Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Chris Casseday, and I am the founder of 513 Kicks, an online sneaker shop that offers collectible athletic shoes at unrivaled prices. I founded 513 Kicks in 2017, but I have been selling sneakers online for over 21 years. The type of sneakers that are featured in the shop are ones that are in high demand, vintage, or bring feelings of nostalgia to my customers. In other words, these are not sneakers that you’ll find at your local brick and mortar retail store today.
Our typical customers are people that truly love sneakers. They place an emphasis on strategically adding new pairs to their collection, even though they probably have enough sneakers to last them their entire lifetime already. While sneaker collecting is not a new thing, within recent years it has become more mainstream, with athletes, celebrities, and Fortune 500 companies jumping on board. Of course, social media is a huge amplifying factor as well.
Prior to launching 513 Kicks, selling sneakers online would bring in some money for me on a sporadic basis - $100 one month, $500 the next. Now, after almost two years, the average profit per month is around $2,000. The biggest shift came through branding my selling efforts as “513 Kicks” as opposed to just another guy that loves sneakers, and sells them occasionally. This added a layer of credibility that has resulted in me making new connections, easily obtaining new inventory with large profit potential, and much more.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Growing up I was a huge Michael Jordan fan. The 90s were dominated by the Chicago Bulls (except when Michael decided to play baseball), and I soaked it all in. Being such a fan of MJ, I would always notice what shoes he was wearing on the court. Naturally, I had to have whatever pair he was wearing. At this point, the Air Jordan line was already well-established in the market, but nothing compared to what we see today.
Do not let someone else determine your success. It can be easy to look at similar businesses and make assumptions that they are better than yours, causing you to get discouraged.
I have vivid memories of going to a local sneaker store, typically Just For Feet, with my dad. If anyone remembers this store, they were famous for having a basketball hoop inside. This meant that you could take your new kicks for a spin before walking out of the door. It was simply the best.
The idea to resell sneakers was not something that I created, by any means, but it is safe to say that I’ve been doing this longer than most. My ultimate motivation to start selling sneakers was to fund my own sneaker collecting habit. It all started when I was 10 years old. I would beg my dad to take me to the mall so that I could get a new pair, either for myself or to resell and make a profit. This trend repeated for years, and my business grew along the way. At the time, around the year 2000, most of my business was done through buying and selling on eBay and also sneaker message boards, like NikeTalk.
After selling a pair or two, I quickly realized that there was potential to make a good amount of money reselling sneakers, especially for someone that was 10 years old. As you can imagine, a 10-year-old kid does not have a lot of opportunities to generate consistent income, so this was something that I took advantage of. While most of my classmates were playing video games, I was sourcing new inventory and building a profitable business. These efforts, almost 20 years ago, helped to set the foundation of 513 Kicks.
Today, 513 Kicks has experienced great growth, but it is still what it always has been, a side hustle that produces income to supplement my more traditional job, a Director of Operations at a marketing agency.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Fortunately, with my business, I did not have to go through all of the hoops that are required when designing, prototyping, and manufacturing a new product. My business is simply taking manufactured goods (sneakers) and strategically selling them to the right people at the right prices.
You must have a passion for growing your business, whatever it might be - selling sneakers, providing services, etc. The honeymoon phase can wear off quickly and that is when some people throw in the towel.
The law of supply and demand is a huge factor in the secondary sneaker reselling market. As a result, it is crucial to know what you’re selling, and where you’re going to sell it. Sourcing inventory that will sell for a profit requires a significant amount of research before you spend a dollar on anything. In the case of sneakers, before buying a pair to resell, I check the comparable sales (if applicable) to determine the current average sale price and overall market demand. Back in the early 2000s, this was not an easy process. I relied on completed eBay sales primarily, and then actual one to one conversations that I had online with other sneaker enthusiasts.
Today, the process of checking comparable sales is much easier with the addition of businesses like StockX into the marketplace. Although, true sneaker resellers know that the data that is gathered on StockX is only a piece of what you should consider when sourcing smartly.
It is important to check all of the marketplaces that you’re active on, because the demand and ultimately, the average sale price can fluctuate greatly.
When I first started out on this adventure, my startup costs were virtually non-existent, and that was great because I was a 10-year-old kid with limited capital. I relied on my parents to drive me back and forth to the mall and post office, and I used free shipping supplies from the post office to distribute sneakers across the country.
In 2017, when I officially launched 513 Kicks, I did have startup costs, but they were minimal. I was able to leverage my own skills and expertise in the areas of marketing, website design, and development to offset costs significantly.
Instead of having to pay someone thousands of dollars to design and launch my eCommerce site, I did it myself. There are also free or low-cost options in the market (Shopify, Wix, etc.) but I wanted a more customizable platform, so I built everything on WordPress.
The actual costs tended to fluctuate and grow as business scaled up, but generally speaking these are the main areas where investment was required:
- Website hosting
- Website domain registration
- Shipping supplies (boxes and tape)
- Marketing materials (i.e. business cards, shirts)
- Cost of inventory (sneakers)
- Cost of storing inventory (i.e. storage unit)
Again, I was able to offset all of the website design and development, social media profile creation and management, and ongoing marketing strategy as a result of doing everything myself.
