Some may or may not know that I’m a low-key (high-key?) sneakerhead. I’ve been known to wake up in the wee hours of the day, just to scour the world wide web in search of unique, limited edition finds from the likes of Nike and Adidas, and am often amazed at how various coveted pairs of shoes elicit the same response in others as they do, me. We are all a little bit like Kelly in OMG, Shoes who once said, “let’s GET ‘EM!”.
The world of sneaker shopping and finding limited edition kicks used to feel like a dystopian abyss, and was once deemed a quirky niche for enthusiasts. But now, the industry has ballooned into a billion-dollar business, and that number is only expected to grow. Cowen Equity Research estimates the global resale market for sneakers alone will be worth $30B by 2030.
While some visit the platform to grab the latest hype kicks, for others, StockX is a partner for their business. Local powerseller Hugo started selling sneakers as a side gig in 2017. With just C$150 to start, he began buying and selling sneakers — first just 5 pairs, then gradually increasing until it became impossible to store all his sneakers at home. Fast forward to almost 5 years later, Hugo has turned his passion project into a full-time gig and in 2020 began earning 7 figures.
Authentication is at the core of the StockX experience and has long set the industry standard. In many respects, StockX created the job category of “sneaker authenticator” and, as part of that process, outlined a bespoke training program that each of its authenticators completes before hitting the floor.
Chad is one of the first Canada-based authenticators to join StockX. He has collected sneakers since he was a teen and at one point had more than 200 pairs in his collection. As an authenticator, he works with the products and brands he is most passionate about — using a robust database of proprietary information to effectively assess the legitimacy of sneakers, apparel, collectibles, electronics and accessories. Chad can give you a behind-the-scenes look at the authentication process, share a high-level overview of what he looks for in products and why, and share details on the most attempted fake sneakers.
I had the absolute privilege of sitting down with Chad and Hugo to talk about all things business and understand the intricate world of sneaker shopping.
For people who don’t know, who are you?
C: My name is Chad Bantay, and I’m one of the very first authenticators to join the StockX team in Canada. Being a sneakerhead, I’ve been a fan of StockX for years, so I jumped at the chance to advance my career while working with one of the leading brands in the industry.
H: My name is Hugo and I am a professional reseller. It’s not a typical profession, but I am lucky enough to love what I do. I got my start in resale about five years ago. Since then, my business has grown exponentially. After starting with just a couple of hundred dollars, I’ve been able to turn my side gig into a full-time, 7 figure business.
Tell us what you do, respectively?
C: I am an authenticator at StockX’s Toronto authentication center. Authentication has always been the core of the StockX experience, and my role is to verify that the items we receive meet the high authentication standards we’ve set as a company.
StockX takes a multi-pronged approach to authentication. The proprietary process combines expert knowledge, high-touch human identification, and cutting-edge technology. At StockX, we take pride in being meticulous and paying attention to the smallest detail – that’s why we have a 99.95% accuracy rate. Our team has spent a great deal of time and resources analyzing and tracking fakes, so we know exactly what to look for when we’re authenticating. It starts with the packaging. When it comes to sneakers for example, before we even get to the product, we assess the box itself, looking at the labels, the font and the tissue paper. We then move to the product, paying close attention to stitching size, seams, and gluing. Even the tags and receipts are reviewed!
H: As a reseller, I purchase sneakers and collectibles with the intention of reselling them online. I focus less on the extremely rare, hyped releases when it comes to sneakers and instead specialize in classic silhouettes. Though sneakers make up the bulk of my business, I’ve recently expanded into trading cards. I do almost all of my reselling on StockX, and trading cards were added to the platform in 2019. After seeing the rapid growth of the category, I added trading cards to my roster as well.
This is easily one of the coolest jobs I’ve ever heard of. What type of training do you receive for your role?
C: StockX has a rigorous multi-month training program that all authenticators complete before hitting the floor. The program is backed by years of experience and data-driven insights, which have played a big part in helping to shape the training process. One thing that makes StockX’s authentication process so strong is the years of historical data we have at our disposal. You’re learning from the best of the best, alongside a team who have learned the tricks of the trade, not just over the years, but across multiple continents.
What made you want to do what you do? What problem were you solving, and what gap in the industry did you identify as one you needed to solve?
– Chad Bantay
My passion for sneakers is what originally brought me into this role. There’s no other job I know of where you get to be around sneakers every day!
C: I was also drawn to StockX because of the problems they were solving. Before StockX, the resale market could be tricky – you would never quite know for sure what you were going to get as a buyer, and as a seller, the process was usually cumbersome and overly complicated. StockX not only simplifies the process for both buyers and sellers, making it seamless from end to end, but it takes the risk out of the equation.
H: I was a casual sneaker buyer who always loved going to the local sneaker outlets to get a deal. One day I went to return a couple of pairs but found out they were past the return-by date. Instead of keeping them, I decided to try and sell them online. To my surprise, I was able to sell all three pairs of sneakers in one day, for triple the price I paid. I was instantly hooked. Fast-forward to today, and reselling is now my full-time job.
