The sneakerhead culture is often misunderstood and dismissed for its extreme materialism. The chaotic consumerism, however, becomes trifling as shoe aficionados of every age gain imperative fundamentals in life, business, and relationships. Truth Han—a prominent member of the eccentric coterie—capitalized on his love for sneakers, which eventually lead to the birth of JMSneakers.com. I got the opportunity to sit down with the 24 year-old entrepreneur to talk about how he started his online website, how he stays relevant in an ever-expanding industry, and what he’s gained from the entire experience.
You jumped into the sneakerhead culture when you were in 7th grade. How did you get involved at such an early age?
It’s a funny story. I grew up in Mooresville, North Carolina and when I was in middle school, a new Rugged Warehouse opened up down the street from my house. My mom took me, and when I got there a found a pair of [Air Jordans] that I knew I could sell to this kid at my school. From there, it’s history. I quickly expanded my endeavors onto eBay, and a few years later I launched my site JMSneakers.com.
Were sneakers just a business endeavor or was it also a personal interest?
Oh, it was definitely a personal interest! Really, the only reason I kept on selling shoes and expanding my business was so I could fund my own addiction to shoes [laughs].
Tell me about how you started JMSneakers.
It was a long painstaking process. JMSneakers has gone through so many evolutions. Starting a business so young, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had to learn all the lessons of sales and capitalism the hard way. I think the worst part of the journey was dealing with fake merchandise. The shoes I sell are very exclusive but in high demand. Naturally, there will be a lot of fakes out there. I accidentally bought a bulk of Air Jordan XI, but they turned out all to be fake! I didn’t know at the time until an angry customer messaged me and demanded that I refund his purchase. I was totally okay with doing that, but the kick was that he was posting on all the sneaker forums that my business was illegitimate. That was hard to push past, but hey, I made it through.
Being a young entrepreneur, how were you able to balance work and personal life?
Most people ask me that, but the thing is that it really wasn’t all that difficult. I mean, don’t get me wrong—the business takes up the majority of my time. But I’ve always been good at multitasking and prioritizing.
My family helped a lot with keeping me in check. My parents are both traditional Asian parents, so academics were always a priority. They would never let me slack on my grades even if I was making a significant amount of money.
The majority of your business is active through the digital realm. How has modern technology and networking shaped your company?
Without modern technology, I would definitely not be as successful as I am. eBay especially helped with my business because I was able to build a broader clientele that wasn’t restricted by my geographical location. If I could only do business in the radius of North Carolina…well…it honestly wouldn’t have kept up.
Anyways, sneaker-specific forums and blogs like Nike Talk and Hype Beast also helped me build my business. I use to, and still do, contribute to those sites on a daily basis because it keeps me up to date with the latest releases. I’ve also met so many people on there that have become good friends and business associates. Most people on those sites have a common goal, and they’re all pretty open to share and connect because it’s a networking-heavy industry. It’s hard to succeed when you don’t know the right people.
When you first started JMSneakers, you were the sole employer calling all the shots. Now that the business has expanded, are you still solely responsible for the selective merchandise you carry?
I still do the majority of the work at JMSneakers. In the last year, I’ve hired three great employees that have honestly made my life less hectic. But still, JMSneakers is kind of like my baby. I built it from the ground up and it’s hard for me to let it go and hand it off to somebody else who may or may not care about it as much as I do.
I just came back from a three week trip in Europe where I went to Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, and Venice to choose and pick up inventory. I still make all the choices of what products and lines the site carries. I still haven’t met someone I trust enough to make those decisions. It’s a very finicky market and it takes years of following to be able to accurately predict what will be hot.
The majority of your inventory consists of Nike and Supreme products. Why these two brands?
I first started off only selling exclusive Air Jordans, which are produced by Nike. There’s no clear reason why I only carry Nike, I think it’s just a personal preference. I’ve never really liked Adidas or Reebok…I always just though Nike was cooler. With the Supreme, that was just a business expansion I couldn’t deny. Out of nowhere, this street wear brand got huge and everyone was going mad for Supreme. I like Supreme because they understood how to create demand for their otherwise simple products by building exclusivity and prestige around the label. Every Thursday the company releases limited quantities of new inventory, and I’m talking in mere seconds the whole lot will be sold out. On Thursday mornings, my whole team is glued to their computers, frantically filling out the purchase forms on the Supreme website. I mean, it’s so fast and crazy that most of the time we don’t even know what we ended up buying.
How do you sustain relevancy in the arduous industry?
It’s hard to because nowadays virtually anyone can start a business and run with it. I think the biggest difference is whether or not you understand how business works. I’m so thankful that my parents didn’t let me slack on my school and encouraged me to go to college and get my MBA in International Business. It taught me so many things that I use on a regular basis. The main thing I do to stay relevant is being active on my Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, along with contributing to blogs and forums. The connections I’ve made have also been great and helpful. We help each other out and rep each other because word of mouth is still so powerful.
A lot of people assume that I’ll just keep on doing this sneaker business because as of now it’s successful. You can’t become soft and complacent though. You have to constantly reevaluate and readapt because everything’s moving faster and faster. People get bored and disinterested so quickly that you have to constantly be a few steps ahead of them.
What’s the best and worst part of your job?
The best part of my job might be the fact that I work for myself. It’s great in some ways because I get all the profit and the freedom, but at the same time, it’s a ton of pressure and responsibility. If I fuck up, then I pay the consequences. But all in all, I’ve gained so much from starting and building this business and being a part of the sneakerhead culture. You end up learning lessons that are applicable in all aspects of your life, especially relationships.
Man…thinking about it now, there are so many fantastic things about my job. Like I told you before, I just came back from a trip to Europe. I get to travel all over the world doing business and doing crazy things, and I’m not even 25 yet. That’s pretty incredible. Plus, I get to work with some of the best, most genuine people.
I’m trying to think about the worst part of my job and I’m having a hard time coming up with anything. Seriously, I’ve got it good and there’s not a whole lot to complain about. If anything, it’d be the fact that it’s a 24/7 job. There’s never any real off time where I’m not doing business. Even when I’m at dinner with my girlfriend, I’m usually on my iPhone doing something business related. It can get tiring sometimes, but hey, I’d rather put up with this than work a 9-5 job.
You have your own personal shoe collection that you’ve been curating for years. How many shoes do you actually have?
[laughs] Well…honesty, too many to count. I stopped counting when I got into the triple digits.
For more information, visit JMSneakers