Putting himself in someone else’s shoes has been a sound business decision for Clemson University senior management major Brendan Clark.
The soon-to-be graduate of the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business has been nurturing his resale shoe business, Clout of the South, since its launch in May of 2019 and in the process the start-up has generated $600,000 in revenue in its existence.
Not bad coin for a full-time college student.
Brendan, who will graduate in December, and best-friend-turned business partner Robert August buy and resell limited and exclusive sneakers online – and at their recently opened retail store in Greenville’s Haywood Mall.
“Robert and I have always had an interest in shoes and other hard-to-get designer items. We used to just buy shoes for ourselves from individuals and through auctions, but realized by buying, then reselling the shoes made it cheaper for us to wear nicer shoes,” the 22-year-old Greenville native said. “We decided to do it on a larger scale and put in a few thousand dollars each to buy inventory. That’s how Clout of the South got its start.”
Brendan and Robert got their first taste of the resale business following a trip to Charlotte where they purchased five designer rugs for $500 and sold them for $800 to $900 each. “It was a starting point for us and when we launched our Instagram platform. The switch to high-end sneaker shoes was a natural given both of us were ‘sneaker heads’ at heart.”
The pair purchase their inventory from “10-year-olds to 60-year-olds” through online auctions and raffles by shoe companies, and even skateboard shops.
“The shoes are funky, limited edition and high-end that appeal to people – generally in the 13 to 30-year-old age range. They’re sneaker heads, people who eat, sleep and breathe shoes,” said Brendan. “The least expensive in our inventory is about $60 with the priciest reaching $3,000, or more, with the average pair of shoes going for about $350.”
Most of what they sell are limited edition shoes that are hard to find in a traditional retail environment. They buy mostly new, but some pre-owned, brands like Jordan’s, Adidas, Yeezy and Nike’s in bulk and have sold them through their Instagram account, which has about 5,000 followers.
“The value of a shoe depends a lot on their uniqueness and the number of them that were released by a manufacturer,” Brendan added. “And, they increase in value, especially if you hold them for a while.”
Brendan credits relationship building as a key to the success Clout of the South has achieved so far. Not only have the pair established strong ties to sellers, enabling them to purchase more than other buyers, but they have also made a name for themselves through social media channels, in addition to attending “high-end flea market” conventions in cities like Orlando, Cleveland, Charlotte and Atlanta.
“If someone in the Upstate is really into buying these kinds of shoes, they know about Clout of the South. We’ve made a name for ourselves in the resale community through social media primarily, but also through relationships we’ve established, and word of mouth.”
The decision to open a brick-and-mortar store wasn’t the result of a sophisticated market study, rather it was based on what they saw while walking through Haywood Mall.
“First, we have friends who opened shoe stores with success in other states. But we also saw people wearing the shoes we sell when visiting the mall. Generally, you won’t find the types of shoes we sell in ae mall, so we decided to fill what we thought was a void in the resale shoe market.”
Brendan credits Management lecturer Bill Dinardo’s help in offering business advice after Clout of the South was launched.
“He’s been a good mentor and has done what I want to do. He was an inspiration for me to go out and apply some of his knowledge to my own business,” Brendan said. “I really fed off his experience as an entrepreneur.”
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