How a formerly homeless sneakerhead with just $40 to his name built a multi-million dollar resale empire in 6 years

  • Jaysse Lopez and his wife, Joanie, are the co-owners of Urban Necessities, a sneaker and streetwear resale and consignment company that Lopez says brought in close to $21 million in sales last year.
  • Before he found success, Lopez was homeless and had to sell his own clothes to make ends meet.
  • Here's the story of how he built a multimillion-dollar company, starting off with just $40 to his name.
  • Read details about Lopez's unique business model and how he makes his money here.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

In the sneaker resale world, the story of Urban Necessities founder Jaysse Lopez is scripture.

Wannabee and novice resellers looking to break into the industry — which a Cowen & Co. analysis estimated could be worth $6 billion globally by 2025 — see Lopez as the typification of success in the field. And it's no surprise why.

With two physical stores and a website — bringing in close to $21 million in sales last year, combined, according to Lopez — he is living the sneakerhead's dream, traveling to trade shows, meeting like-minded resellers, and making a killing with his wife and co-owner, Joanie. 

But like a lot of people in the field, Lopez didn't find immediate success. Before he formed his business, he spent time homeless in Las Vegas, Nevada, panhandling on the Strip. At another low point, he lived on his friend's couch and in a motel and sold his own clothes to stay afloat.

Eventually, he picked himself up and got serious about resale. And since the success started rolling in, it hasn't really stopped.

"We never really focused on the problems," Lopez said of the early days of his business. "We only focused on the solutions."

But Lopez is more than a standard rags-to-riches archetype. He's a symbol of hope and possibility for other resellers looking to get into the industry. 

"I think that the fear of failing is what stops people from learning or trying," Lopez said, later adding: "No two paths are the same."

Here's the full story of how Lopez built a multimillion-dollar reselling empire after having just $40 to his name.

Lopez was homeless for six months in 2000

Lopez is originally from New Jersey, but he came to Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2000.

Lopez said he was homeless when he first got to Vegas, and he panhandled and sold water on the Strip to get by. 

"There's a park on Maryland and Charleston here in Vegas that I lived at for about six months," Lopez said.

He was first exposed to the resale world when he walked into a mall and saw people lining up days in advance for shoes that were coming out that weekend.

He observed the experienced resellers and started to learn more about the industry, eventually taking small jobs to stand in line for different resellers.

Three years later, Lopez met Joanie

Lopez eventually got off the streets and got a job with a cell phone company, which he left due to illness in 2012. He met his then-girlfriend Joanie Barangan in November that year and moved in with her and her parents shortly after.

While he was looking for another job, he decided to try his hand at reselling sneakers.

Lopez turned his first profit in 2013

In early 2013, Lopez was eyeing a sneaker that he thought could do well on the resale market: Nike's Barkley Posite Max Area 72.

With Barangan's help, Lopez purchased 18 pairs of the shoe when it dropped. He sold them all for $200 over profit.

After this sale, Lopez started getting serious about learning everything he could about reselling.

Three months later, Lopez started a website for reselling

The website was called Two Js Kicks, and it launched in 2013. Lopez took pre-orders for hyped sneaker releases and levied relationships with different store managers to nab shoes and sell them for about $60 over retail price, on average. 

"I didn't know my left from my right, but I just knew that if I undercut everybody, sooner or later people will kind of hop on the train," Lopez said.

Lopez kept too much merchandise for himself, and his business started to suffer

Six months into the business venture, Lopez and Barangan split up. Lopez moved into a motel and started selling his own clothes to stay afloat while trying to find another job.

As a last-ditch effort, while sleeping on his friend's couch, Lopez persuaded some of his former buyers to consign their shoes that they no longer wore for Lopez to sell at a trade show. He did so in the summer of 2014.

"I switched it from being the guy that goes out and buys everything to being the guy that you consign with," Lopez said.

At a trade show, Lopez met a mall representative who offered him a golden opportunity

At this trade show in the summer of 2014, Lopez sold around 400 pairs of shoes. He also met a Boulevard Mall representative who persuaded him to open a store.

The representative gave him the store — which Lopez said was located in a hallway that had been closed for five years — with the promise of a few months rent-free. The store opened in September 2014, and the business took off.

"The day that I signed the lease I had $40 to my name," Lopez said. "By December 31, I did a million dollars in sales."

Two Js Kicks turned into Urban Necessities

Lopez and his wife eventually got back together and co-ran the business. They would even pick up guests and consignors in their own car from the Strip to take them to their store.

"We never really focused on the problems," Lopez said. "We only focused on the solutions."

The business skyrocketed

Year after year, Urban Necessities made more in sales, from $4 million in 2015 to close to $21 million in 2019, Lopez said.

Lopez and his now-wife are currently co-owners of Urban Necessities, which Lopez says he hopes to build into a $500 million business.

In addition to sneakers, Urban Necessities sells other merchandise including streetwear and accessories through two physical locations and an online store.

"It had to be an experience and I couldn't just pin myself to sneakers," Lopez said of the company. "It's just been evolving all of this time."

Read more about Lopez's resale business model and how he makes his money here.

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