How did you end up here, and was this the ultimate destination, career-wise?
H: I love that I can help connect buyers with the products they want so quickly and easily. Becoming a reseller was never in my plan, and it’s quite funny how I ended up here! While I was intrigued by the profit I made from reselling those initial three pairs of sneakers; I didn’t think about exploring reselling as a full-time career until I got let go from my job in the finance industry. That was the turning point for me. I went to the Nike outlet, bought thousands of dollars worth of shoes, and I never looked back. As I was looking for ways to expand and grow my business, I came across StockX. I registered to become a reseller on the platform, and now here we are. After becoming a registered reseller, it wasn’t long before I was making equal to, and then quickly more than, my previous job.
Why this format? Did you explore other ways to reach people (like a store, or a fare)?
H: In the early stages of my business, I did try other platforms, but after discovering StockX, I’ve remained loyal to their platform. StockX truly helped my business get to where it is today. StockX’s platform makes the entire selling process seamless. I don’t have to spend hours writing and posting listings, uploading photos, communicating with potential buyers, or keeping track of sales — all of this work is done for me. Without StockX, I would have had to hire a full team by now. Instead, I can manage it all myself. The platform’s global reach also allows me to connect with buyers all over the world. Plus, as I noted with trading cards, as the platform adds new categories, I’ve been able to take advantage of that and expand my business.
What is your mission in your career, especially with StockX? How did you end up here, and was this the ultimate destination, career-wise?
I’ve loved sneakers since I was a kid, so this job is a natural fit for me. I am also a huge fan of basketball and sports in general, which have a major influence on the sneaker industry and community. Because of my interests, I’ve always looked for jobs that afforded me the opportunity to work with sneakers. My first job in the industry was with Nike in 2014. After working there for five years, I was really interested in taking my career further and expanding my skill set. When I heard StockX was opening an authentication center in Canada, I was excited. As soon as the opportunity to join the company came about, I gladly accepted. This month I’m celebrating my one-year anniversary with the company, and it has been an amazing journey so far. Right now, I just look forward to seeing where this role takes me.
How are you keeping motivated during Covid?
C: It is certainly a tough time for all of us. Personally, leaning into my job and testing out new hobbies have both been very helpful. Despite being in a pandemic I feel as if I am buying more and more clothes online with nowhere to go.
H: How are you keeping motivated during Covid? My business has actually boomed during the pandemic, so I’ve been busier than ever as I work to keep up with demand.
What kinds of cool sneakers have you seen as an authenticator?
C: I have always wanted to see the Nike Dunk SB Low ‘What the Dunk’ in person, and I still remember the day I finally came across them at work. A shoe that combines 31 different SBs is so much more than just a shoe; it’s a piece of art! Seeing that in real life was definitely memorable.
What would you tell your teenage self, if you were to meet them today?
H: Save your money and invest!
What is the best advice you’ve ever received? What advice do you give to your “mentees”?
H: Best advice I got and can give back: Don’t take money out of your company, re-invest your money. Keep your main job as long as possible and re-invest the profit from your side hustle.
What, if any adversities did you have to conquer, and what do you attribute your success to?
H: After being let go from my job, I wasn’t sure about what I would do next. I am a big believer in things happening for a reason — if I hadn’t been let go, I probably wouldn’t have taken my resale business as seriously and wouldn’t be where I am today. I would also say my work ethic has played a huge role in my success. This is definitely not your typical 9-5 job. I work all the time, but I truly love what I do.
Tell us a secret about your job?
C: I don’t have any secrets to share, but I will say that this job has truly been such a unique experience, and it really is unlike anything I’ve done in the past. I love what I do, and I am so glad that my career journey led me to StockX.
H: I think a lot of people feel like you need to already have a wealth of knowledge about sneakers or collectibles, but that is not me at all! When people find out I don’t own hundreds of pairs of sneakers, they are always shocked. It’s about understanding what customers want and how you can serve them. In my case, I’ve been able to build an incredibly successful business by reselling classic sneaker silhouettes.
What pair of kicks do you currently own that you’re most proud of? Which pair of kicks do you wish you owned or are on the hunt for?
C: For my birthday in April, my team here in Toronto surprised me with a pair of Black and white dunks! Despite the large stock I was unable to secure a pair at retail. The team also signed the box individually with small messages and it’s a pair that I will always hold in my collection.
I have too many grails to pick from! The first pair that comes to mind would be a pair of OG Jordan 1 Royals from 1985. I love the vintage look and when sneakers show significant signs of wear, it adds character and gives stories to tell.
H: My favorite pair of sneakers is the Jordan 1 Retro Bred “Banned” (2016) — this is one of the first pairs that I kept for myself in addition to selling. They are one of the most classic styles and a great investment — I paid 250$ for them and now they are worth close to 1000$ on StockX. Though I’ve not worn them in at least a year, I see them every day and they motivate me to work harder so I can justify wearing $1,000 shoes more often!