Monday January 31, 2011
Hi everyone. On this Tuesday Tips post we're going to jump right into a series on "How To Start A Reselling Business". If you're new to our blog, you might want to read the earlier posts first: Should I Start A Reselling Business? Part 1 and Part 2.
I'm planning to break up this series into several posts. And so far, I have the following:
• Initial Planning
• Identity / Branding
• Legal / Tax
• Technical / Website
• Acquisition / Storage
This seemed to make sense in my head for a roadmap to starting this type of business, but we might be changing it as we go along.
Now is a good time to remind you that I'm not a lawyer / accountant, I didn't take any business or econ classes and nothing we write here should be construed as "professional advice". Proceed at your own risk...
OK, so you've decided to try your hand at the reselling business. The first thing you need to do is some Initial Planning.
Truthfully, reselling online is a very different game than most "businesses". I remember one of the first online businesses we had (in 2002 or so), we tried to find relevant information on how to start one. The problem was that 90 percent of what we found online referred to a Brick and Mortar business. This is probably not as true now, but it sort of forced us to come up with our own approach.
Basically, what it comes down to is that "barriers to entry" in the reselling business are very minimal (or informal), but your information and support might also be minimal (or informal) as well. You can just start selling on Ebay tomorrow, but when it comes down to treating your business like a business, no one is going to lead you by the hand and tell you what to do.
Because it's so easy to start, most people just jump in without planning. However, if you think you might make this a part time or full time job, it's probably a good idea to at least take a stab at SOME sort of plan.
So what kind of initial planning for Reselling should you do?
Well, ANY kind of planning is better than none. The nice thing here is that we can start with some assumptions. Most other sites we visited said to come up with a "Mission Statement" or whatever first. In this case, we already know your mission statement:
Buy valuable or desirable things cheaply.
Sell them online/offline for a profit.
Yes, this is greatly simpified and there's a whole lot of devil in the details. But it's rather nice that we're all on the same page here. I'm also going to assume that for the most part:
• You'll buy your inventory at thrift stores, garage/estate sales, auctions, closeouts, etc.
• You're going to sell things on Ebay, Etsy or other online/offline venue.
OK, now we can start planning all those devilish details. As I said before, ANY planning is better than none. I don't know if you want to do a full-on "Business Plan". I don't know if that's necessary. But here are a few things you might want to start with. You can write them down, or just keep 'em in your head:
• Pick a date to start the business
This is good both for the legal aspect and to help you to focus. I would pick a date at least 3-12 months(!) in the future, so that you'll have time to set up the necessary legal stuff. I would also pick a date that's not too close to the end of the year - in other words, don't pick December 1 as your starting date. It just complicates things unnecessarily, because in most cases you'll be working off the calendar year. Try and stick with your date as much as possible. Think of it as the "day you officially started your business", even if you did planning and other stuff up until the day.
• Think about where you're going to acquire your inventory
Yes, we've already assumed that you're buying items second-hand. However, you should probably think about exactly where your inventory is going to come from. If you don't know, then I would target thrift stores and garage sales first, since I've yet to hear of any location that has NEITHER of those. You can always expand later - it's what a majority of resellers do.
• Think about what you're going to sell
Truthfully, you should probably already have an idea about this. Clothes, books, collectibles, electronics, fine art - you should have at least one area of focus to start with. This is also going to help feed into the next section about "Brand and Identity". You should at least be knowledegable about ONE type of thing you're going to sell. I guess you'd call this your "reselling niche". Go online and find out as much else as you can about products in your niche. Bookmark sites that deal with your niche. Make friends with other online sellers in that same niche.
• Think about your target market
On nearly every business start-up plan we looked at, this was an important part of planning. I think this depends partly on your "niche" as well. Basically, think about things like - are your customers male, female, single, young, old, wealthy, bargain-hunters etc. Different reseller sites deal with different clientele, so it can make a big difference where you decide to sell your items.
• Think about how your customers will find you
The nice thing about selling online is that there is a good chance that part of the infrastructure for finding customers is already "built-in". If you sell on Ebay, people will find your item by search. If you sell on Etsy, they can find your item through search or through the community. If you sell on your own website, people can find your item through search engines or word of mouth. Social networking, forums, groups, email lists can all help as well. Keep an open mind about how to get customers to notice you.
• Think about where you're going to sell
Again, this is tied in with your reseller niche and your target market. Ebay would be the default online venue for most people starting out, but you might want to skip that for Etsy or your own website, or you might be looking to do an antique booth/swap meet. Many people diversify their selling venues, which I think is a good eventual route. Write down some ideas, but also plan to be flexible if things change.
• Think about your competition
I'm assuming that a majority of you are going to be reselling vintage, antique, unique or older items. One of the nicer things about selling these type of items is that the competition isn't necessarily the "enemy". With traditional businesses, you often end up with a cutthroat mindset - step on anyone to get to the top. Geez, just look at commercials today. With vintage and antiques, there's a good chance that NO ONE has what you have. And even if you do, the condition, color, quality may be different. There is a whole lot more chance of your item standing out. The problem is - there are a TON more online reseller stores out there than traditional stores. You still have to think about how you can differentiate your store from others out there.
• Plan for initial costs
As we said before, the nice thing about reselling is that there's not much startup capital involved. You don't have to rent or retrofit an entire building. However, if you want to "go legal" there are going to be some startup costs. And there are also things to consider like seller fees, office and shipping supplies, camera costs, software, business cards, research books and subscriptions, and rent (if you're doing a physical booth). How much total? I can't answer that. =) But I would seriously reconsider if money is so tight that can't afford to spend a couple hundred dollars on your initial startup.
• Come up with a Basic Start-up Timeline
In the start-up business parlance, I guess this would be a "Milestones" chart. To be honest, this bores the living heck out of me (too many bad memories from office jobs). But I think it might be very helpful for others, at least for the start-up part. I made one when we started anyhow - here, have a look at this fancy-shmancy Excel bar chart.
Basically, just make a list of the things you want to get done before the business launches, along with the range of dates you think you might get them done. Work backwards from your chosen "Start of Business" date. It can be detailed or general. You can use a calendar instead of a list or bar chart. You're supposed to actually have Milestones for several years after startup, but I didn't do that. Oh, and PLEASE don't base your own start-up on this particular chart - I guarantee it's not gonna make sense =)
I want to end the Initial Planning section with the following thought: I really believe that the best time to start a business is when you don't absolutely NEED to start a business..
If you try to start when you absolutely need the money, you'll likely fail because you'll make decisions and plans that aren't favorable for a long term outlook. You'll take shortcuts. And you'll regret them later.
I think not having pressure to make money enables you to make better plans for any business. I know that some people thrive on that type of pressure, but I'm guessing this is not most of you. Otherwise, you probably wouldn't have read this far. =)
OK, next Tuesday we'll start in on section 2 of How To Start A Reselling Business which will be about "Identity and Branding". But there's a chance I might have to delay until Thursday or the week after, because of other work. Writing this series has been sort of fun for me so far, and I hope you're getting something out of it too!
Previous posts in our Tuesday Tips ReSeller Series:
[1/25/2011] Should I Start A Reselling Business? Part 2
[1/18/2011] Should I Start A Reselling Business? Part 1
Saturday January 29, 2011
Hi everyone. I decided to make the theme of this post "Thrifting the Unknown". Buying items that you're not entirely sure about at the thrift is a fairly large part of our biz. You can prepare and learn all you want - but there will always be something that you haven't seen before or aren't sure of. Probably will write more on this in an upcoming Tuesday Tips post, but for now - here's a few goodies.
This David Stewart hippo planter is actually from last week's thriftrun, but he didn't fit with our globetrotting theme so we didn't post him. One of the keys to finding more items at the thrift is learning to recognize unmarked pieces. (It also saves tremendous time not having to pick up every single item to look at the bottom.) This hippo was probably passed over by hundreds of people before we got to him - mainly because he was unmarked.
David Stewart was a pretty well known California potter, who worked w/ Margaret Wildenhain at Pond Farm. He later produced a large series of gardenware animals as part of a company called "Lions Valley Stoneware". Most of them were probably mass-producced (sometimes in Mexico), but they're becoming collectible, especially with midcentury collectors. They had foil paper stickers but were almost never marked - but we're able to recognize them. Well, usually. Beware - there are some repros of this type of stoneware.
