Benjamin "Kickz" Kapelushnik's business is booming. It's so successful, in fact, that his catchphrase (as seen on his Instagram bio,and coined by way of DJ Khaled's Snapchat) is just that — and he's not fronting. In the scope of about a year, the 16-year-old Florida native has built an empire selling rare sneakers that's has made him a lot of cash — so much, that he's purportedly on track to make a million dollars.
The hunt for insanely exclusive sneakers is real — if you're a plebeian like me, viable options for getting your hands on hard-to-acquire kicks aren't all that appealing. You can camp out in a line for hours on end (no, thank you) or you can physically take the time to go to stores that might have one or two pairs in stock. (But probably not in a size 6.5 mens. So also, no, thank you.) Alternately, you can scour the internet, hoping for a lucky break where you'll score a pair that's real and deadstock. Basically, unless you've got a connect (or the time and energy to do it yourself), the pursuit is a mess. So when it comes to physically building a business based on curating the rarest of sneakers, the love has to run deep.
This is why the game belongs to Kickz. His rise to success is unique (and fast) and his celebrity-filled lifestyle is enviable. But perhaps the most interesting thing is how much he's accomplished at such a young age. Passion was his starting point: "People say that if you do what you like, no matter what it is, you’ll automatically succeed in it," he tells Refinery29. "So it started out as a hobby and I love doing it, obviously, so this is what it's come to. No matter what, people should do whatever they like to do or have a passion for. If a person is like, 'You can't do it,' that's when they should do it more to prove them wrong."
Once he realized he could capitalize on his pastime, he started paying friends to camp out for certain releases. Soon, DJ Khaled was calling him for sneakers. Then, he started securing his own connects for bulk orders of sought-after items and waiting in line (or paying someone to do so) was no longer necessary. As he started accruing a roster of celebrity clients — which includes athletes and rappers — a symbiotic relationship resulted. Kickz secured more sneaker contacts and thus, his customer list grew, and vice versa. Now, he's also raking in money with his new site, the Sneaker Don, which launched in 2015. He also has a TV show in the works. Money and fame aside, he admits his life has changed entirely since the madness began. For starters, he's now homeschooled, giving him the flexibility and time to properly run a business: "When I was in school, I couldn’t focus," he says. "I had to put so much time into school, eight hours a day, then I'd go to bed early, and wake up at 6 [to work on the sneaker business]. I didn’t have time for anything else. It wasn’t flexible." Now that his schedule is more fluid, it means Kickz's day might involve jumping from Travis Scott's album-release party (where he met Kanye) to a Lil Yachty concert to Young Thug's after-party. Yes, that all actually happened in one day. Despite all the celebrities he's come across, Kickz admits it's his OG supporter, DJ Khaled, who he looks up to as a mentor. Khaled has led Kickz to many of his new clients and has featured him countless times on his Snapchat.
Besides the passion, flush finances, and celeb connections, Kickz points to his chill disposition as a quality and mentality that will help him continue to conquer the game. "Honestly, I’m probably the easiest person to make friends with," he says. "You know how a lot of rappers are like, 'I’m just so cool. I can’t talk to you,' type of thing...people that are super, super cocky and stuck up? They’re like, 'Oh yeah, I’m better than you.’" But that's just not Kickz's M.O. Truthfully, if the fact that he was able to turn himself into a sneaker tycoon at such a young age is any indication, it's worth sticking to. Because if he does, business will only continue to be that much more BOOOOOOOOMING.