He’s only 14 but he’s got his eye on becoming the most successful young entrepreneur in the Middle East. Judging by his clout, at least on social media, that dream is not far away.
Rashid Belhasa, who only started his YouTube channel Money Kicks in December where he reviews his collection of rare sneakers, has already gained more than 149,000 subscribers. On Instagram, his follower numbers just crossed 134,000.
Rashid Belhasa with his shoe collection
“It’s like an addiction,” he says sheepishly, sitting next to a 24-carat gold-plated Air Jordan 1 Pinnacle estimated to be worth $1,900 (Dh6,976). “I’m a new sneakerhead and I can’t stop.”
But the youngest son of prominent Dubai businessman Saif Ahmad Belhasa says his collection (he’s so far collected 200 limited-edition sneakers) is an investment. “I bought these for $500,” he says, pulling out another Air Jordan V Blue. “But in two years, their price will triple.”
Rashid Belhasa with Wiz Khalifa
Belhasa began his collection nine months ago after he noticed how much attention his 16-year-old brother Abdullah was drawing with his sneakers during a visit to the mall.
“He was wearing a Yeezy [Kanye West’s collaboration with Adidas] and people were approaching him and taking photos,” the teenager recalls. “That’s when I started researching about the shoe and became a sneakerhead overnight.”
Rashid Belhasa with the rapper Tyga
Most of the shoes in his collection were bought online.
“Every sneakerhead has what you call ‘plugs’. They are like the connections you never share with others. They are the insiders who will get you any shoe you want.”
He funded his new obsession for expensive and rare sneakers all by himself, he claims, with money he made from ads via his YouTube channel.
Belhasa first tasted social media fame when the YouTube prankster Vitaly Zdorovetskiy visited his family’s 69,000-square-metre farm in Al Khawaneej, about 30km from the centre of Dubai. Besides his rare shoe collection, the farm is a mini zoo and home to a number of rare breeds of wild animals.
“Vitaly gave me a shout out on his channel [VitalyzdTV] after his visit, and my subscribers jumped from 4,000 to 50,000 in a few days. It was crazy,” Belhasa recalls. “He has like nine million subscribers.”
Rashid Belhasa with singer Trey Songz
Money Kicks’ popularity soared further earlier this year when the rapper Wiz Khalifa visited and Belhasa took him to check out his sneaker collection. During his visit, Khalifa seemingly ‘dissed’ Kanye West by telling Belhasa on video that he just doesn’t like Yeezy shoes. The clip was picked up by many forums as confirmation that the Kanye-Wiz beef was real. What it also did was send Belhasa’s popularity soaring.
He says he’s on Wiz’s team.
“Wiz is cool and he’s as passionate about sneakers as me. Plus, he’s very humble,” he says.
Rashid Belhasa with DJ Steve Aoki
Many celebrities have visited the farm since — from Tyga, to The Game, Kid Ink, Khloe Kardashian, Trey Songz and even Jackie Chan, who filmed Kung Fu Yoga there. But none of the stars are paid a single dirham to visit, he says.
“It’s all about the contacts,” he says. “They are all my friends, and they come because they want to come here.”
Rashid Belhasa with actor Jackie Chan
One of his favourite visits was by English footballer Wayne Rooney who gave him a signed pair of shoes, which Belhasa now stores in a special casing.
Besides the sneaker collection, which he now estimates to be worth more than $80,000, Belhasa also co-owns a men’s streetwear line called KA-1.
He says his parents do not interfere with the way he spends his money. Belhasa’s mother, Sarah Belhasa, is also an entrepreneur, and owns the Studio 8 fashion boutique among other businesses.
“They just care that I do my studies, and that I finish my homework and not spend too much time on social media,” he laughs.
The youngster, who will soon be in Grade 10 at the International School of Arts and Science in Dubai, has a team of managers who take care of his videos and posts.
He says he doesn’t really care about people who say he’s just a privileged kid.
“I don’t care about the haters and I never look at their comments,” he says dismissively. “There will always be haters. Even if you are the kindest guy in the world, you will still have haters. So I just ignore them. I won’t give them face.”
His four older brothers are quite jealous of his newfound social media clout, he says. “They were laughing when I first started it. Now they know what a big thing this whole obsession has turned out to be and what potential it has.”
The plan now is to turn his sneaker collection and fashion line into major businesses.
“I want to finish school, study business and then open the biggest sneaker shop in the region,” he says with a smile. “I am proud to be an Emirati and doing this and representing. I want to be the youngest businessman in the Middle East. Inshallah, I will be soon.”