Customers walking into Cookies N’ Kicks, located on the iconic Melrose Avenue, are greeted with a friendly and laid-back ambience. The shoe store, complete with music blasting and the sounds of basketballs bouncing, has attracted celebrity customers like Lil Yachty, Offset, and Lamar Odom. This L.A. staple was created by Eli Hayman, a student who took a leave of absence.
“Essentially what we do is, if you buy kicks, we give you cookies,” said Hayman, a former real estate development major. Last year, the 21-year-old decided to take a break from attending USC in order to pursue his business.
Hayman created his first business called Wype the Hype, a sneaker cleaning service previously on Melrose Avenue, while at USC. Hayman said he rarely slept while balancing work and school — he would arrive at the storefront at 9 a.m. and leave around 5 a.m. After the success of Wype the Hype, he left school and launched Cookies N’ Kicks in 2019.
“When this place came up, I approached my good friend at the time and my business partner,” Hayman said. “I told him that I really thought this place would be killer for a sneaker store. It had a really nice look about it.”
Before his start as a business owner, Hayman was a sneaker seller, making a profit on social media and other online selling platforms. Hayman was inspired by the sneaker industry and the opportunity for profit that came with selling sneakers. While he plans to go into the field of real estate, Hayman said Cookies N’ Kicks fit into his current ambitions.
“I don’t really do it for the money right now,” Hayman said. “That’s not what’s important to me. The point is that we’re meeting every day, we’re meeting the coolest people and having the coolest opportunities.”
Hayman, who moved from Australia, has been living in Los Angeles for 16 years. While living in the city, he has become increasingly familiar with sneaker culture and the community of sneakerheads, who buy and trade shoes. He said he buys what genuinely catches his eye, rather than buying certain sneakers to follow trends.
“I have the most random Converse collection of like 80 pairs of Converse,” Hayman said. “If I like it, I’ll buy it.”
Even though Melrose Avenue is heavily populated with sneaker stores, Hayman felt they were lacking in customer service. Part of his motivation for starting Cookies N’ Kicks was to create a friendlier environment focused on making the sneaker-buying experience more enjoyable for the customer.
“Eli is the most persistent person I’ve ever met,” said Dominiq Sotelo, co-owner of Cookies N’ Kicks. “If he wants something, he goes out and gets it.”
The store features a basketball hoop, upstairs lounge area and an importance placed on providing a positive attitude. Currently, Cookies N’ Kicks has over 37,000 followers on Instagram.
“My experiences at Cookies N’ Kicks have always been amazing,” said Hrak Araradian, a sneaker reseller who runs 213 Solez. “I’ve bought and sold sneakers with them in the past, and Eli is genuinely super kind.”
Hayman works with different business partners involved with the store. He focuses on financial side of things, such as keeping track of payments and taxes, while each business partner has their own role in maintaining and growing the business.
“I’m coming up with new and creative things that ultimately build the brand and make it worth more,” Hayman said.
He is currently working with different influencers and designing merchandisers to promote the brand, as well as creating a cleaning product for the store with his experience from his first business.
Even though Hayman said being a full-time student does not fit into his current lifestyle, Hayman wants to return in a few years and eventually get his degree. He said that his real estate classes were the most helpful part of his time at USC.
His favorite class was Shaping Cities Through Real Estate, where he formed a close relationship with adjunct faculty Bret Nielsen. He would often look to Professor Nielsen for business and real estate advice, asking him about starting leases, and contracts.
“I plan to go back to USC,” Hayman said. “I really would love to graduate.”