We picked up this pottery horse at the thrift for the reverse reason - because it WAS marked, but with a name that wasn't familiar to us (and probably not to anyone else who saw it). In this case, we're sort of familiar with this type of ceramics which we're assuming is 1950s-60s California pottery in the style of (or often copied from) Barbara Willis.
Willis's crackle glaze/bisque pottery can command hundreds of dollars, but is almost never found in the thrift nowadays. However, some of her imitators are still worth picking up, and we have a feeling that this may be one of them. It's marked "Caldania" or "Cal Dania", and we're hoping to turn up some information in the future (none of the Cal Dania pieces we've seen look like the one we found).
Sometimes we come across items at the thrift that aren't marked and aren't really our specialty. For instance, this little unmarked glass duck looked familiar - I immediately thought it could be Scandinavian glass. In this case, I used some educated guesses (you can't ALWAYS look things up on the iPhone) to make a decision.
It definitely looked like handmade quality glass, it had the Scandinavian look to it, and I thought I remember seeing it before. The bottom was ground off, but there were no marks - I knew that sometimes glass like this has stickers that have come off. Sure enough, after some research online - it appears to be made by FM Konstglas of Ronneby, Sweden.
There are some cases where you find a marked item at the thrift that may be valuable, but there's just as good a chance that it might not be. This was the case with this Syracuse Econo-Rim restaurantware cup. Syracuse is a very well-known maker. While restaurantware isn't our specialty, we know there are avid collectors of it and some pieces can be very valuable.
However, we're also aware that value often depends on the line or pattern. We've found a few examples of this graphic, which appears to be a winged version of Union Pacific's "Streamliner" - but still aren't 100% sure of value. In this case, it was still worth it to pick up the cup whether or not it had value - especially since it cost only 50 cents!
Last up - this art deco vase is also from a previous run. This is an example of thrifting where, if amazing things fall into your lap, you just have to be prepared to take a chance. We aren't familiar with this older style of pottery, but it was marked "Weller". I knew that name as one of the more famous American potteries, though I didn't know much about the pottery itself.
I also knew that there was a possibility of it being a FAKE or a repro. I did try to iPhone it in, but doing research was just too difficult on the small screen. In the end, I just took a chance since the price was reasonable. Certain things seemed consistent with great age - the quality of the glaze, the crazing, the heft, the wear and chips on the clay at bottom. I think a lot of people passed it over, because this "pink and blue" color scheme could easily be something from the 1980s.
We're fairly certain now that this is indeed Weller, and from a line called "Lavonia" from the 1920s. While not as tremendously valuable as some other art deco pottery we've found, it was still a great thrift find.
OK, hope we've given you some inspiration. If you've had great experiences thrifting "unknown" items, we'd love to hear about it.
Monday January 24, 2011
Hi everyone. Once again, for Tuesday Tips we're going to address the question: Should I Start A Reselling Business? Our first installment dealt with the "Is This Right For Me" portion of the question. You might want to read that post first if you haven't already.
In this post, we're going to talk about the other part which is "Can I Make This Work?" Remember, we're still in the pre-business phase. These are meant to be some general ideas for you to think about before you decide to try reselling out.
I'd thought about this earlier, and I think you can break the initial concerns up into two sections:
I'd originally planned to write mostly about the "money" part of the equation. But I thought about it, and "time" just seems so intertwined with money. I almost think sometimes it's more important. I mean, time is money, right?
Basically, the Time portion of the question comes down to this: you either need to have a LOT of it, or you must be to able to allocate it VERY efficiently to tasks that must be done.
I think a lot of folks who are interested in the reselling business have an impression that you'll actually spend LESS time than in a 9-5 job. Or that it's an easy way to make money.
Nothing could be farther than the truth (I'm sure fellow resellers will back me up on this one). Pound for pound, (or hour for hour) you'll spend MUCH more time at this job than in most office-style jobs I can think of. I think this is probably true with most work-at-home type jobs anyhow, but reselling seems to eat up an extraordinary amount of time in general.
The main problem is that with a reselling job, you're most likely responsible for EVERYTHING. At your last clock-puncher job, maybe you got a little pissed off because a co-worker asked you to help them out writing part of a report.
Well, with reselling there is no other person. You're responsible for:
• Travel to find your items
• Identifying items at stores
• Buying/haggling for them
• Cleaning and/or repairing them
• Research and/or appraisal
• Photographing the items
• Processing the photos
• Writing descriptions for items
• Listing the items
• Promoting the items once listed
• Blogging and social networking
• Website maintenance
• Customer service and/or questions
• Packaging and postal delivery
• Inventory control / reports
• Book-keeping and taxes
• Managing yourself and your time!
All of these tasks eat up Time. I understand that a lot of folks are looking to do reselling "on the side" - just to make some pocket change. This is fine - but you've still got the same responsibilities. You'll deal with fewer items, but you'll still need to spend the time to get them listed and sold.
Here's the thing: I'm almost 100% positive that if you just want to try it out and sell a few items a week, you WILL succeed. Might be a confidence booster. However, going beyond that and reselling on a regular basis without realizing the time committment you're getting into might just DESTROY you.
Enjoy your weekends? Be prepared to sacrifice at least one Saturday or Sunday a week to reselling. Most garage/estate sales happen on Saturdays and Sundays, and you need to get there early (7-8am) to get the jump on other resellers. Ebay and other auction sites experience the most action during the weekend, when buyers are at home - often you'll be listing items between 4-9pm on a Sunday. Many people I know spend Sundays processing the weekend's orders and packaging them for delivery on Monday or Tuesday.
And that's just for the weekends. We regularly spend time working on weekdays right up until midnight.
Time management is so important. To make Reselling work, you need to identify the areas that are absolutely essential to the business, and then allocate more time toward them. You need to identify the areas that aren't essential and stop devoting time to those parts. I think a lot of it also goes back to the first part of the equation - you really need to have the right personality and you need to enjoy this type of work, because the amount of hours you'll put in is disproportionately large.
However, one important point is that the quality of the time you spend working can be much different. It can be extremely rewarding and liberating. In general, what you put into it, is what you get out of it. And the fact that YOU get to decide where/when to allocate your hours is pretty amazing. Need to take a vacation? Stop listing items, put the Etsy shop on hold, and just go. Need to take more time off again in 3 weeks? Sure.
And in any case, I would rather spend 12 hours a day working on our business than 8 hours flipping burgers at the mall.
How about you?
Ah. I spent so much TIME talking about Time, that I may not have enough to talk about MONEY. Haha. So I'll try get right to it:
I have some good news, and some bad news.
The good news it that it doesn't require a tremendous amount of capital (money) to get into reselling. But hey, a monkey could've told you that.
The bad news is that it may require you to change your perspective on what it means to get "paid" at the end of the day. OK, now the monkey's just sad...
So for fun, let's do some VERY basic calculations. I actually did similar back-of-the-envelope simulations when we first started up A La Modern.
Let's say that you want to try and compare the amount of money you'll make by reselling to... MINIMUM WAGE.
Yes. Minimum wage, which is, uh, around $7.25/hr for the national rate? Working at this menial job at a standard 40 hours a week, earning minimum wage, you'd earn about $7.25 x 40 hours/week x 52 weeks/year = $15,080 a year.
Let's round this off to make it easier - let's say our menial job worker makes $15,000 a year before taxes. For him, he's done. However, for the reseller, selling $15,000 worth of items is not the same as EARNING a profit of $15,000. Well, duh. You have to subtract the cost of the items.
This is important, because if you resell $15,000 worth of vintage items, but you paid $5,000 to buy it, you've only made $10,000. Sales that don't take into account the original cost are hugely misleading, at least for me. I can brag about selling a $100 vase, but if it cost me $80 to buy it, I've only made $20 bucks.
Now let's make a couple of other assumptions for our reseller. Let's assume that the average cost of an item he'd buy in order to sell would be $10. Let's also assume that our reseller's average profit on each item sold is going to also be around 100% . That is, he would buy items for $10 and sell them for $20, with a profit per item of $10.
So, here's the question:
How many items per year would our reseller need to sell in order to make the same amount of take home profit as our minimum wage worker's salary?
Answer: 1500 items.
To get $15,000 take home pay for the year, our reseller would need to sell 1500 items for a profit of $10 each. That works out to about 125 sales a month, or about 30 sales a week.
This was somewhat of a shock to me. Though I know there are lots of Ebay resellers that can pump out 30 sales a week, that's equivalent to minimum wage!
Yes, I'm aware this is sort of an apples to oranges comparison. For instance, I don't know if the number of hours a reseller would put into selling 1500 items is the same as the 40 hr/week of our minimum wage worker. It might be less (or more, yikes). But also, I haven't taken into account other expenses that reselling 1500 items might incur.
The whole purpose of this exercise is just to give some basic idea about what you might need to do in order to make reselling work. I don't want to discourage people, but these initial numbers could be a dealbreaker for some - especially when you factor in the "TIME" part of the question in the first part of this post.
One bright spot... there are many, many ways to make our "minimum wage versus reselling" comparison outlook appear brighter. The two most obvious to play around with are:
1. Increase average profit per item
2. Increase volume of items bought/sold
I may be wrong, but it seems like these are two very different approaches taken by resellers. In general, I feel like increasing average profit per item is an approach that a "higher-end" reseller might take (like an antique store), whereas increasing the volume of items bought/sold is the approach that Ebay sellers (and sellers using other online companies) might take. Just my opinion though.
I'm not going to get into it any more here, but if you're interested you should play around with ideas for how you might increase either the average profit or the volume of items sold. It might also depend on the type of items you might want to sell and of course the amount of time you're planning on putting into it. And of course, I just tossed out numbers for average cost and average selling price of these items - your numbers might be totally different! The important thing is not the numbers, but the process of making a few estimates for your own use.
I better cut it here since the post is getting long. Hope this has been at least an interesting exercise, and sorry if this was boring for others.
Oh, and if you're still reading this, congratulations! I'm assuming you've decided that you're going to try this reselling thing out (if you're not already doing it, that is). For next week's Tuesday Tips, I'm planning on diving into "How to Start a Reselling Business". I think we'll divide it up into parts as well. Sorry, I know that a lot of people want to just hurry up and get to the "good stuff" - I tend to be too methodical sometimes. But I'll try not to be TOO boring. =)
P.S. For anyone who wants to dive right into reselling, you might consider reading some of Apron Thrift Girl's reseller posts. Some very thoughtful stuff there.
Previous posts in our Tuesday Tips ReSeller Series:
[1/18/2011] Should I Start A Reselling Business? Part 1
Saturday January 22, 2011
Hi everyone - this is going to be another short wrapup of some of the goodies we've come across at thrifts lately. Decided to make the theme of this one "Thrift Globetrotting". One of the nice things about thrifting is that you're exposed to all sorts of items from different countries around the world. Expanding your thrifting knowledge to other countries dramatically increases the possibilities of finding more goodies...
One of the countries that we've been paying attention to lately is Italy. Our knowledge of ceramics and other houseware and art products from Italy rather woeful at this point. We've been making attempt to try and learn more. We do know of some of the bigger names, including Raymor / Bitossi, Rosenthal Netter, Murano, Fantoni, and Gamboni, but are still trying to figure the whole thing out.
We tend to come across unmarked or lesser known Italian names like the two shown above. This is a nice vase from Deruta, along with a little dish by Nino Parrucca. The former is a region in Italy long known for its majolica manufacture, but also (since about the 1500s) for it ceramics. The latter is an Italian company that was started in modern times, probably started around the 1950s-60s. Parrucca items have a distinct appearance... the ones with characters have a "Picasso"-esque look to them for lack of a better term.
This little ceramic birdie is from Chile and made by Pablo Zabal. He's known for making blue and white animal figurines in this bold style that seems part folk-artsy and part modern stylization. We run into them every so often at the thrift, and at flea markets. Other than Zabal, we haven't really come across too many items from South American countries.
From England, we picked up this super cute, mod lady shaker from Carlton Ware. Believe that it originally came as a set of two, with the other shaker being a "guy". Not too familiar with this company, but we definitely always keep an eye out for English ceramics and housewares. One of our favorites, is of course Hornsea. Once again, we could use some more education on the different English companies of interest - time to hit the books again!
As we've said many times before, we've acquired a huge bias toward Scandinavian vintage goodies. If it's from Denmark, Norway, Sweden or Finland, we'll usually grab it - if only to display in our own house!
One company we always look out for is Arabia of Finland. There is a really huge variety of items that they produced in the past, and of course, they're still around today. The plates shown above are handpainted and are actually interesting because they appear to be from the "ARA" line started up by Kurt Eklund in the 1930s. We had thought this line was mostly artware and decorative pieces, but it appears they also made dinnerware.
OK, hope this post has inspired you to look for vintage items from different countries at the thriftstore. More new items like this are coming to the shop soon...
Monday January 17, 2011
Hi everyone - this is going to be a shorter post on our latest finds at the thrifts. It's been very difficult to get the jump on morning blog posts - because we're in California. All the morning posting and hullaballoo with commenting for the rest of the country really seems to happen around 6am-7am. I know we could write posts the night before, but it sucks to spend Sunday night doing "work" (even though I often do).
Anyhow, this past Friday I went on a thriftrun with an old friend from high school. This was more of a trip to show him around the thrift stores, rather than an acquisition trip. But I still came across a few things:
This fun elephant planter is a good example of a pickup that doesn't exactly fit in our main shop, but is perfect for the Etsy outlet. We find that a good mix of items for the two shops seems to work better sometimes.
These cute cups and trivet from Berggren are a similar pickup at the thrift - it doesn't hurt that they were part of a 50% off sale either! Unsure if the motto on the plate means "As You Wish", "Help Yourself", or ? Maybe someone who knows Swedish can help out...
I knew immediately that this futuristic looking glass roaster was designed by Lella and Massimo Vignelli for Heller. We'd talked about his designs previously as something to look for at the thrifts. But I'd never come across this line of his glassware before. I believe that Heller produced this particular one, but after awhile Jeanette took up production under the Glasbake name.
Lastly, I know I've said that we were trying to cut down on buying ashtrays and smoking related implements. We set a few conditions - they had to be extremely cool, valuable, or made by someone famous. I don't think that Bennett Welsh is too well known yet, but he was a pretty influential potter from Oregon. So this playful cat ashtray was too tough to pass up. I still think that these types of items can be thought of as display art rather than utilitarian pieces. I guess it all depends on the person though.
OK, I need to start working on the Tuesday Tips post. We might cut down on thrift and new product posts for awhile, but will try to have one at least every two weeks or so.
P.S. Oops, almost forgot to mention - we created another Etsy treasury the other day: Dijon Lady. Have not had a chance to do a full writeup on it like our previous one.
Monday January 17, 2011
Hello everybody. For this Tuesday Tips post, we're going to start talking about running a vintage/antique business. We'll be alternating "fun posts" (like our earlier 10 Things You May Be Missing At The Thrift) with these type of vintage reselling biz posts.
Before I begin, I just wanted to say that we definitely aren't the first to write about running a business like this. I hope that we can provide SOME original insight, but there are many other places where you can read about the business of online reselling. (One good place to start is Apron Thrift Girl's reselling posts.)
This is probably also a good time to say: we aren't lawyers, professional life coaches, or econ-biz professors. Heck, I'm mostly talking out of my you-know-what. And I have some concerns about giving out "advice" about this stuff, having only had our store open for a year ourselves! But our hope is that there are at least a few takeaways here that might help you out with your potential business.
OK - So you say you want to start a business reselling items online?
Before diving in, you should probably take a moment to think about things. Yep, take that step back. Here are two basic questions you should ask yourself:
1. Is this type of business right for me?
2. Is it a feasible business venture?
I know that these two questions are intertwined. Think of it as the equivalent of looking for a new job.
When hunting for jobs, there are considerations you'll make like: Is this type of work the right fit for me? Would I be happy in this environment? Is this what I want to do with my career? Do I have the right skill set for the job?
Then there are considerations like: How much money are they gonna pay me? ARE they going to pay me? Do I have to drive 50 miles to get there? Are the hours crazynuts?
So this first part will deal with the question of whether or not selling vintage, antique or thrifted items online would be a good fit for you. The second part, the money thing, we'll run some numbers - well actually, I haven't decided yet. But I think some back-of-the-envelope calculations might be a nice "reality check".
The reason I think it's a good idea to separate it out: If this first part does NOT pass the "smell test", well then there's little reason to even think about the second part, right?
