From Passion to Paycheck: Meet the Sneakerhead Who Started Nice Kicks

From Passion to Paycheck: Meet the Sneakerhead Who Started Nice Kicks

Matt Halfhill has a passion - sneakers.

He loves new shoes. So much so that he decided to follow his passion and open his own business in the sneaker industry.

But Matt hasn’t decided to compete against Nike or Adidas by making his own sneakers. Instead, he’s assembled a team of experts to write about them.

In this TGIM short, you'll...

  • Learn how to monetize your passion without selling physical products
  • Discover the origin of the popular #throwbackthursday hashtag
  • Find out how to build a strong bond of trust between you and your readers

Check out the full short below:

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Speaker 1: "Here's a thing you should know about Matt Halfhill, the founder of website, when you walk into his office, even if you're just there to interview him, he's going to check out what's on your feet. He really can't help himself."

Matt: "All the time. I saw your Asics as soon as you opened the door."

Speaker 1: "What are these? You can tell right away, because I got them [inaudible]."

Matt: "Yeah, they're Onitsuka Tigers. I believe those are the Mexico 66 actually which were made for the Olympics in 1966."

Speaker 1: "Needless to say, sneakers are Matt's thing and always have been. It all started with him buying discount shoes from a store he worked at in Canada, taking them home and selling them eBay. What tweaked him to the potential science of the sneaker obsessed world and gave him the eventual name for his company, happened when he was a teenager and his family relocated to another country."

Matt: "When I moved to the Caribbean when I was in tenth grade, those were the first words I heard when I walked in with my first pair of Air Jordans, "Those are nice kicks." That was when I really realized that sneakers were something more than just an American teenage thing. This is something global. It was really interesting that here I was in a third world nation, completely disconnected from so many things that I didn't even have dial-up Internet that was very reliable, yet we somehow all had very similar interest."

Speaker 1: "Soon he was writing a blog that in 2006 morphed into a full on news and reviews website like buying a pair of insoles for some oversized sneakers, he was a need and filled it."

Matt: "I really wanted to stop getting in the business of buying and selling footwear and I really wanted to get into the business of just giving people information about upcoming footwear. The thing that I found was that there was not an authoritative voice or a very verifiable source for information on upcoming sneakers."

Speaker 1: "He did dip his feet back in the retail waters in 2010 with a brick and mortar store in Austin Texas but he's now licensed that operation to another company along with the online sales end of things. For Matt, it was all about keeping his focus on his passion, running one of the best sites for sneaker industry related news, rumors and updates."

Matt: "It used to be this really small group of kids that were weirdos, we were just weirdos that just liked shoes. Then the thing was is that it's just grown and grown and grown, and now the subculture it's a culture. It's not a subculture. It has gotten so massive."

Speaker 1: "It's a thriving business, everyday they'll get visitors from close two hundred different territories, 3.1 million site visits a month. There are eight full time employees getting the dirt on the latest releases from Nike, Adidas and Puma, what new technology is being used, which athletes are wearing what, and what pop culture icon has decided that sneakers are their new method of self-expression. He's got a radio show on Dash Radio and a YouTube channel."

Matt: "Today we present the latest edition of Nice Kicks Sound Off with your host Peter Simpson. We'll do your readers' commentary, your candid opinions, your poignant statements involving all things sneakers."

Speaker 1: "Most of the company's revenue comes from ads and they do some brand consulting and marketing work as well. There is a line and it's an important one. Some shoemakers have tried to buy favorable coverage. Matt says that's just a non-starter when your business is information and your reputation is everything, you can't chase the easy money if you want to survive."

Matt: "Yes, it happens and we'll not change where we are. We're in this for the long haul and I think that you could take some quick money here and there for a positive review on something but it doesn't take long for the consumer to figure out, "Okay, this is not really a good product." They're obviously getting paid to promote it this way." With social media, it's so quick. You can smell something that's not authentic so easily, especially if you're dealing with a subculture."

Speaker 1: "That may be the biggest key to his success. Matt wants to talk about sneakers, not sell them, not say what other people want him to say about them, and not even expand it to talking about other products. Yes, there have been offers and yes he has said no. Focusing tightly on what he wants to do has allowed him to connect with these core group of fans. It's a trust thing but it's not always a walk in the park. Yes, I promise that's the last shoe related metaphor. Matt says one of his biggest challenges has been hiring the right people, fellow obsessers who live and breathe what his audience wants to hear about. He's found some success taking a more non-traditional approach to head hunting."

Matt: "I actually observe what people do on social media before anything else. The interview process started long before I called your number. Not to sound creepy, I've been watching you. I definitely I'm scouting people way before hand, just off of what they say, what they're into, that whole kind of thing. Social media is now like your personal resume, and people really have to be respectful of that."

Speaker 1: "When we're done talking Matt shows me around his third floor office in a retro building in LA's garment district. Nice Kicks is a family affair. Matt runs the company with his wife and today, his mum and dad were hanging out at the office where to no one's surprise the topic quickly turned to well, take a guess."

Speaker 2: "Even when he sees mum, first thing he'll comment on is my shoes."

Speaker 1: "Yes."

Speaker 2: "Particularly if these are too grandma looking for him."

Matt: "It's not that they're grandma looking, it's like you need support and cushioning and I know the in soles provide support but you need better cushioning especially for your back and your knees and your joints ..."

Speaker 2: "They're swanky for traveling."

Matt: "I don't care ..."

Speaker 2: "Supports you."

Matt: "... Life is too short to wear that footwear."

Speaker 1: "By the way, even if you haven't visited, you've probably seen another of Matt's creations. Those Throwback Thursday posts on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, yep, that was Matt. He started doing that to promote old school sneakers and it just took off into the land of social media. Not that he gets any money from it but it is his claim to another part of Internet history."

Show notes:

About TGIM: TGIM is a podcast for people who can’t wait for the week to start. In each episode we’ll be bringing you inspirational stories about entrepreneurs who have overcome obstacles, built incredible businesses, and are now living the life they want.