Four years ago, if you were to search the name “Malcolm Manswell”, you’d likely find a footwear company somewhere mentioned by his name, but it wouldn’t be in the way that he’s known now.
A former high school soccer star, the 21-year-old Ellicott City, Maryland native was one of the top prep players in the country. Having earned honors such as ESPN RISE Magazine National Player of the Week and ESPN RISE Magazine All-America, Manswell was a top recruit who also gained international prep attention as a member of Trinidad & Tobago’s Under-17 national team in 2009.
After his collegiate career was stalled by Towson University’s lack of funding for its NCAA soccer program, Manswell moved on and opted to focus his attention on another passion – sneakers – through which he created an online platform for footwear aficionados (also known as “sneakerheads”) to buy, sell, and (most importantly) trade their own shoes. That platform became SneakHeat, a company that is one of the rising businesses in the footwear industry.
Fortunately, Manswell agreed to share his thoughts with me about SneakHeat, its origins, its present, and his vision for its future.
Sandy Dover: Malcolm, you’re in the footwear business, and founder of its domain name, SneakHeat.com — what is that exactly?
Malcolm Manswell: SneakHeat is a buy/sell/trade platform that allows you to complete transactions with users from around the world right online. SneakHeat is more than just a “sneaker company”. The goal is to completely accommodate the “sneakerhead” in addition to solving all the sneakerhead problems. The name SneakHeat came from a combination of the words “sneaker” and “heat”. “Heat” is considered to be a rare shoe.
SD: You say it’s “more than just a ‘sneaker company'” — can you intimate its purpose in the footwear industry? Why is SneakHeat a relevant entity in that the sector of business?
MM: As of right now, there is no other sneaker company that is doing what we are doing. Everyone is doing just buy/sell transactions. We have opened up the market and added the trading aspect, which has never been done before at this level. SneakHeat will open the international and local avenues to purchase shoes from other consumers. The prices tend to be cheaper when consumer is selling the product. You will see a lot of people who will just “need something gone today” and will put it up on The Exchange for a ridiculously low price. It will change the game and will affect the sneaker industry from all aspects & avenues.
SD: You have a lot of confidence about how SneakHeat can affect the market – what prompted you to start this business? Was it just a feeling or the raw spark of an idea? In other words, how did SneakHeat happen?
MM: I was tired of going on Facebook groups and scrolling through thousands of posts just to find what I was looking for. You could always find steals & deals on these various Facebook pages, but it was extremely unorganized. So I basically created a completely new system from scratch that would accommodate every avenue a sneakerhead would come across. It was definitely a raw spark. Most people thought I was crazy. They thought there was too much stuff that went into it and that it wouldn’t work. I basically started it with a test site which got about 1,000 members in a week. That’s when I knew this was definitely a need for people. So I took the test site down and revamped/customized the whole thing to make it into the brand new platform that SneakHeat.com is now.
SD: You mentioned “sneakerhead”, those types of fanatics of footwear being your core audience – how has the sneakerhead community responded to SneakHeat’s arrival to the footwear landscape?
MM: Sneakerheads flocked to the idea of SneakHeat even from the very early stages. I feel like it has become a necessity. We are providing the answer to a “need” instead of giving people what they “want”. When your company becomes a “need” to a large population, it will carry your company a lot farther. I had been talking about SneakHeat for a year and people were getting impatient, but they didn’t understand how much went into the creation of this website. A lot of people believe in this company, but at the same time a lot of people didn’t believe in it. I have had conversations with literally everyone. Nobody was willing to pull the trigger on us early and really get involved. A lot of people stealing our idea. I have also heard, “I had a similar idea to yours” about 300 times. But in the grand scheme of things, I think the response has been great. Those who know about us, believe in us and that’s all that I really care about. I think SneakHeat will be able to give back to those who believed in us through the platform and the services we provide. Nobody else is doing what we do. So, it will be very fun to see the progress of SneakHeat.
SD: Malcolm, I know you’ve gotten a bit of attention from some of the elite footwear powers with your business – can you clarify your role in SneakHeat, and also, the sneaker brands’ roles in your operation?
MM: We have gotten a lot of attention. Everyone has heard about us by now. SneakHeat is basically the place where you can get what you like and learn about other brands in the process as well. It all comes down to what the users post on The Exchange. So you will see some Asics, adidas and other brands that you normally don’t see. This exposes everyone to all of the brands. The role of the sneaker brands is to basically have their product the most visible out of all of the competing brands. Whether it be through advertisement, selecting SneakHeat as a brand ambassador, or whatever it may be. We have created the platform that will let the consumer decide what is “heat” to them. So someone might view Pumas as heat. So you will see those fly up there on The Exchange. It just depends. That’s the beauty of it. You will see everything on there.
