With a bright mind and relentless hustle, Sok excels in unpredictable business world
Dec. 11, 2019
Since flipping his first pair of sneakers for profit as a 16-year-old high school junior, Andrew Sok knew he wanted to be his own boss and play by his own rules.
A budding entrepreneur and first-generation student at the Community College of Rhode Island, the 18-year-old Providence native now owns his own small vending company and continues to reach new heights on the high-risk secondary sneaker market.
Having successfully navigated the unpredictable waters of the small business world at a young age, Sok is further pursuing his education in hopes of turning what may seem like a hobby for some into a money-making business that could eventually bankroll his future endeavors beyond CCRI.
“As a kid, I always had that mindset of working for myself,” said Sok, the son of Cambodian refugees who now lives with both parents in North Kingstown. “I’ve always had that entrepreneurial spirit.”
To fine-tune his business acumen, he enrolled at CCRI this semester, taking advantage of a “great learning opportunity” through the Promise scholarship to study under experienced professors who are helping him further understand the risks and rewards as he dives head-first into the world of entrepreneurship.
“This is a great fit for me,” Sok said. “The class schedule is flexible and the professors are knowledgeable. They bring real-world experience to the classroom.”
His first money-making endeavor started innocently enough. A friend suggested he could score big on the online sneaker market, so Sok began researching release dates for new shoes, how to utilize bots – or automated programs – to make wholesale purchases through retail providers, and when to flip his new investments for a quick profit.
Soon, he dove into more untapped resources, niche markets such as collectibles or alternative brands. He bought a suitcase from the Manhattan-based skateboard company Supreme, waited until the supply dwindled, and then sold it through a third-party website – he typically uses StockX, one of the more popular online marketplaces – for more than twice its original retail value.
Some of his finds require a little more legwork. While researching the collectibles market, he discovered Rae Dunn, a pottery company in California named after a former fashion designer that sells handmade products worldwide, everything from ceramic birdhouses to coffee mugs. The brand’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent years with collectors willing to pay more than double the retail value for items. Sok found eight Rae Dunn birdhouses at a local TJ Maxx and sold them online for a hefty profit that turned out to be more than worth the effort.
The resale market is as fickle as it is fascinating. Aside from staying on top of the current trends, the key, Sok says, is understanding the concept of supply and demand, particularly in the sneaker market.
Sok buys in bulk and hopes the availability of the product dwindles while the demand skyrockets – risky, no doubt, but there’s little room for reward in the business world without taking calculated risks.
There’s money to be made, Sok said, if you’re fortunate enough to score a hot new item at retail value, which requires extensive research on release dates and availability. He currently owns more than 200 pairs of sneakers, some which he’ll move quickly for a small profit and others that require more of a long-term investment.
His latest endeavor is the vending business. Sok found a retiring local businessman selling 26 vending machines on Facebook Marketplace, all located throughout the state. He purchased the route with money from his sneaker sales and now services the machines himself during his free time between classes.
The drive and determination runs in the family. Sok’s parents fled Cambodia in their mid-20s during the Cambodian Genocide of the late 1970s. His father entered the marine trades industry and continues to work first shift as a boatbuilder. His parents always told him to get good grades, go to college and follow in their footsteps, but Sok knew long ago the 9-to-5 grind was not in his future.
At CCRI, he’s now learned there’s more to being an entrepreneur than having a fool-proof idea and a tireless work ethic; one must also have the right tools to succeed outside of the classroom.
With a brilliant mind for business, Sok’s opportunities are endless. He’s determined to become Rhode Island’s next great entrepreneur, but, for now, remains focused on his education at CCRI, where the college’s business program puts him on the right track to achieve his goals.
“This is what I’ve always wanted to do,” Sok said. “I think you have to be born with it. That drive is not something that can be taught. It has to be in you.”
On March 2, voters will be asked to invest in the future of higher education in Rhode Island by approving Question 1, a $107 million bond for significant investments at CCRI, RIC, and URI.
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