A little over a year ago, a few months before moving to Dubai with his family, Kevin Ghassemi won a pair of Air Jordan 1 Retro High Royal Toe at a sale raffle.
Ghassemi, 17, who was in Stockholm at the time, paid the Swedish crown equivalent of Dh800 for the in-demand trainers and sold them the next day for Dh1,200.
“I didn’t really know much about sneakers, but my friends were obsessed. And when I realised I could make a profit out of it, I was hooked,” he tells The National. “I started entering as many raffles as I could and slowly started building a collection.”
Soon, the Instagram page @snkrbubble was born, where Ghassemi would post news and updates about trainers, and began to build a following.
By the time he moved to the UAE a year ago, Ghassemi was already entrenched in the world of trainer resale, an obsessive and fast-growing group Cowen Equity Research recently referred to as “emerging alternative asset class”. The company estimates that the resale market for trainers could potentially reach $30 billion by 2030.
In Dubai, Ghassemi found an even bigger community than the one in Sweden and, evidently with more cash to spare.
“Dubai is known for its luxury lifestyle and this is the perfect market for it. The amount of sneakers I’ve sold is an example,” he says. “Now there are multiple stores that have the sneaker drops and raffles, [so] it’s easier to get hold of a pair. That’s an advantage for me and makes it easier for me to purchase.”
Since January, Ghassemi says he’s made sales worth Dh600,000 from roughly 400 pairs of trainers, with a “six-figure profit”.
To make sure he’s on the right side of the law, he’s also registered his Instagram page as a commercial entity as well as the related website, snkrbubble.com.
“The Limited Liability Company allows me to do everything on a professional level and it allows me to trade with stores and sell at high quantity,” he explains. “Also, in case there are issues with fakes and payments not coming in, I have legal recourse. And people can’t use my name or replicate what I do.”
Ghassemi, who’s pursuing a diploma in business under the International Baccalaureate programme, says he set up the company with a little help from his father, who runs an online marketing firm.
He admits it’s not been easy to get the company up and running.
“I’m the owner and founder and I’m the only employee for now,” he says with a laugh. “I also have to constantly talk to clients, purchase stock, update the Instagram page and build the website, while also studying.”
“But the advantage of a small company operating at home is that I have almost no operational cost besides purchasing and marketing,” he adds. “So it makes me unique compared to other bigger resellers. My prices are significantly lower than anyone else.”
The most valuable trainer he’s sold is a pair of Jordan 1 Retro High Dior which he bought for Dh18,000 and traded for Dh33,000.
The limited-edition collaboration between the Jordan brand and French fashion house Dior sold out in minutes when it launched in 2020, despite the not-so-pocket-friendly price tag of $2,200 (Dh8,079) for the high-top version, and $2,000 (Dh7,345) for the low. The shoes are now going for as much as $6,745 on reselling website StockX.
“I’ve sold five pairs of the Jordan Diors. A lot of people reach out to me and they know that I just cash them out instantly,” Ghassemi says. “Also my prices are very fair compared to the competition.”
He says he knows which shoes will sell well “based on experience”.
“Now that I have sold more than 400 pairs, I know what works and what doesn’t. I know which sizes sell more than the others. So it’s all about knowledge. It takes a lot of time and experience to understand what’s good and be able to meet the demand.
“The Jordan 1s are always the most popular, in any colour, as well as the latest Yeezys.”
Ghassemi is also well aware a booming marketplace will attract imitation products.
“There are a lot of fakes, and they’re getting better and better. The amount of fakes that are out there and how many people actually fall for it is crazy,” he says. “For me, it comes down to experience. I put a lot of time into a pair when it comes in. I have a UV light and I go through the boxes with great detail. And if there is anything suspicious, I take them to the store or to other experts.
“Since I started, I haven’t had a single fake come into my possession.”
Encouraged by his success with shoes, the young entrepreneur is now expanding his business to include rare watches.
“I have around 10 watches currently in the inventory, with prices ranging from Dh50,000 to Dh140,000. People that spend Dh30,000 on shoes can spend Dh100,000 on watches as well. So I have the customer base,” he says.
The plan, he says, is to grow that collection, and eventually include luxury cars.
“I haven't done badly considering it all started as a hobby, and I have many plans. But right now, I want to focus on what I’m good at, which is sneakers and then go from there. I am only 17 after all and yet to get a license,” he says.
His parents are fully supportive of his growing business.
“They were sceptical at first and wanted me to focus on my studies. But they are happy as long as I keep the balance between the business and school,” he says. "I get good grades and I am making good money. So it’s all about balance.”