When George and Olivia Kozma first dipped their toe into the world of sneaker streetbrand resell, the Western Sydney couple didn’t realise just how hungry the market was for a retailer who could guarantee both the quality and authenticity of a rare pair of Nikes. Or SUPREME hoody. Or Yeezy slides.
What started out as a hobby for the former rostering manager at a security firm and laser beautician selling out of the garage of their rental home soon turned into a multi-million dollar business with a sale turnover of $9.5 million. According to the Kozmas, it’s been an absolute ride, not just due to the success of the business but due the passion that customers have for their product.
Where once folks might have collected rare coins, sneakers have become one of the most coveted items on resale sites such as GOAT, StockX and, now, WAVES. Limited edition releases, specific colourways, annual launches – punters will pay plenty to get their hands on a pair of reissued 1989 Air Jordans, a limited promotional version sold only at the Foot Locker in Fontana in the summer of 2002.
ICON spoke to co-founder Olivia about what first inspired her and husband George to start WAVES and where the brand is headed.
ICON: What made you want to start Waves?
Olivia Kozma: George had an opportunity when we met a SUPREME reseller through Facebook reseller groups that he had been a part of for years before. He was very active on these groups, and had built a good reputation amongst the Australian resell community. He was known for helping people authenticate sneakers and streetwear, so he invested a few thousand dollars on stock and we launched WAVES in 2018.
ICON: You started the business as a side hustle to pre-existing jobs. How hard was it for you both at the start to find the balance between both of these while still getting some down time?
OK: This was our biggest challenge – especially having a newborn ! At first it was manageable, as it was a few orders a night that George would process after work, however the more our sales increased there really was no balance at all, at one stage George worked from nine to five at his job, during the day I would look after our daughter and manage orders during her naps, then George would get home and I would work in my home clinic from 5:30pm to 9pm while George did bath and bedtime. Most nights we would still be processing orders after 10pm.
ICON: Was there ever a moment you thought “Yeah nuh, can’t do this”? What made you push through it?
OK: There was a moment where I had said to George – listen this isn’t a side hustle anymore, if you want waves to succeed we have to give it 100 per cent of our time or we continue with our jobs and forget about it all together, I supported George’s dream 100 per cent and we knew we were going to do whatever it takes to make it work and do something amazing for our family
ICON: Were you surprised by how fast the company grew?
OK: YES! We still can’t really believe it – also at the same time we have worked so hard and sacrificed a lot it hasn’t been easy but all the risks we took have totally been worth it
ICON: When did you notice a gap in the market for this?
OK: George noticed that even though there were a few well known bricks and mortar retailers in Australia there wasn’t anyone that had really tapped into the online world. We really had to use Georges reputation and the trust people already had in him to build off that foundation and allow people to really get to know George and I as WAVES.
ICON: Who were the customers that were coming to you?
OK: We have such a diverse customer base, from celebrities, influencers, hardcore sneaker collectors and those who are knew to the resale world.
ICON: How would you describe what the business is? Is it solely resell? Or is it also new products direct from brands?
OK: 95 per cent of the of WAVES at this stage is purely resale, with the exception of shoe care and a small range of collectibles – we do have plans of launching WAVES merchandise later this year.
ICON: These fans of the products are notoriously hawk-eyed for details. How do you ensure only the best quality and authentic items end up on Waves?
OK: We only work with a very small group of sellers that we have built strong relationships with over the years . George is very selective with who he chooses to do his buying from. Everything that we purchase can be traced back to the source and is authenticated as soon as it arrives to our warehouse – authenticity is extremely important to us and we take it very seriously.
ICON: What’s the biggest unicorn of the sneaker world that you have had on the site?
OK: This was the sourcing of Eminem Carhatt 4s and a pair of Nike “What The Dunks” from 2007.
ICON: What’s the next phase for Waves?
OK: Right now, our focus is to continue growing and getting the WAVES name out there . We really want to cement our position in the industry as leaders and experts in our field. We have been able to build a community, our customers have gotten to know our family over the years and feel like they’ve been apart of our journey, we want to be able to continue providing them with the best possible shopping experience we can.