JOSH Luber started collecting trainers when he was just eight – and now he owns the world’s biggest website for reselling rare footwear and accessories.
The 40-year-old from Philadelphia started StockX, a “stock market” for rare trainers, handbags, watches and streetwear just two years ago and at the end of this month it’s expecting to reach an annual turnover of £777million.
“I’ve collected trainers since I was eight years old, and I still have trainers that I wore when I was 12 and 13,” the serial entrepreneur tells The Sun.
But he initially didn’t want to mix his passion for trainers with his entrepreneurial journey, so his previous start-ups had nothing to do with shoes.
“I’ve almost intentionally separated business and pleasure in my life,” he says.
In 2015, Josh was working as a strategist at computer giant IBM where he had started after he shut down his third tech start-up – but in his spare time he’d put together a price guide for rare trainers by using sales data on eBay.
At the time, eBay was still the largest marketplace for rare trainers and streetwear.
“If you’re a start-up guy and you start working for IBM, the first thing you do is you start working on something on the side,” Josh says.
By creating the price guide, “we were looking at data of what sneakers were actually worth and we understood their true market value”.
As the project, then called Campless, was gaining traction and people started using it, Josh talked to everybody in the trainers industry, but he couldn’t find a good match for who to work with.
But coincidentally, US businessman Dan Gilbert, 56, – who owns NBA basketball team Cleveland Cavaliers and founded Quicken Loans, the US’ biggest residential mortgage lender – was interested in creating something similar.
Gilbert – who had no connection to trainers – had been inspired by his son buying trainers on eBay and wanted to create a marketplace with less risks and where you as a buyer would know that you were paying a fair price.
Out of the blue Josh got an email from Dan Gilbert’s team asking him for a meeting.
Josh, who was surprised to hear from the billionaire businessman, prepared for the worst and didn’t expect it to lead to anything, he tells The Sun.
But it went so well that they flew Josh to Cleveland to meet Dan and then in February 2016, they founded their new company StockX.
It quickly became the world’s largest marketplace for sneakers and streetwear although it also sells products such as designer handbags and watches.
Josh now lives in Detroit with his two kids – six-year-old daughter named Fiona and three-year-old son named Javier – as well as his wife Patricia who works as an immigration attorney.
The kids are still too young to come with Josh on business trips, so with international expansion plans in the pipeline for StockX, he misses a lot of family time as he can’t always be home on weekends anymore, he says.
“Unfortunately that’s the trade-off… but fortunately there’s FaceTime and videos and things now.
“Had it not been for that, running this sort of business had been a lot more difficult,” Josh adds.
The best-selling trainers of 2018
THESE were the best-selling trainers between April and June this year, according to data from analytics firm NPD Group:
- Nike Tanjun (pictured) – from £35.47
- Nike Air Max 270 – from £84.95
- Nike Air Jordan XI Low – £169.95
- Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Core Ox – from £55
- Nike Air Huarache – from £56.47
- Nike Air Force 1 ’07 – from £52.47
- Nike Revolution – £34.95 (for older children)
- Nike Air Jordan X – £139.99
- Nike Kawa Slides – from £17.95
- Nike Benassi – from £18.47
The prices are for adults unless said otherwise and as seen on Nike’s, Foot Locker’s and Converse’s website.
Under the Quicken Loans family, there are around 130 companies so Dan is naturally also very busy and isn’t involved in the-day-day running of StockX.
“But I can message him anytime if I need him, and I think he’s proportionally more involved in StockX than any of the other companies,” Josh says.
Dan lives in Detroit with his wife Jennifer and their five children.
StockX makes its money by taking a cut of the final sale price from the seller.
These range from 9.5 per cent for trainers, 9.9 per cent for watches and 14.5 per cent for handbags, although all product categories are also subject to an additional 3 per cent fee for payment processing as well as a £3.90 seller fee.
Unlike eBay where thousands of different prices can be set by sellers for the same products, StockX only allows sellers to list one price they’re willing to sell the product for – and there’s no negotiating.
StockX also provides data of the current and historical value of the shoes, giving buyers an idea on the shoes’ true market value.
Once there’s a match between an anonymous buyer and seller, StockX deals with the rest.
In other words, the website “essentially takes this usual messy experience of a marketplace into a very simple e-commerce experience,” Josh says.
The website has eight million users every month, and processes an average of £1.56million in sales per day.
But it’s not just in the US, buyers and sellers from all over the world are logging on to trade rare footwear and accessories.
Josh now has 350 to 400 pairs of trainers, and he says his passion came from growing up in the US while Michael Jordan played basketball in the 1980s until 2003.
He said: “I also played basketball and I always wanted Air Jordans, but my mum would never buy me some.
“As soon as I got some money, I bought Air Jordans myself.”
Today he has three favourite pair of trainers and they are Nike Air Max 90, Air Jordan One and Air Tech Challenge II.
Josh is more of a buyer than a seller, but says he has also re-sold trainers if they’re the wrong size or if he doesn’t use them as much as he thought he would.
Recently he re-sold a pair of LeBron 6 Miami, which has sold for between £205 and £348 in the past year according to StockX’s data.
Right now the website has around 75,000 unique items on the website, including flip-flops from £16 up to bids of £19,779 for a pair of Nike Air Mag from ‘Back To The Future’.
The trainers are actually the most expensive pair of shoes StockX has ever sold on the website, as they sold for around £31,300.
The eye-watering price tag is partially explained by the fact that Nike only has released 87 pairs of the shoe.
Since its launch, the business has raised over £39million from investors, including celebrities such as actor Mark Wahlberg and rapper Eminem.
The company’s growing so quickly, its biggest worry is finding enough staff, Josh says.
“We have around 530 staff members right now, but we need to hire another 1,000 tomorrow.”
“You can only find, meet and hire people so quickly”, Josh says.
“But it’s a fun situation to be in. Every Monday we have another 10-20 people joining.”
To guarantee that the items being sold are legit Stocx asks sellers to send them to an authentication centre so that their staff can check them.
Once they’ve been verified they are then sent on to the buyer.
It currently has three centres in the US and earlier this year it opened its first UK-based one in west London.
But despite the billion dollar idea, Josh hasn’t let the success get to his head: “I’m very fortunate to be able to build a business with Dan Gilbert…. I’d do it for free.”
Learning from success
HERE are Josh’s two main tips to others who are keen to start a business:
- Do something: Don’t expect to reach success overnight, you just put one foot in front of the other. It’s better than doing nothing. We didn’t build a billion dollar company overnight, we just took data that was already out there.
- Talk to everybody: Don’t be afraid that anyone’s going to steal your idea, by talking to people you get feedback and find people to work with. The reality is that ideas are worthless, the execution is what matters.
Interested in starting your own business? Here’s how a a dad-of-one converted an old American school into a flourishing restaurant business.
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A mum-of-two’s wanted to spend more time with the kids – her flower business now has a turnover of £55k.