Self-proclaimed ‘sneakerhead’ Richard Xia has made his love his business!
What’s your story?
I started Novelship with my long-time friend and schoolmate of more than 16 years, Chris Xue. Prior to Novelship, we have had two failed ventures together – from launching a mobile cafe to e-commerce software. The idea to start Novelship came from our mutual interests in sneakers and streetwear. As avid sneakerheads, we saw an enormous market opportunity across the APAC region and wanted to solve our own problems with buying and selling sneakers and streetwear, namely the availability and authenticity of the products in the region.
What excites you most about your industry?
What excites me the most about sneaker reselling/culture is how much the market is worth and how much you can make by taking advantage of it. We’re in the limited edition sneakers space and due to its limited nature, most people out there assume that it is very niche or that it is a recent fashion fad. However, the sneaker scene has been around for the past 30/40 years and is very much well established in the underground scene. With Novelship, we aim to offer greater accessibility and opportunity for anyone to trade/acquire sneakers and streetwear.
What drives you in business to push beyond what other people consider normal?
It started out with us wanting to resolve our own issues. As a sneakerhead myself, I’d buy and resell sneakers a lot. This gave me the knowledge and opportunity to hone my skills in authenticating sneakers/streetwear. I consider myself to be very hands-on in the business, I’d monitor our reviews page via Trustpilot daily. Seeing positive reviews every day on how it helped other sneakerheads secure their pair, makes us feel very motivated. As for the bad reviews, we take them very seriously and will look into how we can better their experience on the platform.
What have been the most useful skills you have learnt and applied in your journey?
One of the most useful skills I’ve had to learn is perseverance. Being an entrepreneur, every day’s a grind and you need the perseverance to continue doing the same tasks over and over again. Another skill I found helpful is focusing on making my milestones achievable. I’d split up my long term vision into annual goals and break it into quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals. This helps me to keep things in check, celebrating wins and having visibility of where we stand as a business.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is from my startup mentor back in NUS. It’s “Never make any assumptions, and always do as much research as possible.” As a platform, we need to ensure that the features on Novelship are of high quality and effective for our users. For example, all the upcoming features that we are releasing this year such as storage options and instant delivery were finalised after many rounds of research. We had to survey our users, and take the statistics into consideration. Every decision that we make at Novelship is based on intensive research.
Who inspires you?
It’d have to be Elon Musk and his journey as an entrepreneur. Despite the challenges and setbacks he faced, he overcame them and achieved so much. He taught me to believe in what I am persevering for. If I work hard enough and have a good strategy, anything is possible.
What have you learnt recently that blew you away?
Recently, I came to know of Augmented Reality (AR) technology for shoes. With a camera-equipped device such as your smartphone, you are able to project a pair of sneakers on your feet. I feel that the technology is not used enough in today’s market but it will definitely be revolutionary for the sneakers and streetwear industry. At Novelship, we aim to always provide the best for our users and will consider incorporating such technologies into our platform for the convenience of our users.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
This might sound cliche but there isn’t really something I would want to do differently. Everything that happened during my business journey is part of the learning process. The only thing that I’d keep telling myself is that if I make a mistake, I would never repeat it again.
How do you unwind?
On weekends, I’d make it a point to get close to nature. I like to take long walks in the park – taking in the sights of the trees, listening to bird calls and smelling the fragrance of flowers. Walking in nature, I feel a sense of inner peace and after a few minutes, my head feels clearer and my body more relaxed.
What is a major mindset change, belief shift or ‘ah ha’ moment that you’ve experienced in relation to your business?
The importance of data analysis. In the early days of our launch, our platform wasn’t created just for sneakers. We were also selling snacks and toys on our Carousell page. One day, we realised (through our analysis) that streetwear and sneakers made up 50-60% of our sales volume despite spending the same amount of time with other products. We saw lots of positive responses in regards to this, hence we decided to just cut other categories out and focus on sneakers and streetwear.
Everyone in business should read this book:
1) Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters.
2) The Mom Test: How to Talk to Customers and Learn If Your Business is a Good Idea when Everyone is Lying to You by Rob Fitzpatrick
Shameless plug for your business:
Novelship is APACs fastest-growing online marketplace for authentic, limited-edition sneakers, apparel, and collectibles. To date, we have half a million users in APAC. Every item purchased or sold on Novelship is professionally guaranteed to be 100% authentic. Our platform has a robust logistics network in the region that allows our users to trade or acquire sneakers with ease of mind and receive the product within an average of five working days.
How can people connect with you?
You can visit my website at https://novelship.com/. We are always on the lookout for talents globally, so please write to me via firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re keen to chat about business and personal interests!
Social Media Links?
Instagram: [@novelship] https://www.instagram.com/novelship/
Mobile Application: https://apps.apple.com/sg/app/novelship/id1553741278
Facebook: [@novelship] https://www.facebook.com/Novelship
This interview is part of the CallumConnects series.