Schaumburg native finding perfect fit for sports apparel collectors
Eddy Mejia, a 30-year-old Schaumburg native building a business aimed at collectors of sports apparel, credits his father, high school, military deployments to war zones and current MBA classes at the University of Illinois for his growing entrepreneurial skills.
Created two years ago, his company DisplayInfinity is busily marketing its first available product -- ShoeBoxOne -- a clear acrylic case with a mirrored backing used to display collectible sneakers.
Mejia's inspiration came from a friend who had acquired an impressive collection without any good way to show it off.
"He had 300 sneakers," Mejia said. "It seemed crazy spending all that money to have it hidden away."
Learning that his friend's passion was but one example of a $1 billion market, Mejia first set his mind to creating a display case made of wood. When fellow attendees of Sneaker Con -- a convention for collectors and enthusiasts -- began offering him cash for his prototype, he knew he was on to something.
Last year he went to China to find a manufacturer for the more sophisticated ShoeBoxOne. The first 100 were shipped to him in November and recently sold out. He's now awaiting arrival of a second order of 300, having corrected an earlier shipping problem that caused some of the originals to be damaged.
A brick-and-mortar retail store, Diplomatic 1750, with locations on Michigan Avenue, in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood and in suburban Rosemont, has been helping get the $65 product into collectors' hands.
Mejia also is working on another shoe display case with colorful LED lights, a helmet display case and a jersey hanger called JerseyOne that doesn't damage the wall to which it's fastened.
Though Mejia lived with his mother while growing up, he said much of his passion for business comes from his Colombian-born father, who lived in Wauconda until his son was in junior high before moving to Florida. There he established Mega Service Solutions, a cleaning and facility management business.
Mejia also credits the web development class he took at Schaumburg High School as a major step for his military career, his computer engineering degree and now the MBA and business career he's pursuing.
"That skill really pushed me forward," he said.
Financial reasons and a desire to follow in his uncle's footsteps led him to join the U.S. Army, in which he served from the beginning of 2008 until the end of 2013. He says experiences from deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan allow him to shrug off relatively minor stresses and setbacks in business.
"It was kind of annoying," he said of his time in Iraq. "We would get bombed every day."
Mejia sees his current MBA studies at the Gies College of Business in Champaign as another important step in his career journey. He said only about half his professors are aware he's already created a business, but many of his classmates smile knowingly that his specific questions about running a company aren't as speculative as they might sound.
Though away from the transportation hub of Chicago, Mejia said there are clear benefits to being in Champaign -- not least of which are the five interns he's found.
"Here, I'm closer to talent," he said. "I've never been connected to students who are so smart."
Where he'll go with the business after earning his MBA in a year is something he still needs to think a lot about, but Mejia said California is one possibility. He'll also be looking for a place to grow his second startup, Earnest Earth, which is at an earlier stage of development but looking for ways to make the world a cleaner place.