‘A true hustle:' The life of a young entrepreneur
UB alum juggles running a business, marketing a product and working a corporate job
Yusef Burgos — or Sef, as friends call him — sits in a low chair dressed in a hoodie and jeans that clearly cost over $400. He speaks in a relaxed voice that does little to convey his busy schedule.
He is surrounded by shoes that cost more than UB tuition, four guys hanging out around the counter and 2015 Drake playing in the background.
This is exactly the “calm, cool, chill environment” he wants his store to emanate.
Burgos, who got a BA from UB in 2017 and an MA in 2018, co-owns The Cellar with Adam Kellerman, and will be celebrating the store’s second anniversary next Monday. The Cellar, located at 569 Elmwood Ave., is a streetwear store and well-known spot for students looking to buy hypebeast essentials: Yeezys, Supreme and the like. Burgos and Kellerman also co-created the shoe cleaner Scuffed Up to help their customers keep their products always looking like new. But the 23-year-old entrepreneur also works full-time as a risk assurance associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers, a multinational accounting firm.
Burgos said he couldn’t run The Cellar without a team he can “trust” to uphold the “vision and culture of the store.” He relies on a six-person team to run the store while he works 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“It’s not really all me, it’s my team,” Burgos said. “I couldn’t do it without these boys.”
Justin Alvear, a senior media studies major, saw Burgos’ passion for the culture as a customer.
“He is a really humble and good guy,” Alvear said. “He’s really passionate about the streetwear culture.”
Burgos opened The Cellar when he was a senior accounting major at UB and said his time at the university “opened a door” for him with the store. Burgos used his connections with students when he was opening The Cellar and spent his time on campus handing out flyers and promoting the shop.
Kellerman said Burgos’ education has greatly helped the business because it’s “like having a built-in accountant.”
In its two years of business, the store has gained a following among UB students and community members alike. The storefront is stacked with retro and modern sneakers and memorabilia. The walls are lined with skateboards and a claw machine offers thousand-dollar kicks to customers who try their luck.
Kellerman said The Cellar has grown through “trial and error” and opening the business has taught him a “ridiculous amount” of information.
“The last two years have just been the greatest learning experience ever,” Kellerman said. “And that’s something that you can’t buy or get somewhere else.”
Burgos said building The Cellar from the ground up was “one of the coolest things.” He said creating the store “didn’t happen overnight” but has left him “happy, humble and blessed.”
“I would say life is all about taking that calculated risk,” Burgos said. “You cannot be scared. If you have a passion, if this is something you want to do as far as having your own business, you gotta take that leap. The best experience comes from doing it.”
Burgos’ future plans include opening another Cellar storefront and giving back to the community. He said he doesn’t have any concrete plans for donations, but hopes to provide “guidance” to Buffalo youth.
“The youth are ultimately the future leaders of our world.” Burgos said. “So whatever I can do, gathering my experiences and the people I’ve met, [I want to] give them an outlet and shed light on my path [with] my knowledge as well.”
He said he wants The Cellar to be a place that people of all ages can hang out and know they “don’t necessarily have to come here just to buy things.”
Alvear believes the store gives off this exact “vibe.”
“They have a really dope store that epitomizes the positives of streetwear culture in my opinion,” Alvear said. “The general vibe was friendly and definitely seems like a place you could make good friends. You tend to see groups of teens go inside and kind of just hang out.”
Burgos recommended that students “leverage” the resources around them while they can, as the people he met at UB helped spread the word about his business.
“People don’t realize when you’re a college student, you have so many resources at your fingertips to really do almost whatever you want. There are so many people around you and in your network that just want to help you simply because you’re a college student,” Burgos said. “When you graduate, all of that goes away.”
Burgos attributed his success to his “constant grind” mentality and urged others to “delay gratification.”
“You can’t have that instant gratification. A lot of kids, a lot of my peers ‘want it now,’” Burgos said. “It’s all about just staying focused on delaying gratification. … It’ll ultimately pay off in the end, and that’s the mindset.”
Jacklyn Walters is a senior news editor and can be reached at Jacklyn.Walters@ubspectrum.com and @JacklynUBSpec.