Stepping up for Detroit

frederick paul II, b.b.a.'15

Frederick Paul outside of his store, holding a pair of Nike tennis shoesNecessity is the mother of invention. Frederick Paul II knows this all too well. His senior year at WMU found him needing cash to meet his financial commitments. 

As he was cleaning his apartment, inspiration struck the sneaker enthusiast. “I had been an avid collector of Jordan sneakers since sixth grade and amassed a large collection. When I saw dozens of sneakers spread across my bedroom floor, I suddenly had an idea. I selected two pairs of my old sneakers to sell on eBay. I successfully sold both pairs in days and 25 additional pairs in the following months.” Paul’s success led him to formalize a venture, Fahrenheit 313, formerly The Heat Factory, which has now become Detroit’s hottest sneaker exchange. 

Fahrenheit 313 began online, and in fall 2019, Paul opened a brick-and-mortar store on Detroit’s Avenue of Fashion. The store is a hub where sneakerheads can buy, sell and trade the hottest kicks through Fahrenheit 313’s Sneaker Swap, giving collectors access to the shoes of their dreams at affordable prices. 

What started as a way for sneaker connoisseurs to unapologetically declare their love for their favorite brands soon became much more. As the business has grown, Paul’s eye has been on how he can make a difference in Detroit by providing a living wage for Detroit residents and meaningful service in the city.

“Fahrenheit 313 is planning on creating several part- and full-time positions that will offer employees opportunities to build sales and marketing skills. In addition, we have a volunteer corps that participates in charitable campaigns. Making Detroit a better place is at the heart of the company.” 

One of the ways that Paul and his team give back is through their City Champs Series, where participants can enter a football, basketball or baseball tournament that benefits students. The annual proceeds provide backpacks full of supplies to students in the Detroit Public Schools as well as textbook scholarships to students attending college. And Paul has plans to challenge other businesses on the Avenue of Fashion to think creatively about how they can collaborate on philanthropic initiatives going forward.

One of the experiences that Paul has found most challenging and necessary as a business owner is talking about setbacks and disappointments. “Openly talking about my business failures and mishaps was difficult for me,” he says. Participating in Retail Boot Camp in summer of 2018 helped Paul gain many skills, including the ability to honestly assess and communicate where he could improve. 

The culmination of the Retail Boot Camp was a pitch competition where the winning business would receive $5,000. 

Paul won—largely due to his newfound ability to be self-reflective, which has helped his business grow. 

Though Paul’s retail sales have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, he has been able to maintain his business through small business loans and grants, as well as online sales and curbside pickup.