Making Strides

Business student launches app to improve sneaker resale experience.

A shoe trade gone wrong convinced D’Alexander Zegarra the sneaker resale market needed a reboot.

Zegarra had arranged an exchange with a seller in Oregon, someone he assumed was trustworthy because of their large Instagram following. But when he sent the sneakers, along with some additional cash, he never received anything in return. The post office was able to retrieve the sneakers before they were picked up, but Zegarra was out the cash.

“That taught me a huge lesson about how hard it is to trust people online,” he says.

It also taught the economics and finance major that there was a need for a platform where people could buy, sell and trade sneakers without fear of getting scammed. His solution was Instaheat, an app that partners with sneaker resale shops in South Carolina to facilitate safe transactions.

Now in its third iteration, the app allow sellers to get their product authenticated by a brick-and-mortar store, and have it shipped out the same or next day to the buyer. The stores can also serve as a safe public meeting place for in-person trades.

Zegarra says other websites, such as StockX, offer authentication services, but the process takes much longer, since the seller has to ship the product to an evaluation center first before it can be mailed to the buyer. The whole process can take up to four weeks. Plus, the commission and fees can be up to 12% on each transaction, while Zegarra says Instaheat only takes an 8% commission.

Small resale shops also benefit from the app, he says. A person coming to the store for authentication or to do a trade might notice other sneakers they want to buy. And the shops are paid a percentage of every pair of sneakers they authenticate.

Zegarra has poured much of his own resources into the project. He has a second company, NestMate Marketing, that provides software services to contractors, but Instaheat is his first love. A self-professed sneakerhead since childhood, Zegarra sold his own collection to fund the development of the app. (“I’m starting to build my collection back up,” he says.) He also worked at Walgreen’s for year to save up enough money to build a prototype of the app, which ended up not working.

But together with his partners, one a student at Emory University and the other at Georgia Tech, Zegarra has big plans for where he wants to take the business. He has partnerships with about 10 of the 21 sneaker resale shops in South Carolina, and hopes to add the rest of them to the app. Once he’s certain the process is working well statewide, he wants to take the app nationwide, then worldwide. He’d also like to create a subscription model, so frequent users can make unlimited trades after paying a set fee.

“I’m going to give Instaheat five years to be the No. 1 sneaker marketplace in the nation,” he says. “We definitely want to be the go-to spot for anybody who’s a reseller or just interested in buying one pair.”