In a nondescript warehouse at an undisclosed location in Northern New Jersey, there sits a garage space full of neatly stacked sneakers—some on shelves, some not—a basketball hoop, an Armenian flag, and a fridge full of beer. Twenty-one-year-old Ari Sarafyan, the man behind cook group AK Chefs and soon-to-be-launched resale shop Private Exhbit, wears a white Supreme x Hanes T-shirt dirtied from moving boxes around all day, a pair of basketball shorts, and Nike x A Cold Wall Vomeros. I hadn't met Sarafyan yet, but had known his brother, Lawrence, who goes by Armenian Kicks, who also works as part of the sneaker reselling operation, for quite some time.
That afternoon over grilled meat, bottles of Ararat brandy, and pickup games of basketball, I get to know some of the ins and outs of Ari's business, not only as a reseller, but as someone who helps facilitate other resellers.
He started reselling sneakers seven years ago, when he was first inspired by a high school friend who was buying sneakers in-store and selling for profit. He then introduced Sarafyan to a simple auto-fill bot, and the rest is history.
He started with Air Jordans and Nikes, and then mixed it up with shoes such as NMDs, Ultra Boosts, and Yeezys. Business started slow, with Sarafyan making $400-$500 a month in profit. After a year, he bubbled to $1,000 a month. Three years in, he was making $3,000 a month. His sixth year saw profits of $6,000 a month. His profits have grown in the seventh year of business, but he doesn't want to disclose a hard number.
At 21 years old, that sort of money is hard to pass up. Sarafyan had initially gone to college for one year before dropping out. Sarafyan's parents, Armenian immigrants from Turkey, wanted him to focus on getting an education. After he spoke to them about wanting to sell sneakers full time, they understood. His father owns a jewelry store in New York City's Diamond District and Ari sees the sneaker business as a modern day version of that.
"Us Armenians, we're totally devoted to business, man. That's all we do," he says. "Most Armenians start a business and sneakers are a very, very good business for Armenians at a young age. Because we were growing up to learn how to hustle. And I think sneakers are the next thing for Armenians. I have a lot of Armenian friends that sell shoes."
Sarafyan said his cook group is a good business, but he still makes more money selling sneakers himself. "It's very profitable. But I have very high expenses," he says, "because I have a lot of employees that push out all their support, and I have developers, and most of my money's invested into that. So I really don't get a crazy return, but I do make a good amount of money."
Ari’s brother works on a separate side of the business, away from the bots and cook groups, but in a role that’s still vitally important to the operation. Lawrence, 24, focuses sourcing sneakers from sellers, buying and selling sneakers in bulk, and taking care of shipping all the shoes that they sell. He says his job can involve moving as many as 150 sneakers a day, although the ROI is lower on sneakers bought in bulk than those purchased through bots.
His latest venture is his online shop Motion, which he hopes can one day find its name mentioned amongst brands and retailers such as StockX and Flight Club. "StockX is killing the market. They're probably No. 1 in sales and discount sales on it," he says. "With creating Motion, we're letting our customers know we're not going to charge you a lot for a shoe. We're going to match StockX. There is no competition. There are no excuses not to buy from us. We're matching. We're matching the StockX price. So we're trying to make our customers happy."
Are you a young entrepreneur or someone who loves sneakers and wants to get into botting and selling sneakers? There’s a lot you need to learn. It’s not as simple as buying sneakers and selling them for profit. Sarafyan, in his own words here, breaks down everything you need to know to get into the business.