Thursday, April 21, 2022

Awe and befuddlement

 Stanley - Thursday

Twice in the last couple of weeks, I've had experiences that have left me in awe and befuddlement. Let me tell you about them. I wonder if you'll feel the same.

The first case:

I was at a small dinner party a while back, chatting to a man I didn't know. The conversation meandered over several topics, as is usually the case. At one point, he mentioned that his son had his own retail business. Interesting, I thought. It's a business that I wouldn't choose because I would definitely lose money.

'What sort of business is it?' I asked.

'Sneakers,' was the reply.

My immediate reaction was that must be a difficult business to be in because of established competition. In South Africa, we call sneakers takkies if English-speaking, and tekkies if Afrikaans-speaking. There is a a very successful chain of shops in South Africa called Tekkie Town, as well as other established footwear establishments. 

I asked how his son was doing. 'Very well' came the reply.

To cut a long dinner short, it turned out that his son, Michael, was in the retail sneaker business, but not traditionally. He dealt with collectible sneakers.

'Collectible sneakers?????' 

Yes, collectible sneakers.

Apparently, there is a thriving market out there. There are people, usually young people, who want to own specific, iconic, limited edition sneakers. Not the Kanye West-worn (at the Grammy's) Nike Air Yeezy Grammy Prototype sneakers that auctioned for $1.8 million, but rather lower-end ones that catch the popular eye.

Nike Air Yeezy Grammy Prototype sneakers

And Michael Jordan's Nike Air Ships sold for $1.47 million. I love the touch of handling them with gloves!

Michael Jordan sneakers

I had to know more, so I set out to interview Michael and bumped into him at his dad's coffee shop in downtown Cape Town. If I had not been prepared, I would probably fallen over in shock. When Michael's dad was originally telling me about the sneaker business, I had in my mind's eye an image of a twenty something man. In reality, Michael is fifteen. And he started his business when he was twelve.

Sneaker entrepreneur Michael Miccoli

How did you get into selling sneakers?' I asked.

What happened when he was twelve was that he noticed that an established shoe shop had an offer on some sneakers that were in high demand among sneakerheads. The offer that caught his attention wasn't the price but rather that they could be returned within 30 days. He bought a pair and put them on consignment with someone who was already in the sneaker business. On day twenty nine, someone bought them, giving Michael a tidy profit having risked nothing.

Michael's sneakers du jour!

From my discussion with him, it seems that sneaker companies constrain established retailers from hiking prices on sneakers in demand. Instead, retailers often let it be known to sneaker aficionados that they have a certain number of pairs of a particular sought-after sneaker, which they will make available at a certain time and place. Often a hundred or more people will show up for the chance of getting a pair. Each person gets a number, and the numbers are drawn at the appointed time. Many of those who are lucky, immediately try to resell them at prices more in line with the demand. Those that aren't, look for the next chance to acquire a pair.

If you're not sure what to start collecting, here's a website that will help you decide.

From that exciting start, Michael now has his own company, LocalKickz, whose main business is sneakers and branded clothing.

LocalKickz-branded hoodie

But he has also now branched out into ------- wait for it ------- ice cream. 

'Ice cream?' I asked incredulously. 

He acknowledged that he was a little concerned that he was getting a little scattered and may have to focus more.

You can check out his website here.

This whole experience got me to thinking about business and collectibles. I think the internet has opened up a whole new set of opportunities for young entrepreneurs like Michael that I didn't have when I was twelve. I love it that kids are taking advantage of it. And I'm in awe of them. 

As for collectibles, even though I am puzzled why people want to collect sneakers, I realise that to the kids of today, collecting bits of paper that were stuck on envelopes a hundred years ago is equally befuddling.

So I take my hat off to Michael for his enterprise and success. He has my greatest admiration.

Case 2:

I am the proud 'Gramps' to my nephews' four kids. One of them, ten-year-old Maya, is very artistic. Very creative. And very curious about the world. Like Michael, she's also enterprising and recently made a tidy profit selling cookies she had made at a market where her father had a stall - no doubt working the crowd adroitly.


However, what had me in awe were two things she has done recently. A week or so ago, her mother WhatsApped me a video Maya had made, not of her toys or of one of her paintings . No, it was an animated movie which she had written and illustrated herself and made in Stop Motion Studio.

If that wasn't enough, Maya now makes cooking videos in which she teaches her little friends how to make various cakes and cookies. When I suggested that she should put them up on Youtube, she said she wasn't quite ready for that. But maybe in the near future....

She also hosts an online weekend art group, teaching her friends how to do various artistic things. Having it online is a necessity because she lives out in the gamadoelas far from her friends.

In retrospect, when the family was visiting last weekend, I should have asked Maya to help me with Pinterest, which I am struggling with at the moment. I'm sure she would have learnt how it worked and then taught me to use it properly, probably in a few minutes or less.

So, I am totally in awe of the teenagers and pre-teenagers who are harnessing the world of the internet to be enormously creative. I love it.

And I'm befuddled how easily they absorb what often seem to me to be impenetrable software packages. I can't wait to see what they do with and to the digital world. I love them for their ability to jump into new ventures with enthusiasm and a total lack of fear.

But deep down, there is a gnawing realisation that I'm being left behind, that I don't understand what's going on now or where'll end up in the future. I guess I'll just have to trust the kids of today to hold my hand when I get confused.


Upcoming events:

Crimefest in Bristol:

THURSDAY, 12 MAY, 15.50 – 16.40
* M.J. Lee
* Douglas Lindsay
* Michael Stanley
* T E Kinsey 
Participating Moderator: Michael Ridpath


FRIDAY, 13 MAY, 12:30 - 13:20
* Kia Abdullah
* Antony Dunford
* Sarah Sultoon
* Holly Watt

Participating Moderator: Michael Stanley

FRIDAY, 13 MAY, 16:00 – 16:50
* Alison Bruce 
* Dugald Bruce-Lockhart
* Alex Shaw
* Michael Stanley
Participating Moderator: Zoë Sharp (


  1. I have a patient who makes a fortune out of the buying the trainers and reselling them thingy. He's 12. My paper round was tough!

    1. Today you would probably spend more on the trainers you'd wear on your newspaper round than the amount you earned! Maybe your patient and Sneakerhead Michael should form an international trading company. (But they've probably already done that and, as usual, I'm behind the times.

  2. It's okay, Grampa, don't worry, it's easy. All you have to do is tap this wijiwigit, then slide the oshabi up or down, then ...

  3. Long ago, in a far away time, my grandfather sold fruits and vegetables on the streets of Pittsburgh off a horse-drawn wagon. I still remember the names of the horses...Chester and Raleigh...and wondering why he didn't use a truck, like most other produce hucksters. It seemed so out of touch with post-war times. I'm sure that today my grandchildren (and others) see me as behind the times in so many ways. What I can't even begin to imagine is in what ways this current crop of extraordinary adolescent entrepreneurs will be regarded by their grandchildren. God bless them all.

  4. What a couple of fantastic stories about two excellent young people! There are certainly unmotivated kids out there, but what a world we would have to look forward to if all the young people were like these two.

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