Two La Jolla High grads brought a little culture back to La Jolla Recreation Center — basketball culture, that is.
The inaugural San Diego Sneaks Summer Classic was launched July 7 at the Rec Center by Sawsun Khodapanah and Tyler Youngs (Class of 2013). The duo conceived and organized the event that included 12 teams with at least five players per team. It was such a success, game on for next year!
As Tyson explained: "We used to play at 4 o'clock every day after school and during the summer, and that culture went away, so we're just trying to get some La Jolla Rec basketball culture back in the community. Sawsun and I thought of the idea back in February and started to spitball ideas off each other. Then we came up with the July 7 date. We figured it would work because everybody's back for the Fourth of July 4 and there'd be a big turnout."
They were right. More than 70 players signed up and paid the $150 registration fee per team. But it wasn't just about basketball. Sawsun started a new company called San Diego Sneaks 10 months ago, and became the premier sponsor of the tournament to raise awareness for his company.
So how does a UC Santa Barbara psych major end up starting a shoe company?
To know the answer, you have to understand two things: Sawsun has a passion for basketball and he has a habit of, well, collecting shoes.
"I've always been into shoes and sneakers, just being into basketball," he explained. "After college, I was looking to do something based on my passion, and I had a bunch of shoes sitting around. Since I wanted to get something going, I started selling them off.
"I built an Instagram page and through that, I began getting traction and people started asking for certain things and looking to buy certain shoes. I've been working on it for the last 10 months, just trying to grow it."
Khodapanah buys the shoes (and some clothing and hats) in all kinds of places. Sometimes someone will contact him to sell an item and he'll cash them out. But he also keeps his eyes open all around town and on the Internet, and whenever he sees a good deal, he grabs it and puts it up for sale.
"My philosophy is, if I just get all the things I like, then other people will like them, too," he laughed. "I like to incorporate my own tastes to provide my own unique flavor and offer things people may not find elsewhere."
Sales have been steadily increasing and now San Diego Sneaks has a website and and a Facebook page. Khodapanah is using more social media to boost his company's exposure, reasoning: "The Internet is one of the biggest, most powerful tools our generation has, so I've been trying to learn it and use it the best I can."
Khodapanah starts school again in the fall, going after an MBA at San Diego State to further his business education.
San Diego Sneak shoes were on display at the tournament and available to purchase from $140 to $300 a pair.
The tournament winners — a team called "Crushin' Dreams" — each received a Wilson Evolution indoor game ball with "San Diego Sneaks" imprinted on it. Everybody got a free T-shirt to commemorate the day, and Khodapanah and Youngs have officially set their stamp on a new La Jolla summer tradition.