As we celebrate Black History Month, Cheddar is highlighting prominent Black Americans who are carving their own historic paths and trailblazing in their industries. While Black History Month has become synonymous with reflecting on past achievements of Black Americans, it is important that we acknowledge today's historic feats as they happen.
Gerome Sapp, RARES CEO & Founder
Courtesy of Rares
Long gone are the days when lines for limited sneaker drops wrapped around buildings at 5 o'clock in the morning. Like everything else in our consumer-centric world, the sneaker industry adapted as digital took over. Now, instead of a physical line, consumers wait in virtual queues, which are often inundated with bots programmed to snatch up the exclusives and are then marked up and resold by a third party.
Reselling has always been around, but Black Americans, especially young Black Americans, a group who historically helped make sneakers cool, are being left out of huge money-making opportunities. Now, former NFL safety Gerome Sapp has taken the game into his own hands and is transforming the sneaker industry one lace at a time.
Nike Air Yeezy 1, The Prototype. Courtesy of Rares
Sapp founded Rares, a social investing platform that allows consumers to buy and trade shares of sneakers. So, how does it work? Once on the Rares site, users can browse the inventory, assess share prices, and decide how many shares of a particular sneaker they want, essentially buying and trading like stocks. Like other investable assets, Rares believes sneakers are an emerging class that can generate income over time.
"Our goal is to create an easily understood bridge between sneaker culture and Wall Street, the same way Michael Jordan provided a bridge between the culture and corporate success that inspired a whole generation," Sapp told Cheddar.
Sapp told Cheddar one of his company's goals is to let young people, especially young Black Americans, see that sneakers can be a "viable investment path to success."
"But our mission is to go even deeper, we want young people to also see sneakers as an emerging alternative asset in and of itself like Gold, rare artwork, etc," he said.
Ultimately, Rares looks to be a bridge between culture and potential wealth-building on Wall Street.
"RARES hopes that this new innovative affordable approach to access and opportunity to sneakers as a new investment class, begins to show young people that sneakers have the ability to generate relative wealth for them and their families as opposed to being a financial liability," Sapp told Cheddar.
With the economic gap between Black and white families nearly as wide as it was in 1968, Rares also looks to step in to provide real potential for tangible wealth, countering what many saw as a status symbol in Black households when they would simply buy and wear exclusive finds.
Sapp noted that a number of demographics could be better represented in the sneaker space, including women. With $1.2 trillion in spending power — according to Nielsen — Sapp says Black Americans, along with other underrepresented groups, should have access to "financial gains of the sneaker industry's secondary value appreciation."
"With everything, expanding access and opportunities in the space, while educating people about how this new, expanded access and opportunity benefits them, will increase the number of faces representing the industry," he said.
Read more of our "Celebrating Movers and Shakers This Black History Month" series: