Harlem Teen Raises $30,000 Without Investors to Start a Business the World Has Never Seen

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What do you do during your spare time if you’re a 16-year-old high school sophomore? Video games? Partying with friends? If you’re Chase Reed, you’re taking your passion for shoes and starting the world’s first sneaker pawn shop.

“Young kids don’t have jewelry. They don’t have cars,” said Troy Reed (Chase Reed’s Father) to the New York Post. “But what they do have is the thousands of dollars worth of sneakers in their house.”

The idea for the business came up one night when Chase asked to borrow $50 from his dad after he’d already given him money to spend on a new pair of shoes. His dad refused and said he could only have the money if he let him hold his shoes until after he returns the borrowed $50. It then dawned on them both that this could be a good business idea.

From there, most young entrepreneurs would try and go raise seed funding from friends and family or maybe even outright try and pitch angel investors. But not Chase. In order to get his first initial seed money, he took a huge gamble and sold his whole sneaker collection, raking in a grand total of $30,000. Since then, the company has been open for a little over a month and they’ve already been featured on Bloomberg, HYPEBEAST, Metro and more.

The way the business works is that pawners who need quick cash will go into the store and get his/her shoes evaluated for a price. Once a value is agreed upon, the pawner exchanges his shoes for the cash. If he/she wants them back, he’ll need to pay back what was given to him, plus $20 in storage fees. If however, there is a buyer for the shoes, the pawner is then notified as they have the right of first refusal. If the sneakers sell for more than the original value, then the pawner keeps 80% of the profits and the rest goes to the store

We recently had the pleasure of catching up with Chase Reed over the phone. Here we talk about how he balances school and his business, whether he wants to go to college, and the most important business lesson he’s learned from his dad.

It’s said that you’re balancing school and running this business at the same time. How do you manage to balance both?

“Well, it’s more of like a go to school first and then business comes after type of thing. So like today, I went to school and then after I went to the store, so that’s how it works. So when I get home, I do my homework and then after that I can go work on sneakers and everything else. It’s like a redundant schedule. It’s just the way I setup my schedule that I just have to make time for both, cause school is important and sneakers are something that I love.”

What’s more important to your father? Would he rather see you finish high school or take this business to the next level?

“Well school, no question. It’s like you have to finish school. School matters more than the business right now and that’s how it’s always going to be. However, of course he wants to see me do well in both. He wants me to do well in school and take the business to the next level, but school definitely comes first.”

What has your dad taught you about building a business so far?

“So far, he’s taught me more about negotiating, how to attract people to your brand, branding yourself, and how to make what you love into something big. So I think that’s probably the biggest lessons he’s taught me so far in business.”

What about just on life in general? What’s the hardest lesson your dad has taught you?

“Probably ‘the work you put in, is what you get as an outcome.’ I think that’s probably the biggest lesson all around. It contributes to everything, whether it’s a relationship with your family or business type of relationship. Like what you put in is what you get, so I think if you put in a certain amount of hours into Sneakers, that’s the outcome you’re going to get. If you don’t put any effort in school, then you’re not going to get anything out of school. You’re making your job harder for yourself.”

You say school is currently your number one priority. Say after your graduate high school, your business is ultra successful. Is college something you’re planning on going to no matter what happens?

“It’s the same thing with high school and college. School still comes first. Maybe after I get my Bachelor’s degree, then we can sort of arrange something, but I’m going to at least finish my first four years of college and get a degree.”

It’s pretty cool that you’re so firm on that belief because more and more people nowadays are saying that you don’t need College if you’re going to try to be an entrepreneur.

“I don’t think that’s true. Like, say your business doesn’t work out for you at all, say after a while, this is not something that you love or you get tired of it. You’re going to need something to fall back on. If you don’t have a degree, then where are you going go? Today, you can’t really go anywhere without a degree.”

Do you have any ideas of what you want to major in when you go to College?

“I’m not sure ‘cause I’m not heading to college yet, but I’d probably say Business Management, Design, or Photography. Those are the main ones for right now that I’m really interested in.“

Obviously you own a ton of shoes right now, is there a pair of shoes that you don’t currently own but like wished you did?

“It’s probably a pair of Airmax. Some people call them “Back to the Futures,” the original name is the Nike Airmax. So I think those are probably the biggest ones. They’re like a charity type of shoe so they were auctioned off and everything. So I think probably that’s the main one. I’m also a size fourteen and that’s probably the hardest shoe to find a size. I think they cost around $7000.”

What’s your long term plan for you and your company right now?

“My long term plan at this moment is probably to just finish high school and then after that, expand the business to California, Atlanta, like the main cities in America. Like just expand everywhere so we can be more of a worldwide thing… if other business decisions come up later on, that would be something that I would look in to. Also I’d like to start a clothing line of my own.”

Since you’re in school during the day, you can’t exactly work on your business full-time for now. Because of that, you’re dad runs it for you when you’re not around. What’s the dynamic like between you and him? How much power does he give you when it comes to company direction?

“Well, today is my last day in school so I have the whole summer to go, to be in the store and take a part of everything. But I think with our decisions based on the business right now it’s more  of a fifty-fifty kind of thing. So, any decision he makes he comes to me first and then we’ll discuss it and make the decision from there. That’s how we handle it.”

Check out Chase’s business at www.sneakerpawnusa.com

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