SD: Considering SneakHeat’s rising role in the footwear industry, particularly in commerce, what is your chief function in the company and how do you manage your priorities in making sure that SneakHeat maintains its momentum going forward?
MM: I want SneakHeat to be the legit location for the aftermarket. We provide the service that has been missing in the sneaker world. A legit check. That’s really all it took. Finding a problem and then solving it. But in this case, this is a necessity for sneakerheads.
When your company is a necessity, the company will carry itself because people believe in you. We don’t have to persuade or convince anyone to believe in us. SneakHeat is only an asset to the community and they have embraced that. My job is to just make sure the brand stays on top. The marketing has worked on its own. Word of mouth and just other people supporting the idea. So we want to provide all commerce needs for sneakerheads around the world. That’s the purpose.
SD: So, what you’re saying is that you handle every aspect of your business – the finance, the marketing, the brokering of partnership, it’s a one-man operation? You’re tasked with every nook and cranny of SneakHeat’s past, present, and future in other words?
MM: Exactly. Everything you see from SneakHeat right now is me. We have a team of writers and a graphic design team that I work tirelessly with to make sure all of our content is the best. Other than that, I do everything. It is very tiring, but that’s the struggle of being a start-up. We didn’t take any investments, so everything is being done right now.
Companies have reached out to collaborate and I have been involved in all of those talks. Our partnerships with Karmaloop have been done by myself. I think eventually I want to branch out and have it be a corporation with small teams that consist of hand-picked employees. I think one of the downfalls of successful corporations is that they lose their control of their own company.
So, for example, while I was working at the headquarters at Under Armour, I felt like the owner (Kevin Plank) really didn’t have control of his own company. It seemed like there were these people that just worked in these positions and really came up with whatever ideas they wanted for a t-shirt, or a hoody. That scares me a little bit, because I know your product/platform is what sets you a part from the competition. If you lose control of your company because there are too many people involved, you will find yourself in situations where your company is producing products or doing things that you would have done a lot differently.
SD: Where do you see SneakHeat going, in terms of financial growth and overall influence? You mentioned Under Armour, which is a tremendous example of a small dog becoming a big dog in what sometimes feels like a monopolized industry, when it comes to athletic footwear.
MM: This is how I picture it. SneakHeat will be the premier platform for all things sneaker-related. I expect revenue to start high and go even higher. I set the bar high for myself and some people call them “unrealistic” goals. I know what I am capable of. It will just take the right people to believe in your idea. That’s what separates it from a small start-up and puts your company as a top corporation. I wouldn’t consider us an underdog. More of an ally to the sneaker community. We can only help. I think everyone has come to realize that. Corporations like Under Armour are also limited. SneakHeat is open to all avenues and is a universal company. Which means we can accommodate any and all ideas. So if SneakHeat wants to step into the music industry, we can do that. We already have a strong following from a bunch of different industries, so that is what I expect the company to do.
So let’s say we take the 45,000 people on SneakHeat’s social media pages and say that they will do two transactions on SneakHeat. Two transactions is about $400 on average (two pairs of shoes). That’s $18,000,000 moving on SneakHeat with the network that we have right now. This is if nobody talks about us and we are only talking to the people that we have now. The possibilities are endless for SneakHeat and that is just ONE stream of income for us. I am very excited to see what happens with this company.
SD: And finally, Malcolm, seeing as to how SneakHeat is generating so much momentum in consumer engagement and projected gross profit for the near future, what is it that you want to personally accomplish with your company? What aspirations do you hope to move toward with the hoped continued success of SneakHeat as your current prized possession?
MM: To be honest, I want people to just be happy with the product. I want them to feel like it is of great assistance to them. That’s the most important thing for me. When that happens, then everything else will fall into place. But I think that’s very important to the progress and success of this company. A good amount of the revenues are going to go right back into the company to make it better. I always have new ideas for the company and that is where most of it will be going.
I just want SneakHeat to be known as the top sneaker company that accommodates every sneaker “need” and “want”. If we can accomplish that, a lot of great things will come. I want to be able to fly out the top sneakerheads and throw a party for them doing a lot of successful transactions on SneakHeat. That’s the vision. More than just the Buy/Sell/Exchange. There’s a vision beyond all of that and I am very excited to see where SneakHeat goes.