Eighteen-year-old Daejin Park remembers the first pair of sneakers he flipped. It was 2017, and he was zig-zagging through the shoe aisle at Marshalls, flicking the tops off cardboard boxes and pulling shoes off shelves, hoping to find a pair he could buy for 20 bucks. What he really wanted was a pair of Jordan 3’s White Cement edition. But at $450 a pop, he was $430 short of his goal.
Ultimately, Park decided on a pair of 2013 Nike Hyperdunks for $19.95 with plans to sell them on eBay for a marginal profit. A week later he did just that and made $30. Then it was back to Marshalls. “At this point, I couldn’t drive, so I was having my parents drive me,” he tells me. Savvier than before, he now opened the eBay app on his phone while he perused the shelves, scrolling through the sold listings and comparing prices to see which sneakers he could sell for the most money.
Again, he admits that at first, the profits were $20 to $30 at most. So he shifted from buying from Marshalls and Nike Outlet stores to purchasing used shoes. “I’d buy out collections on Facebook Marketplace or just off Instagram, clean ‘em up and sell ‘em individually on eBay,” he explains. With his newfound approach, his profits doubled.
Next, he pivoted to consignment — giving the cleaned-up sneakers to stores to sell for him. Eventually, he had enough capital to invest in rare sneakers that were brand new. “One of my first investments was the Jordan 1 LA to Chicago,” he says. “I bought some pairs for like $330 when they first came out.” He was able to resell them for $850 a piece.
In 2021, however, Park started college. “I wasn’t able to run around, picking up shoes as much as I was in the past,” he says. So he had to figure out a way to continue his business from his dorm room. “I was looking for something I could do from my computer, and teaching people how to sell shoes seemed like the best way to go about it,” he explains.
Park began his new venture by putting together a website and offering his expertise to his followers on Instagram. Before long, he had developed an official 90-day program, complete with courses on how to resell sneakers for people at all different experience levels.
Up until that point, the only way someone could learn about the sneaker resale market was through “cook groups” on Discord. Cook groups provide sneakerheads with information on releases, as well as tips for how to become better resellers. To join, you pay a recurring monthly fee anywhere from $15 to $100 and gain access to a Discord server, typically with hundreds of other people. The problem is, explains 23-year-old Jordan Hall, who launched his sneaker resale coaching school in January, “cook groups just provide basic level information.” “They don’t typically tell you how to act on it,” he continues. “They’ll say, ‘Hey, buy this shoe,’ but they don’t tell you where you can get it for under retail or how you can best maximize your profits.”
Similar to Park, Hall also launched his coaching venture after noticing the number of people reaching out to him on Instagram, asking for him to teach them in the ways of reselling sneakers. His and Park’s approaches are slightly different, however. “[Park’s] focus is on holding sneakers, and my focus is on getting your returns as quickly as possible,” Hall says.
Anyone can sign up for either course, so long as they can afford the price of admission, which Park says for his is a “one-time, low four-figure investment” that can be broken down into smaller payments. “I’m pretty flexible with that,” he tells me. But he recommends anyone who’s interested in signing up have at least $5,000, a grand of which is solely for sneaker buying. Hall says that the price of his course is about the same, though he also offers “a four-week mentorship that’s a bit cheaper.”
Beyond Park’s standard curriculum, his one-time fee gets you access to a private Discord server where information about the sneaker resale market is shared daily. “There’s also five group calls a week on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday,” he explains. Each is about an hour long and is typically when clients ask questions and “run through where they’re at, as they try to get a sense of where they should take things,” Park says. “If they want to schedule one-on-one calls, they can do that once a week at whatever time works best for them.”
Since November, Park says he’s had around 100 sign-ups. The average age of his clients is between 18 and 25. “It’s usually a little harder for the younger kids to join because of the initial capital,” he admits. Nonetheless, he adds, “We’ll still hop on brief calls with them to give them some advice on where they should focus, because we obviously know what it’s like to be in their shoes.” (Interestingly, too, Park currently has two 40-year-old moms who are signed up for his course.)
In a lot of ways, what Park and Hall are really selling is trust, a rare commodity in the sneaker reselling business, especially among cook groups. Along those lines, last month, one of the biggest names in their world — Michael Malekzadeh, owner of Zadeh Kicks LLC — became the target of an FBI investigation. Per a report in Complex, he was effectively running a sneaker pyramid scheme — collecting payments in advance from new members who were promised early access to shoes and using that cash to leverage or pay off the money he owed to old members. “He got in so over his head to where he just filed bankruptcy and moved all of his assets away from his LLC so no one could sue him,” Hall explains.
This is a big reason why Park offers a conditional guarantee. “We have like 40 action plans that we give to clients, which break down all the steps they should be taking every single day,” he tells me. “And part of the conditional guarantee is hopping on the group calls at least once a week to make sure they’re putting in the effort.” In case a client doesn’t hit the $2,000 per month guarantee in 90 days, “we just work with them for free until they do.” Park is sure to add, though, that this hasn’t happened yet.
With his coaching business booming, Park has recently brought on a couple of other people to help him out. Still, he says, it’s not atypical for him to work 13-hour days, which he more or less squeezes around his schoolwork. “I try to schedule all my classes in the morning so I can get them out of the way,” he tells me. Then, beginning around 1 p.m., he switches gears — fielding phone calls and answering questions from clients, who he admits take precedence over his own schooling. “Obviously, if I know I have a big exam, I’ll try to be proactive and clear my schedule for those times so I can just study. But if I already have a scheduled call with a client, I’ll be taking that for sure.”
Because at least in the realm of reselling sneakers, he’s much more teacher than pupil.