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Sneaker cleaning entrepreneur raises the bar for Fox students

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Proudly sporting a Temple t-shirt, Cory Matthews, Class of 2025, took to the podium last October at a ceremony celebrating the university’s Cecil B. Moore scholarship program and flaunted the owl tattoo on his front. -right arm.

Matthews — a North Philadelphia native who grew up in 10th and Jefferson — never shied away from the spotlight, the pressures of inner-city life, or the challenges he faced working to earn his graduate from high school and earn an associate’s degree earlier than their peers.

Cory Matthews speaking to 6abc Action News at the Cecil B. Moore Fellowship Program ceremony on main campus in October. (Photo by Joseph V. Labolito)

He graduated from high school at the age of 16. And at 18, he earned his associate’s degree from Community College of Philadelphia in a dual-enrollment program that allows students to earn college credit while still enrolled in high school.

Now a freshman at Temple, he’s committed to earning both a Bachelor of Business Administration in Business Administration and a Masters of Business Administration from the Fox School of Business by age 22. .

“I come from a serious, hard-working and optimistic neighborhood. Philadelphia is a tough city and to live here you have to be resilient. And a lot of kids my age go through a lot of hardships at such a young age,” he said. “It’s about being able to overcome everything that you went through as a child and having that motivation to keep going.”

Congratulations began pouring in on March 2, when Matthews received an email from Temple notifying him that he had been selected as one of the first Cecil B. Moore Fellows.

He first shared the news with his mother, Christine Redd, who raised him in a low-income single parent home since his birth mother passed away when he was 3.

“When I told my mom she was so excited and jumping around the room, she told the whole family,” Matthews said. “I was so happy and felt emotional inside. I thought someone who’s been through my experience isn’t supposed to be in this position. So, I’m extremely grateful and blessed with my support system. .

Named after civil rights activist Cecil B. Moore, LAW ’53, the program creates an academic pathway to Temple for students who live in the university’s eight neighboring ZIP codes—19121, 19122, 19123, 19125, 19130, 19132, 19133, and 19140—and attend high school or charter schools. in the Philadelphia School District.

Matthews said he chose Temple not only because college made him feel like family from the moment he started applying to colleges, but also because his interest in business management meant that the Fox School of Business had quickly caught his eye.

“Temple has one of the best business programs in the country,” Matthews said. “I think studying business management will strengthen my entrepreneurial skills and help me pursue my career goal as a sports agent.”

Again, the world of entrepreneurship is not new to him. In October 2020, while still a high school student, he founded his own sneaker cleaning company: The Sole Surgeon 215.

Since his senior year in high school, Cory Matthews has dedicated time to his sneaker cleaning business, The Sole Surgeon 215. (Photos courtesy of Cory Matthews)

He said the inspiration for a sneaker cleaning business came from his interest in collecting sneakers and following trends in “sneakerhead” culture, in which acquiring and trading sneakers made by brands like Nike, Adidas and New Balance have been popular ever since. the 1970s.

“I was interested in collecting sneakers and how to keep them fresh, so I started studying sneaker cleaning tutorials and researching different materials on sneakers,” he said.

He explained that due to the popularity of the sneaker collection, shoe companies often collaborate with apparel or other celebrity brands to give sneakers exclusive names or nicknames, such as the Jordan 4 Retro Travis Scott. “Cactus Jack” or the New Balance Stray Rats x 990v3 Made in USA “The Joker”.

Sometimes sneaker companies only stock a limited amount for potential buyers. And, as with all markets, it all comes down to supply and demand: if a rare pair of sneakers has a community of collectors and an active market, the price and value keep rising among sellers, retailers and collectors.

For Matthews, getting his business off the ground presented challenges such as knowing his audience and demographics and developing marketing tactics and pricing for his business. He built his company’s website himself, and customers can book a cleaning appointment online or via direct messages on Instagram.

“There were challenges trying to reach a wider audience outside of people my age and my city and understanding marketing tactics that would bring more to my profile,” he said. “It is also enough to set a price that is not too high, but not too low.”

He noted that he used cleaning products from a black-owned company in Dallas, ShoeCPR, who reached out to him on Instagram. Some of the cleaning products he uses include a towel; a cleaning solution mixed with cold water; and a textured brush with soft, medium, hard, or brass bristles, depending on the type of sneaker it’s cleaning.

While balancing time completing schoolwork and running his own business, he learned to meet the challenges of a busy schedule that included working at both Shake Shack and Foot Locker during the week and weekends. end.

“I prioritized what was most important, which was school,” he said. “In my spare time, I focused on my business, whether it was cleaning sneakers, posting pictures on social media, or thinking about new marketing strategies to help me succeed.”

“I’ve gotten so used to my busy schedule that I’ve adapted to it. I’ve never looked back and I continue to do the same routine with my homework and my classes at Temple,” he said. he adds.

Going forward, Matthews said he wants to open a sneaker cleaning store in downtown Philadelphia and continue to grow his business’ Instagram followers.

“I want to design my own cleaning products such as solutions, brushes and sprays. I currently have over 3,000 followers on Instagram and aim to have hundreds of thousands eventually,” he said. “The best way to get a good reputation is not only to do a good job on the sneakers, but also to provide the best customer service to my customers.”


A pair of Jordan sneakers before (left) and after (right) Matthews cleaned them for one of his clients. (Photos courtesy of Cory Matthews)

Along with being a young entrepreneur and a recipient of the Cecil B. Moore Fellowship Program, two of his main goals are to inspire people in his neighborhood and give back to the community.

“I come from the same background, a low-income single-parent family. I lost my mother at a young age and I got over it,” he said. “I think if they see someone graduating from Temple who comes from the same background, it can motivate them to believe that they can do it too.”

Learn more about eligibility for the Cecil B. Moore Scholars program and the program’s first 22 scholars.