That pair of Air Jordans you’ve kept in pristine condition all these years? You wouldn’t believe what they’re worth.
“These sneakers are commodities,” says Robert Mulokwa, founder of Arkiv. “They are very valuable assets. The secondary market in U.S.—just for sneakers—is over a billion dollars a year. That’s 300 million pairs of sneakers a year.”
With facilities in Chicago and five other cities, Mulokwa’s company buys and sells vintage kicks. Some of them, like the original version of the Nike Air Yeezy, a collaboration with Kanye West, go for hundreds of dollars. And for those who can’t bear to part with their collection, Mulokwa also offers storage.
“We found that a lot of sneakerheads come to a fork in the road where they have to revisit what they’re going to do with all these shoes,” says Mulokwa, a member at Chicago’s WeWork 20 W Kinzie St. “We’ve had guys with hundreds of pairs.”
Mulokwa, a Creator Award winner, is planning on using WeWork to expand his business to four other cities: New York, Miami, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. What do these cities have in common? They’re all big markets for vintage footwear.
“WeWork is the key to our business strategy,” says Mulokwa. “If we open up offices in those four cities, plus our Chicago location, our rent would still be a fraction of opening one brick-and-mortar storefront.”
What’s more, it turns out that WeWork is a great place to store these precious items. You won’t find the changes in temperature and humidity you’d find in a warehouse.
“WeWork provides everything that’s ideal for sneaker storage,” says Mulokwa. “We couldn’t find a better place to be based.”
And he has another dream: make the buying and selling of sneakers a high-tech experience.
“We want to revolutionize how sneakers are traded,” he says. “I envision a system where someday you’ll be able to trade sneaker interests, just like grain or pork belly.”