Meet the Young Entrepreneurs Who Are Changing the Retail Industry.
These rising stars are transforming the way we shop online, in stores, and in the metaverse.
Nike’s acquisition of digital goods startup RTFKT (pronounced artifact) in December signaled the company’s desire to extend its sneaker dominance into the metaverse. It was also good news for RTFKT’s founders, Steven Vasilev, 26, Benoit Pagotto, and Chris Le, who described RTFKT in their pitch deck to investors as executing on Nike’s 2050 roadmap by offering digital sneakers for Generation Z.
“It was sort of a joke.” We knew they’d approach us one day, but we didn’t know if they’d sue or buy us,” Vasilev explained. This past April, the company assisted Nike in releasing its first collection for the metaverse, releasing 20,000 digital sneakers dubbed Nike Dunk Genesis CRYPTOKICKS, with some special editions fetching upwards of $130,000.
Vasilev is just one of the young entrepreneurs featured on the 2023 Forbes 30 Under 30 Retail & E-commerce list, which provides insight into the future of the retail industry.
Take, for example, Emily Gittins, 29, who studied fashion and sustainability at Stanford and is now assisting brands such as The North Face, Oscar de la Renta, and Dagne Dover in selling used versions of their products online. Anuj Mehta, 24, Kushal Negi, 22, and Akash Raju, 24, are putting brands’ products into vacation rentals, providing a novel way for them to acquire customers. Sherwin Xia, 27, has raised $30 million in funding to assist Shopify entrepreneurs in stocking their online stores without touching any inventory.
Some are working on the next big thing. Kiley McKinnon, 27, and her friend Ariana Ferwerda, 27, are filling a market need with their functional and fashionable women’s ski clothing. Logan Lamance, 26, Austin Maxwell, 27, and Ryan Frazier, 28, were bored with drinking warm beer and developed a soft-sided cooler that can keep a six-pack cold for up to seven hours without ice. Jungmin Kang, 18, makes millions of dollars selling slime.
Personal care is still a fertile ground for innovation. Oliver Zak, 25, and classmate Selom Agbitor, 26, invented a line of cosmetics that brighten, maintain, and soothe inked skin after refusing to use ordinary petroleum jelly on their freshly tattooed skin. During college, Kasper Kubica, 27, and David Spratte, 28, bonded over sweaty hands and created a line of sweat-absorbing products for various parts of the body. Jordan Christopher, 29, developed a line of low-cost natural shampoos and conditioners sold at Target, Kroger, CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid after working as a barber in college.
There are also some who are testing the demand for niche markets. JT Garwood, 26, and Jack Miller, 27, secured $26.5 million in funding from Tiger Global and others for their healthcare supply portal, which distributes gloves, bedpans, and IV catheters to hospitals and physicians’ officers. After becoming frustrated with the high cost of dirt biking, Ryan Amoils, 25, Andrew Samole, 26, and Nick Tomasunas, 24, founded an online marketplace for new and used dirt bikes, bike parts, and riding gear.
Others are working to improve the online purchasing experience. Sylvan Guo, 29, and Janvi Shah, 29, who met at Harvard Business School, are making it easier to buy makeup online. Nafis Azad, 25, and Sneh Parmar, 27, are assisting Sephora and other businesses in informing online buyers about the availability of items at neighboring locations. Kimiloluwa Fafowora, 26, collaborates with brands to highlight user-generated videos from a diverse range of customers.