Making a Living as a “Sneakerhead”

Lubar students are benefitting from the entrepreneurial environment in the Lubar School of Business and at the UWM campus as a whole. Business and entrepreneurship classes, advice from faculty members, entrepreneur internships, the campus chapter of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization, and their own ideas and motivation, make it possible for students to try out ideas without a huge investment.  This is one of a series of profiles of students who are developing their own small businesses.

Nimesh (Nemo) Ruparel loves sneakers. Growing up, he idolized Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, but he couldn’t afford Jordan’s shoes. “When I got my first job in 2006, I saved up two paychecks to buy a pair of Jordans. It took me 10 years to get that pair.”

Recognizing that there were other “sneakerheads” around, he started The Milwaukee Swap, a Facebook group. The Facebook page has 2,900 fan “likes,” and became an active Facebook community group/forum that now has 25,000 members. It’s a popular site for buying, selling and swapping limited editions, new releases and other special sneakers.

When he held a sneaker convention in 2015, it attracted 700 people and 50 vendors. He’s already paid his college expenses from his business. His once-doubtful parents are now behind him. “Ever since day one, it’s been profitable.” He’s trademarked “Milwaukee Swap” and his nickname, Nemo – “like the fish or the captain.”

Ruparel just graduated from UWM in December, 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing/finance, with a certificate in entrepreneurship.

He’s worked with a local business incubator, the Commons, but has also received support for his ideas through a UWM class on entrepreneurship with James Hunter III (Bostrom Entrepreneur in Residence) in the Lubar School of Business. “He kind of pushed us to take part in competitions. I entered four and won three.”

He was one of three UWM students who won the 2016 James D. Scheinfeld Entrepreneurial Award Competition, and earned honorable mention in the La Macchia Enterprises New Venture Business Plan Competition.

As he’s fine-tuned his business plan, he’s hoping to expand the business with a smartphone app and take it to a wider geographical area. “I want it to be a version of Craigslist or eBay, but specifically for shoes.”