Tyler Rose, founder and owner of CleanCo 401, has taken his passion and love for collecting sneakers and turned it into a thriving business.
The sneaker culture came to be in the 1980s with the introduction of Michael Jordan’s “Air Jordan” sneaker line.
“I started collecting sneakers in middle school,” said Rose, 24, who graduated from North Providence High School in 2015 and still lives in the town. “It became an addiction, buying all these sneakers. They almost became like trading cards.”
Collecting, buying and selling sneakers has changed dramatically in the last decade with the growing popularity of streetwear and casual-culture.
“When I first started collecting, you would just sit in front of your local sneaker store the night before a release and wait for the store to open,” Rose said. “But with more and more people collecting sneakers, companies have invested in raffle systems that people from all over the world can sign up for, which increases the difficulty of getting your hands on a new pair of Air Jordans that you want.”
With the revival of the sneaker culture came price spikes in new sneakers, as well as sneaker services – something Rose knew he could take advantage of.
“When I first started cleaning sneakers and taking it seriously, it was only for my own collection and for some of my friends,” he said. “Then I started watching sneaker restorers on YouTube and different social media platforms, and realized that there was a lot of money to be made.”
Rose started to take before and after photos of sneakers that he had cleaned, and posted the images to his Instagram account.
“I knew that if I really wanted to start a business, I needed to develop a following,” he said. “I know my work is good and that I can make used, old sneakers look good as new. I just needed other people to see that as well.”
While his Instagram started to develop a following with fans throughout the country, Rose knew that he needed to distinguish himself from other sneaker cleaners and restorers.
“I started to invest in my company,” he said. “I bought ultraviolet LED lights in order to remove the natural yellowing that occurs on sneakers from old age.”
Like any good businessman, Rose also explored what made renowned sneaker restorers popular.
“Restoring sneakers is an art,” he said. “The really good ones can take an unwearable pair of sneakers and make them look good as new through techniques like sole-swapping, de-yellowing and painting.”
Rose followed in the footsteps of popular sneaker restorers to further expand his brand.
“Creating a YouTube channel and posting weekly content was a new way to interact with my fans and give them an insight into my personality,” he said.
Rose started to post his cleaning process, sneaker cleaner reviews, mystery box openings and giveaways on his YouTube channel.
“Different sneaker cleaner companies started sending me products to review on my channel,” he said. “I’ve reached out to different companies, and they’ve even started supplying me with things like shoe racks that I do giveaways for on my channel.”
Rose’s social media platforms and networking have even given him access to sneakers that have not been officially released yet.
“This client that I cleaned a few sneakers for got his hands on a pair of the Jordan 1 Shadow 2.0s,” he said. “He accidentally got a pen mark on them and sent them to me for a cleaning. I was excited to be able to include a video about them on my YouTube because I knew that people would be interested in seeing a cleaning and a review of a pair of sneakers that don’t officially release until May 15.”
The cleaning and review video of the sneaker was Rose’s most successful video yet, garnering 950 hits.
Rose keeps perfecting his craft of restoring sneakers and plans on making custom sneakers in the future.
“At the end of the day, all people want to do is be able to make money off their passions and the things they love to do,” Rose said. “If you can make a living off doing what you love to do, you never have to work a day in your life.”
Follow Rose and CleanCo 401 on Instagram (@cleanco401) and check out his YouTube channel.
Robert Altomari is a student at the University of Rhode Island.