When the Supreme x Air Jordan 5 sneakers were released on a Friday morning in October, Luke Miles was one of the first to know. Cushy soles, taut stitching, and with the iconic Air Jordan silhouette on the tongue, these shoes aren’t just shoes to sneaker fans — they’re works of art. As soon as the Supremes were released, Miles saw the “buy now” button flicker on his screen, and then disappear in a flash. The following Monday, Supreme put up a few hundred more on their site, as collectors scrambled for a second chance to get a pair. And the fans who had Miles’ app, Restocks, were notified before everyone else. Thank-you notes started flooding in, and Miles was crowned a hero in the “sneakerhead” community.
“We gave a lot of people a chance to get a pair that day. That was really cool to see.”
As the founder of Restocks, Miles is an expert in the things people go crazy over. And his other claim to fame? He’s the youngest customer we’ve ever served.
The early days
The idea for Restocks began when Miles was still a sophomore in high school. “I always found the culture behind sneakers really fascinating,” he says. “It’s this unified community that allows people to find a common ground.” And it was a streetwear brand called Supreme that first sucked him into that world. Brands like Supreme, Nike, and Adidas often make limited runs of certain items, which then creates a whole phenomenon of people who want that special thing. When that happens, the items can sell for up to three to four times their original value. So to make some extra cash after school, Miles decided to resell some of his rare Supreme goods.
“It’s really interesting, and I mean that,” he says. “These items have this value — imagined or real — and then it’s hard to buy them. People kind of get obsessed because of that.” Many people stash their pricey possessions away, while others use them as a way to express themselves, rocking them all day long. “That’s something I really respect,” says Miles.
Once the limited releases sell out, brands sometimes roll out a bonus batch, called a “restock.” The thing is, consumers don’t usually know when the restock will happen. And that’s when it clicked. What if there was a service that texted fans whenever a Supreme item was back in stock? Miles built it, put it up online, and people started paying for it. A lot of people.
The texting service was a big hit, but Miles was spending too much money on sending out the actual messages. It would work a lot better if it was an app that alerted people through push notifications. Miles had some programming experience, but he had never built an app before. So he took a shot, and coded the first version of Restocks in a summer.
In the beginning, Restocks was just a hobby that Miles worked on during his last year of high school. “I spent a few hours a week fixing bugs and answering customer support tickets. It wasn’t too bad.” Then in 2015, Y Combinator introduced the YC Fellowship — a smaller version of their main program that is designed to help turn early-stage ideas into startups. Miles applied, and soon enough he was accepted, snapping up a $12,000 grant along the way. After the fellowship program, Miles got into the main Y Combinator program. “Instead of going to college, I decided to do this full time.”
Miles’ parents weren’t fully aware of how big Restocks was becoming. But after Miles was accepted into Y Combinator, he had to make his parents understand that the program was worthwhile enough to put off college. “It’s on the table, I just got an opportunity that would’ve been foolish not to take,” says Miles. “It took a week or two to convince them, but they’ve been really supportive ever since.”
Today, Restocks is doing exactly what Miles set out to do: providing a more transparent way for people to know about their favorite products. “We crawl the Internet for 45,000 of the most wanted products, and let our customers know,” Miles says. In fact,
In December 2015, Restocks sent 1.1 million push notifications.
— Restocks (@restocks) January 10, 2016
For now they’re focused on streetwear, but Miles wants to eventually open it up to other niche markets, like nail polish and yoga clothes.
After Miles incorporated Restocks, he hired someone to help him out with some of the non-technical work. And since Miles had to pay himself and his new teammate, he needed a payroll provider. “It was my first time using payroll ever.” He asked around, and a few fellow entrepreneurs pointed him to Gusto. “I like how easy it is to set up, and that you can add workers’ comp too,” says Miles. “I don’t have to think about any of it.”
In addition to finding the right tools, Miles has also learned first-hand what it takes to run a budding young company. For entrepreneurs with less experience, he stresses the importance of working on a problem you’re interested in. “When you’re your own target user,” Miles says, “it’s a lot easier to make what you want.” To refine his product, Miles tries to talk to as many users as possible, asking them what they’re interested in and why. “Usually the people who care about this are very passionate and will tell you about it almost right away.” Miles also believes in being extremely transparent with his customers. When things break, he’s honest with people, and then works on making it better. That’s also why Miles stamps each piece of customer communication with his own name. “They realize I’m a real person. It’s personal, and it’s something I don’t want to lose as we grow.”
So what’s next for Restocks? According to Miles, the goal is to track every single item on the Internet. “I want to give people as many chances to get their favorite products.” Whether it’s Supreme x Air Jordans or a pair of Kanye West Yeezy sneakers, Restocks is growing into an active community for people and the things they treasure. “Everyone has a different reason for buying stuff — and I just really love that.”