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How Sydney couple created $10m Waves sneaker empire


A couple were making an average wage but then their side hustle started to generate more money than they ever could have imagined.

A former security guard’s obsession with sneakers has netted him $10 million.

George Kozma, 36, from Sydney’s west, had always been a big fan of streetwear.

Originally intended as a side-hustle, he and his wife Olivia, 30, opened up Waves, an online store supplying accessories, clothing and sneakers in their favourite styles including Yeezy Slides and Air Jordans.

Then in 2020, when Covid-19 plunged Australians into lockdown, their business boomed because online was the only way for anyone to shop.

Mr and Mrs Kozma decided to leave their day jobs behind to pursue the e-commerce store full-time.

Last year, the mum and dad made a whopping $10 million in sales and they are eyeing off $15 million for 2022.

“Every month would just increase, increase,” Mr Kozma told news.com.au. “Never in our wildest dreams would we think to process 100 to 150 sneakers per day.”

Mr Kozma realised there was a gap in the market way back in 2014, when sneakers started to gain popularity.

This led to a lot of knock-off sneakers being sold as the real deal.

“People would always come to me for verification advice,” he recalled. “There were so many eBay posts and Facebook Marketplace [ads] selling them for $800 but they’d be fake, I’d help out people in that respect.

“Then I thought maybe we could do something out of this.”

Sure enough, in 2018 he and his wife launched Waves, spending $5000 on accessories from a skate brand called Supreme.

They stored the stock in their bedroom and packed the orders when they got home from work.

In their first year, they made about $10,000 a week in total sales.

However, Mr Kozma pointed out that in this kind of industry, margins are low, especially as the stock was so expensive.

What money they did make was instantly reinvested back into the company.

They then ventured into clothing and a year later, started selling sneakers too.

Waves was ticking along nicely and then in 2020 things exploded.

By the time the pandemic arrived on Australia’s shores, Waves was more established and the Kozmas were moving about $50,000 worth of stock a month.

Then two years ago they started selling as much as $100,000 worth of sneakers per week – almost 10 times their normal amount.

“At the start of 2020 we just thought, ‘What’s going on here?’” Mr Kozma explained.

“It was just crazy. People’s only option to buy was an online store. While they were in lockdown they wanted something exciting.

“We had a massive, huge, huge jump.”

Mr Kozma soon “threw the towel in” with his private security job while Olivia closed down her laser hair removal business to work alongside him.

To take the business to the next level, they hired a warehouse in mid 2020 that was about 120sq m in size to store their stock.

“And then after a year we outgrew, now we’re in a 500sq m warehouse.”

Waves continued to soar to new heights. Last year, in August, when Australia’s two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, were stuck in lockdown, the Kozmas experienced their best ever month.

“We processed close to 4000 orders that month,” he said. “The average order sale is about $450 so that month we hit about $1.8 million [in sales].”

They have 15 full-time staff, buying products and working in the warehouse.

Although the business has proven lucrative, it’s also been difficult at times – especially considering they had two daughters while still in the start-up phase.

Their eldest, Penelope, is three years old and Remi was born six months ago.

“Within one week of giving birth, Olivia was back at work,” Mr Kozma said.

They also work long and bizarre hours to keep the business alive.

“All my stock comes from various countries around the world – US, UK, Paris,” he added.

“I’d always have to be awake when these guys are awake, the phone is never on silent. You’ve got to respond to these guys, you just don’t know, you might lose a deal, they might move on to another buyer.”

For 2022, the couple plan to move into a physical retail space, after having success with a pop-up stall in the warehouse where customers would come to try on stock.

They expect to turn over $15 million this year.

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