Describe the process of launching the business.
As a result of my background, website design and development is something that I enjoy and I knew that I could handle this effort without outsourcing anything. I built the website using WordPress and an eCommerce theme as a starting point. Then I spent several hours over the course of a few weeks building out the site with custom branding, content, and products.
I chose WordPress over several other options, such as Shopify, because I wanted to have complete control over every website aspect. I am an experienced digital marketer that has a passion for search engine optimization (SEO) and WordPress allows for complete customization, while Shopify does not. My overall goal was to have 513Kicks.com appear near the top of the Google search results for top terms, in an effort to grow the business organically with no advertising costs.
Since I did all of the website development work myself, the costs were very low. In some cases, it might make more sense for entrepreneurs to use something like Shopify and just pay a monthly fee, instead of doing all of the development themselves.
I launched the site in June 2017, and I received a handful of sales that month. To gain traction quickly, I leveraged my existing network on social media, which is comprised of thousands of shoe-loving people. I announced the launch of 513 Kicks and it generated thousands of website visitors the first week, and hundreds of comments and shares on Facebook. It was nice to see that people will go out of their way to promote and support a new business, even if it isn’t financially.
Lesson learned: Launching a new business requires a ton of time, effort, and in some cases, money. It is crucial to do your homework first, and estimate what it is going to take to make the launch happen. In my case, money was not a factor, but significant time and effort were required. It was important for me to carve the necessary time into my schedule each week to ensure that I was working towards my ultimate goal of launching my business. Consistency is key, and I found that if I stuck to my plan and put the time in, that the results followed.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Since launching 513Kicks.com, I’ve been able to grow my monthly sales as a result of doing everything efficiently and intentionally.
My ultimate goal is to provide the sneakers people want at the best prices. Will I always have the lowest price? No. That’s not a problem, because the shopping experience with 513 Kicks is a differentiating factor.
513 Kicks Customers Receive :
- 100% authentic products
- Fast shipping - worldwide
- Responsive communication
- 15% discount on a future order
Although the above items seem fairly basic, most sneaker boutiques and online shops consistently fail to deliver. My customers also receive a handwritten thank you note with each order. I really do appreciate every customer, whether they spend $50 or $500, and a quick note is just one way that I show my appreciation.
How I Increased My Sales
There are three major channels that drive my sales - Google organic search (SEO), social media, and email newsletters.
In order to have my website to appear near the top of the Google search results, I placed a strong emphasis on SEO.
Each page has unique title tags, meta descriptions, and structured data markups. This allows Google to crawl and index my website and rank it appropriately in the search results.
As a result of this work, I’ve grown my organic traffic from zero to over 2,000 visitors a month. Over 80% of this traffic is from new visitors, and ultimately new potential customers.
It comes as no surprise that people buy products on social media. After launching my website, the goal was to identify the best way to reach my target market on social media. This was an easy effort as a result of my personal connection to the sneaker community on social media.
Since launch, I’ve been able to leverage sneaker collecting Facebook groups to grow my monthly sales. These groups are a perfect collection of people that want the exact products that I’m selling, and it is free to reach these people - it doesn’t get any better.
I am a member of 20+ sneaker-related Facebook groups (see my favorites below). The typical interaction in these groups features people making “want to buy” (WTB) posts and people posting pairs that they have for sale. Since I have such a wide-variety of pairs in my inventory, I often find myself responding quickly to “WTB” posts when the desired pairs match something that I have for sale.
Similarly, I frequently make “for sale” posts within the groups. The most important thing to consider is the audience of the groups. For example, if I have several pairs of LeBron James shoes for sale, I would get more engagement and sales by posting them in a LeBron-specific sneaker Facebook group.
Here is an example of a typical “WTB” post:
Email marketing, love it or hate it, works. It is a low-cost way to reach past customers, and promote future sales. I use MailChimp because it is easy to use and it is free (up to 2,000 subscribers).
All customers get added to MailChimp automatically, but I also have a series of email opt-in giveaways on my website that has helped me grow my email list from zero to nearly 5,000 within a year.
The email opt-in boxes (built using Sumo) collect the person’s email address in exchange for something of value to them. Here are a few examples that work well for me:
Free shipping: Give me your email, and I give you free shipping ($15 value).
Free sneaker keychain: If you love sneakers, you’ll love one of these.
Once the emails are collected, they are automatically added to a new list within my MailChimp account and they will receive future marketing emails.
This process has significantly grown my email subscribers and sales tied to email campaigns. One bonus of using a service like MailChimp is that you are able to see total revenue generated per email campaign, which helps determine overall effectiveness.
When trying to grow a new business I think it is crucial to try new things and let the data drive future actions. Building out a variety of channels (SEO, email marketing, etc.) that drive traffic and sales is a great way to quickly grow your business, and provide long term stability.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
After almost two years since launching, I am happy to say that 513 Kicks is a profitable business. My profit goal for 2019 is $2,000 per month, and everything is trending perfectly right now. This year’s goal is more than double my average monthly profit in 2018.
