Meet the 16-year-old who supplies Premier League stars with rare sneakers

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But he wasn’t looking for a selfie or an autograph. Instead, the 13-year-old was there to hand out his business cards.

Now 16, the London entrepreneur admitted to being obsessed with sneakers and decided from an early age that he wanted to combine his two passions: coaching and football.

And he made a big deal out of his passion.

Over the past three years, it has grown into one of the leading suppliers of rare sneakers and clothing to football stars across Europe, sourcing exclusive items and reselling them at a profit.

While perhaps the biggest concern of most children is which video game they want to buy, Gissing was busy starting his business.

“I was obsessed,” Gissing told CNN Sport. “I wanted to have all the latest shoes and all the latest designers or Hyped or new models, and it was obvious my parents weren’t going to spoil me and buy me everything I wanted, so I just needed to get a little extra capital, a little extra money to be able to afford my own pairs of shoes.

“I realized I could do this by reselling sneakers. So I started lining up outside sneaker shops in London and buying shoes and returning them for £ 20, £ 50 more.

“I was standing in line for hours outside, waiting for Yeezys, Jordans, whatever new high version was, and flipping it over to eBay and Depop, one of those little interfaces where reseller meets reseller.”

The teenager is not the only one to make a name for himself by haggling over the desire for exclusivity. There are a number of other personal buyers including Sam Morgan and Joe Franklin, whose expertise is used by top footballers and musicians.
Leon Gissing says Mason Greenwood is one of football's greatest sneakerheads.
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“Nice sneakers, kid”

Those hours Gissing spent waiting in line for new releases and making new contacts paid off with a chance meeting with American tennis star Jack Sock at the Queen’s Club, which is hosting a warm-up event at Wimbledon in the West London.

After asking Sock for a photo, the former world number 8 noticed Gissing sporting a rare pair of shoes. “Nice sneakers, kid,” he told the teenager.

“I just said, ‘I can buy you a pair,'” he recalls. “I knew I could get him the pairs I was wearing.”

At the time, Gissing had not yet created his official corporate Instagram page “Plug Leon” – a “plug” is someone who is able to source rare and exclusive items – so Sock applied. purchase via Gissing’s personal account.

“He placed the order because I think it was three or four pairs of really rare off-white Nike sneakers,” he says. “I went to his home where he was staying before Wimbledon – he actually won the Wimbledon doubles that year – and delivered the shoes to him.”

Now Gissing’s business was operational.

“He was very happy and that’s when I started the ‘Plug Leon’ Instagram because he wanted to yell at me on Instagram,” says the 16-year-old.

Leon Gissing supplies some of the biggest names in football.

“Kind of a joke”

Despite distributing many business cards to different players, the football industry initially proved more difficult to solve.

In the end, “the spark that started the fire,” as Gissing describes it, was a post on Snapchat from another of his clients that caught the attention of Arsenal player Reiss Nelson, who was then loaned to Bundesliga club Hoffenheim.

“He added me on Snapchat and I thought it was kind of a joke,” Gissing laughs. “I was like, ‘Okay, that’s a fake account added to me. What is it?’ Reiss Nelson, a super good young player, it’s impossible.

“I text him anyway – you have to try – and I said, ‘Look, if you’re ever in London and you need a few pairs of sneakers or some new clothes, call me and I can help you. At this point I’m like, ‘Okay, maybe it’s Reiss Nelson.’ “

About two months later, Nelson was back in London and wanted two pairs of rare sneakers delivered upon his return.

Gissing got hold of the sneakers and was waiting with them at Nelson’s house when he arrived from the airport.

England and Arsenal star Bukayo Saka is also one of Gissing's clients.

“He was very happy and that was basically what I needed to start the business and to really get things going, at least in the football world because from Reiss I had Joe [Willock], Bukayo [Saka] and Émile [Smith Rowe]”, explains Gissing.

“All these young people who play at the academy, at the first marginal team, who potentially participate in cup games or who are sent on loan, to become the superstars they are today.

“So through word of mouth from Reiss I basically started building a following in the football world and then one thing led to another and things really snowballed from there.”

The entrepreneur now counts Chelsea’s Reece James, Manchester United’s Mason Greenwood – who Gissing says could be the biggest sneakerhead of the bunch – and Arsenal striker Gabriel Martinelli among his UK clients, as well. as stars like Barcelona striker Ansu Fati, Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie and Paris Saint-Germain defender Thilo Kehrer across Europe.

While growing his business, Gissing also had to balance his academic studies.

Completing his studies was always something he was determined to do well, and earlier this month he found he had passed his GCSEs with flying colors.

“I make sure I spend enough time in school, focusing on my business and growing it,” he says.

“It’s obviously a bit difficult, but having employees helps and, you know, I’ve learned to be able to multitask and handle both things and keep both things in place and to put maximum effort into both. “



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