All Javez English wanted was a new motorcycle. Now he has a successful business selling high-demand, slightly used and new athletic shoes.
English sold his entire shoe collection for $2,500 but realized if he continued to buy and flip shoes for a few more months, he’d have more money when bikes were in season in April.
Many kids do it in school: They trade shoes with their friends and sell their maybe slightly smaller pairs or ones they simply don’t like anymore. But the 23-year-old English took it to a whole new level. He now has a bricks-and-mortar Thekikback store in Middletown and dreams of opening a second store at Christiana Mall within the next year.
He started simply, posting pictures on social media and driving all over north Delaware in his 1996 BMW hatchback. With two years of school at Wilmington University under his belt, he leveraged his growing social media presence (14.5K followers on Instagram @thekikback) using hashtags such as “#302Takeover”and “#Thekikback” to grow his brand.
But somewhere along the way, English says he “fell in love with selling shoes from the start” and never looked back.
He focuses on creating a “homie vibe” and believes that great customer service is the key to his success. Once he got too big to operate out of his car and needed more storage space, he chose his hometown of Middletown for a his new store on North Broad Street because of its central location. He says one of his biggest accomplishments was being featured on the MOT Facebook page for his Back to School Saturday Steal, on the M.O.T. Facebook page.
His business model focuses on families with growing kids. Customers can bring in high-quality used shoes — mostly ones that have beenn highly popular hot sellers names over the years — and sell them for cash or in-store credit.
Opening a physical location served two purposes: It was more practical to house his growing inventory and it provided customers with an actual place to try on the shoes and see how they look with a particular set of clothes.
“Every foot is different,” English explained. “It really helps customers to be able to come in and see how the shoe fits and looks on them.” The resale component helps English keep his supply stocked, and it makes it much easier for parents to stay on top of their children’s’ changing wardrobe needs. With sizes ranging from 4-14, the potential for repeat customers seems endless.
He builds word of mouth with quarterly Saturday Steals that provide customers with deals. One of the best deals English was able to give customers was a pair of used Yeezys for $5 (retail price about $220-plus+). They also gave out 100 free shirts with school supplies just for showing up to the event, no purchase necessary. The back-to-school event also included sales for the first 50 customers in line and up to 50% off the rest of the store.
Because his inventory is comprised of about 60% slightly used shoes and 40% new shoes that he gets at a discount from resellers (rather than buying direct from manufacturers who can dictate pricing), he acts as a private shoe vendor and can set his own prices. This bazaar-style business means his stock is always in flux. He’s had customers drive all the way from Virginia, and another customer waited outside for 26 hours in order to secure some of the great finds that English has in stock.
English said he hopes to open an additional store in Christiana Mall within the next year. “The sky’s the limit” he said with a smile on his face, . “I want to become the GameStop of shoes, only with much better customer service.”
He’s built his stock up to 750 pairs of shoes (from roughly 100 pairs two years ago.)
“I never did get that motorcycle,” English said, looking around at his customers, “but I got a store instead, so I guess I can’t complain.”
By Max Osborne