Golden time for local entrepreneur

Shak Hammadi has built a wildly successful e-commerce business with a huge following in the US. He’s young, humble and super nice – and he’s doing it all from his base on the Gold Coast.

Mar 24, 2023, updated Mar 24, 2023
Shak Hammadi founded  and runs his e-commerce business from the Gold Coast

Shak Hammadi founded and runs his e-commerce business from the Gold Coast

This is the tale of a teenager who sacrificed a lot to dream big.

It is the story of an entrepreneur who lost sleep as he routinely stayed up until 4am to single-handedly negotiate deals with US-based pro basketballers in their time zones. The time he didn’t spend with school mates, or the lack of the security of a university spot that could ease him into a stable future career.

This is the story of the sheer hard work Shak Hammadi put into building the businesses he began while still in high school.

Baller Media, which Shak started first, grew to around one hundred thousand organically before he sold it recently to a connection in the US. To populate the Instagram account, he manually aggregated content from others’ social media accounts, posting multiple times each day.

“It was basically just a news media page that would post basketball news,” explained Shak.

“I had all the NBA players and famous rappers following the page.”

With companies such as US fast fashion retailer Fashion Nova reaching out unprompted to Baller Media for paid promotions, he made “a little bit of money” but also saw an opportunity to start his own line of products.

“That’s when I got the idea to start The Jersey Nation.”

The Jersey Nation sold over $1 million in product in its first year, with Baller Media providing the engaged audience it needed to gain traction. This was while he was still in high school.

Currently, 60 to 70 per cent of orders are from the US. Canada is the next biggest market, then Australia followed by New Zealand and Europe.

The Jersey Nation’s client base includes the rich, famous and influential, including comedian-actor Pete Davidson who shared his Happy Gilmore jersey online.

However, it’s the testimonials of ordinary people on the website that likely drive the sales – the endless scroll of satisfied customers in jerseys and close up shots showing the stitching, printing and material quality. The shared photos are unposed and unfiltered – the definition of authentic.

The company is essentially Shak. “When I first started out, I was completely unaware of taxes. I wasn’t registered as a company, I was just a sole trader. So, I obviously had to pay like 45 per cent of my income,” he said.

Neither his mother nor his father is entrepreneurial, so they couldn’t help with advice, and all the money to launch the businesses came from Shak’s savings.

He now employs a marketing person, also based on the Gold Coast, and his head of design is in the Philippines. There’s also a trusted local accountant, plus lawyers in the US to advise on IP.

“We don’t sell any Disney type of stuff [or] NBA teams or anything. Even with colours, copyright is a thing. So, you definitely have to not have similar colours to professional teams.

“We do a lot of custom stuff.  We sell a lot of old school movie jerseys that are inspired by movies from the 1900s that don’t actually have the trademark or the licensing because it’s out of date.”

Shak cited Pete Davidson’s Happy Gilmore jersey as an example. “In the Happy Gilmore movie that was a Bruins jersey that [actor Adam Sandler] was wearing. But the one that we sell is black and yellow with Boston on it.”

Before releasing new designs, Shak turns to US-based friends for feedback.

Then there are the regular get togethers with a small group of friends who all own e-commerce businesses on the Gold Coast. Hungry to learn from each other, they all want the freedom of running a business outside of the capital cities. “It’s definitely a lifestyle thing,” he said.

The Gold Coast circle includes Nico Thuret of My Favourite Baker, Aymen Berrairia, founder of premium fitness retailer SHIELDFIT, and Keyaan Hammadi, Shak’s cousin who is busy getting his own startup off the ground.

Don’t be fooled by the descriptors, these are hard working business people on the way up. “We’ve built a good group,” Shak said.

On the side, he’s also started Clutch Media, a digital marketing agency to help local small businesses and e-commerce stores grow.

Talking about his base on the Gold Coast, Shak said there were clear benefits to The Jersey Nation being headquartered there. Easy access to the Gold Coast and Brisbane airports is helping to reduce turnaround time from his overseas manufacturer and allows him to minimise inventory stocks and warehousing costs.

He is also planning a move into a co-working space, trading in the freedom of working from anywhere for access to a dedicated media room and more.

“I really think the Gold Coast is an amazing place to live. And I’ve definitely benefited because I can work freely from anywhere – on the beaches or in a nice café.

“There’s also a lot of great photographers and videographers here – like Mizzi Media who we use – that can help elevate your business to a new level,” he said, noting the importance of social media in fuelling rapid business growth.

Shak’s quietly-offered advice is worth hanging onto.

Because how many other people have taken a high school side hustle and turned it into a million dollar business overnight?

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