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Yuanrun “Z” Zheng ’13, Creator of 23Penny Sneaker Shop

B-school senior Yuanrun Zheng (better known as Z) has a passion for collecting limited edition sneakers (he personally owns over 300 pairs). In order to maintain this expensive hobby, Z says, “I would just buy five pairs of shoes, sell four on the Internet for above retail prices and keep one for myself, so I basically get a pair for free.” These actions prompted him to leverage his knowledge of the industry and the relationships he formed within the close-knit sneaker community to launch his own website, 23Penny Sneaker Shop.

Z says his favorite part about running his own business is interacting with his customers. “This business has really allowed me to network with the rest of the world. I have sold shoes to NFL players, rappers, doctors, etc. Meeting people in different industries and really getting to know them on a personal level is comforting because possibly they could help me with other ventures I pursue in the future.”

Nonetheless, running a business comes with plenty of challenges. Z says that while he can easily sell out new shoes in minutes, finding enough inventory to satisfy his eager customers is difficult. And, of course, operating a business while pursuing a rigorous course-load and enjoying college life is not an easy task. Despite the challenges, Z plans on continuing to “push shoes at an affordable price (compared to e-Bay for people)” and hopes to spread awareness of his brand by creating shirts, hats, and accessories with the 23Penny logo.

Thinking about starting your own business? Z has some advice:
“Don’t be scared to try, even when you don’t have a complete business plan. It’s so easy to start a business nowadays, especially an e-business, takes 10 minutes to set up a website, spend $8 to purchase a domain, and there it is. I have done a lot of other start-ups back in high school and I have learned a lot of stuff that I translated into advantages and skills when I started 23Penny.

Spend a lot of time on your business initially, just live and breathe it, do everything and anything in your ability to get the word out. I probably did 60 hours a week into this business in the summer of 2011, traveling, networking, paperwork, but it was fun, because it didn’t even feel like work.”

To learn more, visit Z’s website.

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