life > Shoes,” but also “Life > Sports”, “Life > Fashion”, “Life > Money”, etc. In support of such a movement, I want to remind those around me of appreciating life and this world. I feel proud to be one of those entrepreneurs who is actively trying to use business as a tool to spread positivity.
Therefore, “Life > Shoes.”