75% of my sales come through 513Kicks.com, the remaining 25% is spread across in-person meetings with local buyers and online marketplaces like StockX, GOAT, and eBay. Diversification has been key to the growth over the last year and it is going to continue to play a key role in 2019 and beyond.
I am still running everything myself at this time, but this could change later this year as business continues to increase. This is not my full-time job and I don’t want it to be, but I do want to continue to promote the growth year over year.
I typically spend about 1 hour per day (during the week) working on fulfilling orders and promoting business growth (adding new products, scheduling social media posts, etc.). On the weekend, I rarely spend time working on the business because I greatly value time with my wife and young children.
When I first started out, most of my inventory came from people that I knew locally here in Cincinnati. I would sell their sneaker collections and take a small percentage of the final sale price (consignment business model). Lately, within the last 6 months I have been moving more towards business model that involves buying pairs outright upfront from people.
This has led to higher margins for me, but it does require upfront cash. A balance between consignment and buyouts has proven to be successful so far and I will continue this into the future. The goal is to grow the business, while taking calculated risks along the way.
Most importantly, I want to make sure that I enjoy what I’m doing every single day - right now, life is great.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
During the process of launching this business, it has become increasingly clear how important goal setting really is, both personally and professionally. Taking the time to set goals is something that people often do not do, and I was in this group until recently.
Since this is a true “side hustle” for me, time management is something that I’ve had to focus on closely. I have a traditional day job, a family (with three children under the age of 5), and this business among other things. I get up everyday around 5am and each hour of my day is scheduled. Without this schedule in place there is no way that I would be able to manage everything.
If I could go back…
I only have one true regret so far when it comes to how I’ve built this business. Initially, I was using a popular payment processor (Stripe), and I got burned once and then again. I should have switched after the first incident, but I didn’t.
Based on my personal experiences, the Stripe payment gateway is prone to fraud and stolen credit card payments. The chargeback process on Stripe greatly favors the buyer, and this leaves the seller with a negative balance and missing inventory. While my financial losses were small, the lessons learned are great. Take quick action and trust your gut.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I am a firm believer that investing in the right tools makes a big difference in the way that a business can scale and grow, efficiently. Here are the tools that are most important to my business (several are free):
- WordPress - website framework - FREE
- WooCommerce - eCommerce platform - FREE
- WPEngine - website hosting
- Cloudflare - website performance (CDN, SSL, etc.) - FREE
- Hootsuite - social media management (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) - FREE
- Sumo - email list building - FREE
- Drift - live chat functionality on website - FREE
- MailChimp - email newsletter management - FREE
- Google Docs ** ** - inventory management and profitability tracking - ** FREE**
- Google Analytics - track website traffic and more - FREE
- SEMrush - website SEO dashboard
- Ahrefs - website SEO dashboard
- PayPal - payment processing
- USPS or UPS - shipping services
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
One book that I finished within the last year was,* *Your Best Year Ever, A 5-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals, by Michael Hyatt. This book is a quick read (or listen) and it provides actionable items that anyone implement to help them reach their goals. The concepts can apply to your personal life, work life, entrepreneurs, and more.
The popular podcast, How I Built This, hosted by Guy Raz is always a fun listen. I’ve been inspired by several of the stories that are told, and I am also able to draw parallels between these successful companies and 513 Kicks, despite the large gap in yearly earnings.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
There are plenty of tips out there for entrepreneurs that are extremely helpful. A few that have proven to be the most impactful for me are:
- You must have a passion for growing your business , whatever it might be - selling sneakers, providing services, etc. The honeymoon phase can wear off quickly and that is when some people throw in the towel. If creating a successful business is a core passion then this will help push you through the hard times and help you reach your goals.
- Do not let someone else determine your success. It can be easy to look at similar businesses and make assumptions that they are better than yours, causing you to get discouraged. This happened to me at several points during the first year, but I was able to use it as motivation. Plus, an outsider’s view is not a complete one, so all you can do is focus on growing your business and not worry about anyone else.
On a similar note, it is important to visualize what success looks like for your business before you get started, and after. It can be easy to get caught up in the day to day operations and neglect to do quarterly planning (at a minimum) for your business.
“If you don’t know where you’re going how will you know when you get there?” I tell myself this all of the time, and I’m not sure if I heard it somewhere, or if it is a mashup of things that I’ve picked up over the years.
At the beginning of each year, I review my overall profitability and other business key performance indicators (KPIs) to set strong goals for the year. When setting goals, I push to make them all S-M-A-R-T-E-R.
Your Best Year Ever, A 5-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals, by Michael Hyatt
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
As of now, I am able to handle the daily operations of running 513 Kicks. I do strongly believe that if I want to reach the goals that I’ve set for 2019, I will need some assistance with taking product photos, uploading products to my website, and managing my social media channels to drive purchases.
I am also looking to create a “sourcing” team here in Cincinnati that would help to acquire new inventory to sell. All of these positions would be part-time, and paid hourly or per completed task (i.e. products uploaded to the website).
Where can we go to learn more?
- Website: https://www.513kicks.com
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kicks513/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/513_kicks/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/513Kicks
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/513-kicks/about/
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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