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55-shoe collection to online sneaker platform: How Nazr El-Scari opened a market to affordable, rare kicks

DATE POSTED:August 3, 2022

Sneakers are a distinct statement of individuality, Nazr El-Scari said, lacing up his venture’s sole purpose: to put dream shoes within reach

“Growing up, I remember the excitement of opening a new pair of shoes. My older brother and his friends always had the dopest sneakers that you couldn’t find anywhere in Kansas City; it gave them this strong sense of individuality. I wanted to build a platform that would allow other people to discover their sense of self,” said El-Scari, the founder and CEO of A Sneakerhead’s Paradise.

More than just a reseller, A Sneakerhead’s Paradise is a request-based, online platform that aims to sell highly-sought after sneakers at an affordable price. All sneakers are sourced by A Sneakerhead’s Paradise — either directly from retailers or established partners, as well as undergo a verification process to ensure they are authentic, El-Scari said. 

“We have our own identification systems, and the next level is we’re working on some processes to use machine learning [to authenticate sneakers],” he noted. “With fakes becoming more popular, it is crucial we have specialists who know what to look for.”

Users pay for a subscription based on their sneaker budget and how many sneakers they would like to reserve, El-Scari said. 

“When a user comes on and requests a sneaker, it will be put in their ‘reserved’ once we have it sourced for them,” he explained. “They then have up to 30 days to purchase it, as long as they have an active subscription. We did this so that we would be able to lock in the best price for them, and they wouldn’t have to worry about it being sold or the price going up for 30 days.”

For users who request sneakers outside of their budget, A Sneakerhead Paradise’s team will provide the customer with other options of a similar style — or even customizing shoes to give it the desired colorway and look, El-Scari said. 

“Our whole platform is really geared toward providing an experience that allows people to explore their individuality through sneakers and fashion,” he shared. “If something falls outside of their budget, we want to give them options they didn’t even know they had. We love bringing them new styles and different brands that could help them express who they are.”

Click here to check out A Sneakerhead’s Paradise and their different subscription tiers.

Sneakers arranged in a display for The Shoe Plug, an early incarnation of A Sneakerhead’s Paradise; photo courtesy of Nazr El-Scari

Nazr El-Scari, A Sneakerhead’s Paradise

The idea for A Sneakerhead’s Paradise came to El-Scari during his senior year at Pembroke Hill School in Kansas City, he recalled. El-Scari had just finished an internship as an app developer, sparking his interest in entrepreneurship.

“Because I had made my own money from that internship, I was able to really get into shoes,” El-Scari said. “I built my collection from five pairs at the time to 55 pairs in a single summer, which led to me reselling. … I went to the gym in a pair of shoes, and a dude tried to buy them off my feet. I was so confused because I had worn them for weeks, but he said that he couldn’t find them anywhere. So I did some research and realized that there wasn’t a trusted place to sell and buy authentic shoes.” 

A Sneakerhead’s Paradise — originally named The Shoe Plug — launched in 2016. But as a 17-year-old trying to lead his first startup while competing against two major sneaker resellers, El-Scari decided to temporarily walk away from the business. 

“I went to Lehigh University specifically for their entrepreneurship program,” he said. “… The classes reminded me that entrepreneurship is all about figuring out what does and doesn’t work and pivoting. So I rebranded to A Sneakerhead’s Paradise and started being more comfortable leading a team. That’s really where things started to turn around.”

Nazr El-Scari, A Sneakerhead’s Paradise, pictured during a pitch event at Lehigh University

El-Scari graduated from in 2021 Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. During school, he began applying to incubators and pitching at pitch competitions — recently winning the Rocket Trust Bank’s Small Business, Big Dreams contest. He had grown his team to 10 individuals, broken up into marketing, tech and sneaker acquisition departments. 

Nazr El-Scari, A Sneakerhead’s Paradise

“I was extremely transparent with my team, even before they were a part of my team,” El-Scari said. “Laying out the financial situation and what things we need to do immediately with the platform. This is something I’m passionate about. It brings me a lot of joy, being an entrepreneur and building my team.”

A Sneakerhead’s Paradise’s team is fully remote, with the headquarters now based in Boston. El-Scari recently took an opportunity to move out of Kansas City to utilize a larger shoe market and personally take himself out of his comfort zone, he said.

“I love Kansas City and grew up with a lot of family nearby, but I really wanted to push myself so that I could grow as an individual, founder and adult,” El-Scari shared. “I think having that security nest nearby would have kept me from the risks I’ve needed to take this past year. … My goal is to set up here [in Boston], but bring opportunities back to Kansas City. The city always has my heart and those are my people.” 

Within the next year, El-Scari is aiming to transfer A Sneakerhead’s Paradise from a website to a mobile app, he said. His other major goal is to start hosting events across the United States to grow his platform, as well as the community among sneaker fanatics, he continued. 

“We’re currently brainstorming the setup and potential partners,” El-Scari teased. “We want a different experience from what people traditionally have at events. I think our remote team is an advantage in that we can have more of a national presence and form a sneaker community across the nation.”

This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.

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