Nazr El-Scari, founder of A Sneakerhead’s Paradise – a company he originally started while only a senior in high school, always shared a love for sneakers but as kid found access to his favorite shoes limited. A Sneakerhead’s Paradise, the current iteration of which was conceived in 2018 under the guidance and help from the Baker Institute at Lehigh University, is a unique subscription based platform that aims to provide the hottest kicks in the sneaker game at affordable prices.
What does “entrepreneurship” mean to you?
NE: To me entrepreneurship means a few things. It means being able to have an unusual ability to pull insights from things we do and interact with every day in order to find new ways to improve it. It also means having the ability to create opportunities for those in search of opportunities, whether that be a job or a chance to collaborate on an idea. In more broad terms, I believe entrepreneurship is the business form of artistic creativity, creating something from nothing.
How did your company come to be? (describe the a-ha moment that lead to its conception)
NE: In the summer following my junior year of high school, I had begun to get more into sneaker reselling. As I learned more about the market, I realized that it was not only unfair but left buyers extremely unprotected from people who wanted to take advantage of their lack of knowledge. Furthermore, I noticed that a large number of people who missed on sneakers on release day who actually wanted to wear the shoes weren’t able to get them at retail value and couldn’t afford them at resale value. The market had moved away from collecting and wearing sneakers and more towards buying to resell. Through these insights I began to birth the first versions of A Sneakerhead’s Paradise and have been continuously trying to innovate on the original core ideas.
How has your business changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
NE: Since the beginning, this business has always been an online platform and since we are still a small team with no large offices, we have been pretty flexible to the changes that occurred due to COVID-19. More importantly though, COVID-19 allowed my team and I to slow down and strategize about our next steps and future plans for the platform.
What is your proudest and darkest moment so far?
NE: One of the toughest and darkest moments I’ve faced with this venture was when I first started and put $10,000 into sneakers I never got, and put almost $20,000 into an app that never did what I had requested. Those moments taught me a lot about the fact that not everyone who wants to work with you has your best interest at heart. What made it more difficult was that I felt like I had let those who were supporting me down by making naive decisions.
One of my favorite and proudest moments was when I officially brought on my first investor. Jamie Flinchbaugh was someone I had met through the amazing Lehigh University Baker Institute staff at a pitch night held on campus. Ever since then, he has been a huge supporter of the business and an unparalleled guide as we navigate the complexities of the business world.
How is your company changing the landscape?
NE: My company is changing the landscape of sneaker reselling by bringing the hobby aspect back into sneaker collecting. While many platforms are concerned with charging the highest prices, we aim to provide an experience that serves sneaker collectors of all financial backgrounds while also bringing to light new influences in the sneaker culture.
What do you wish you knew when you started? Is there anything you would do differently?
NE: There are only two things I really wish I knew when I first started and that is how much it would actually cost to get a business off the ground and how to code my own app from scratch. While I did create the first few versions of websites we had, I was limited in my knowledge and capability to really put all my aspirations into the platform at once. However, there isn’t anything I would do differently. I learned everything at the right time, and since then I put each new thing I learn to use as it relates to the business.
What advice/credo do you live by as you grow the business / what is your professional and personal mission statement?
NE: My personal/professional mission statement is “Closed mouths don’t get fed.” Just because an opportunity isn’t there doesn’t mean it can’t be created. Just because no one has done it before doesn’t mean it can’t be done. You not only have to believe in your dreams, but you must actively sneak them, even when the initial answer is No.
Where do you find inspiration when faced with challenges?
NE: When faced with challenges I find my inspiration within myself. When a difficult situation arises, I am reminded that entrepreneurship is a journey that isn’t always a straight line and that these challenges are only going to make me better today than I was the day before.
What does “success” look like for you? What do you think will help you achieve it?
NE: Success for me looks like selling this company for at least $90M, which is the lowest amount a sneaker resale company has sold for, or being able to build this company up to be valued at at least $500M. I believe the biggest key to achieving this success is building a team that trusts and believes in my goals and visions for this company.
Has personal or professional “success” changed for you since the COVID-19 pandemic?
NE: A week and a half before COVID, I had just agreed to terms with my investor. Once COVID shut everything down, I thought we would see a terrifying decline in sneaker demand. Surprisingly, after the first full month of COVID, the sneaker market began to bounce back towards and then surpassing its original values for certain sneakers in the market we had previously acquired. Also, as I mentioned before it gave my team and I the perfect opportunity to slow things down, cut costs, and really strategize next steps and future plans.
What’s it like to work alone or with your partners? What advice do you have for fellow entrepreneurs about building and leading teams?
NE: I love this question! When I first started this venture, I was super afraid to work closely with anyone because I feared my ideas would be stolen and left me high and dry (the Facebook story is the reason for this thinking.). Even though I enjoyed working alone I became increasingly overwhelmed with the responsibilities and timeframes of having to get things done in business. However, once I started to bring people on and trust them with tasks I was initially afraid to give people, I realized how much more fun having a business was. Therefore, my best piece of advice for fellow entrepreneurs about building and leading teams is with the proverb “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Find people who you believe in and who believe in you.
Many entrepreneurs continue to perfect their daily routines to support their work and greater vision; would you mind sharing your morning routine or a regular ritual that grounds your work each day? How has it changed in recent months?
NE: A regular ritual that grounds me is meditation which luckily does not take anything more than a quiet space so it has not changed in recent months.
What keeps you motivated during this time?
NE: What keeps me motivated during this time is the fact that no matter how difficult things during this time may be or feel they are not forever.
What kind of an entrepreneur do you want to be known as, as in, what do you want your legacy to be?
NE: The legacy I want to leave as an entrepreneur is one that shows I have achieved every single goal I set for myself and have used the resources I accumulated over the years of my success to give back to my community and provide opportunities for those who seek them.
What is a quote or some words of wisdom that help get you through the tough days?
NE: Some words of wisdom that help me get through the tough days are “the story is still being written.” To me this means that even if I take a detour, there is always a chance to reroute myself and get back on the path that I want to be on.
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