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Meet the Teenager Upending the Secondary Sneaker Market

Courtesy of Zach Brooker

In 1984 Nike released the first edition of its must-have and culturally iconic Air Jordan sneaker. They sold for $65. As I write this article, an original pair of original Air Jordan's sits for sale on eBay for nearly $5,000.

Zach Brooker is in most ways a typical high school junior. The 17-year-old Varsity basketball, carving out ample time to maintain his 4.0 GPA, keeping up on the ESPN scoreline, and staying centered with daily yoga. This driven young man, however, has little time for muchelse--as he understands that success is earned, and not given.

What differentiates Brooker from his typical peers is his innate ability to balance traditional teenage attributes while cultivating and growing into his role as an avid and innovative entrepreneur. One who has created a niche for himself that is perfectly aligned with his passions and the reality of his busy student-athlete daily schedule. Certainly many elements of his life mirror a typical teenager, but his relentless work ethic, intrinsic motivation, unparalleled grit and ability to juggle the demands of being a high performing athlete, top-notch academic and innovative entrepreneur, that separate him from the pack.

Six years ago, at age 11, Brooker began to dabble in the secondary market of designer and trendy sneakers, when, with the help of his mother, he sold an old pair of retro Air Jordan's. This simple task of researching, pricing, listing and selling these shoes seemed like a simple one-off at the time but would eventually change his life. Although young, it unequivocally sparked the flame of entrepreneurship and quickly developed into a high-yield hobby, turned lucrative side-hustle. And at that moment, he stumbled onto something he could do without seeming like work, which to any entrepreneur, is the Holy Grail of opportunity.

As Zach grew older, he sought to convert his lucrative hobby into an even more fruitful business. On a typical weekend, his mom would drop him off with about 40 pairs of shoes, that he would buy, sell, trade at a local trade show or swap meet. In relying on intuitive business skills and strong interpersonal skills, Brooker was typically able to free up 50% of his product and earn a profit of $2,000 in a day. Not bad for a middle school student. From there he began to frequent sneaker trade shows in the Los Angeles area such as the Glendale Sneaker Exchange, Lace 'Em Up, and national events such as Sneaker Con.

Unlike other industries with more complex entry points, Zach was drawn to the secondary sneaker market because of its simplicity and the ease. He had all of the tools needed to become not only proficient in the marketplace, but establish a viable and profitable footprint. In fact, launching into this space only required a small initial financial investment. And while anyone can buy a pair of shoes and attempt to resell them, it takes a unique combination of tenacity, tech-savviness, and networking to claim your stake and earn a substantial income, all of which are key ingredients in the recipe of Brooker's success.

Brooker utilizes an array of strategies to maintain his presence and elevate his knowledge in the game. He frequents websites like Nike, Stock X, and Fight Club to monitor prices, supply, and demand, and acknowledges a site called Round 2 as being by far the best buy-sell retailer in the industry. And of course, like any teen, he is fluent and fully invested in social media, using Twitter and Instagram to not only form and foster positive business connections but to mine for real-time information relating to precise drop times and locations for highly coveted shoe releases. In fact, Brooker uses his own Instagram profile @dunksandkicks to promote, sell and engage with potential clients and business partners across the globe.

Brooker's expansion in the secondary shoe market has been equal parts organic and exponential. With the Initial cost of the shoes he purchases in the traditional market, he invests anywhere between $200 to $2,000 per pair. And while he didn't begin at that higher end price point, it is something he has learned to embrace as his opportunity and experience have expanded. Based on the demand of the product, he then carefully (yet quickly) evaluates market conditions which result in a determination as to sell immediately or hold inventory to allow for appreciation. On average, Brooker's profit margin is anywhere between 300%-400%, and the capital is reinvested into new inventory as he continually diversifies and expands his business model. What's more, Brooker donates a portion of his proceeds to the Children's Lifesaving Foundation, a Los Angeles based non-profit committed to transforming the lives of homeless and at-risk children.

Brooker has ascended quickly within this niche market by utilizing his immense sense of honesty and integrity, both of which are key factors when it comes to forming strong relationships. Synergetic business relationships are particularly integral in this industry as they result in trust, which in turn reliably increase one's level of inclusion when it comes to procuring drop dates, locations and customers willing to pay top dollar for these rare and must-have sneakers. Along the way, Zach has learned that hard way about giving toomuch too soon, whether it be trust, information or making hasty business decisions--and through that struggle, has settled in with trusted industry counterparts who coordinate efforts for the greater good.

Albeit younger than many with similar levels of success, Brooker offers up some marked advice for those coming up the ranks behind him. He urges secondary market sellers to take risks, which might mean selling something more quickly than preferred or investing in products that don't have the street-cred now but potentially will in the future. Just like any other marketplace, conditions and valuations will ebb and flow. He encourages sellers to go with the flow and execute savvy exchanges free from emotion while understanding that the law of averages will determine the health of their economic landscape.

As for his peers, they seem to think it's rather cool, and often benefit from the fact that he is positioned to access the latest and trendiest garb. And Zach Brooker is very much like any other teen. He works diligently to maintain that 4.0 GPA, fine-tune his jump shot, with the goal of attending an Ivy League school to compete as a member of the basketball team while pursuing a Business degree, and of course, maintaining his pulse on the secondary sneaker market. In the meantime, when you find yourself searching for that elusive sneaker, Zach Brooker's got you covered.