Let's first define this business of reselling. I'd define it as a business where you buy items, hopefully at inexpensive prices, and then sell them for a higher price, most likely online. And I would assume that in most cases these are thrifted, vintage, collectible, antique or even newer items that others might value. And we'll also assume that for the most part you'll be selling online. The rest of the how, what, when, where, why - we'll deal with that as we go.
So to start, I would try and do a "Pros and Cons" type of list. I'm sure yours will look different, but maybe it might have items like this:
|Can work from home
||Have to work at home
|Low economic barrier to starting
||Requires some monetary risk
||No medical,other benefits
|Opportunity to learn new things
||Must be knowledgable about items
|Be your own boss
||Have to be self-disciplined
|You decide what to buy
||Must acquire inventory on own
||Income stream is unpredictable
|Set your own hours
||Holidays are not holidays
How'd you do? Hopefully, you've got more in the "Pros" column. Or at least, the items in the "Cons" column aren't dealbreakers and don't affect you as much. I also assume that you're going to have more specific items in each column - perhaps dealing with the type of items you're going to sell (books, collectibles, electronics).
In general, selling vintage items (or other stuff) online is basically like any other work-at-home opportunity. You absolutely need to be disciplined about keeping the business going and managing time. But in addition, you absolutely need to have (or acquire) instincts about what will sell and what will not. You're going to have to know or learn when to be aggressive about buying and when to go a more circuitous route.
You also need to make buying decisions based on your current knowledge, and you need to constantly increase that knowledge. You need to learn to take the correct types of monetary risk - though you can set your amount of risk taken most of the time.
I think that it really takes a certain type of personality to be an online reseller. A huge problem for one person may not be a problem for another. However, I think that it can also be a more forgiving line of work - you don't have to hit ALL the "Pros" to be successful. And what I like about it is that you can work on the improving that "knowledge" part continually.
That's why I think it's a good idea to start off with a list. You can identify areas of weakness you're going to have to work on in order to make the biz thrive.
Oh - I've been assuming that when you say "Start a Reselling Business", you really mean starting a BUSINESS. If you just plan to sell a few things at a garage sale, then I wouldn't worry about all of this. But if it's something you plan to do on a regular basis - the sooner you treat it like a business, the sooner it'll become a business.
OK, hope you enjoyed this first post. I've tried to be as "general" as possible to start, so you might not find this one as useful. I purposely did not talk about WHAT you might be interested in selling. Basically, I just want to prod you to really think about if reselling is right for you.
But I want to make it clear that, thinking about this kind of stuff is of course OPTIONAL. It may be the case that you just want to jump in and figure out the details later. The internet (Ebay, etc.) has made this a viable option - you can just start listing junk around your house. Hey - you're a reseller!
I'd really be interested to hear if this is the type of post that people are interested in reading. It does take a rather large-ish chunk of time, so if there's not much favorable response, will probably put it on the back burner - and just do those fun Tuesday Tips.
Tuesday January 11, 2011
Hello everyone - I was all prepared to start writing some "thrift tips" last night. However, thinking about it the last few days, I really feel like this series of posts shouldn't be limited to JUST the thriftstore. I really wanted to write about starting/running an online vintage business as well. Not that we're experts or anything, but I thought it would be fun to put some of the ideas out there in case anyone is interested.
But I do still want to talk about the thrifting angle. And I was thinking of making a habit of doing these posts on Tuesdays. At first, I considered calling it "Thrift Tip Tuesdays", but then it wouldn't make sense to talk about the vintage biz side. So - I think it's just going to be "Tuesday Tips" for now. I know - quite an original name, LOL.
Anyhow, I wanted to kick it off with a List. I've been thinking of doing this one for awhile. It's 10 things you may be missing at the thrift.
I know our fellow thriftpickers might be groaning at this: "Are you insane? Why'd you have to go and make this info public?" Well, I'm only going to give up TEN things to look for at thrift stores, that some people might miss. Truth be told, there are HUNDREDS of things we look for as thriftpickers. And I'm sure that other folks have hundreds of items they look for that we have no idea about.
The nice thing about thriftpicking is that it's a constantly evolving skill. You can keep learning about different items, companies, designers at your own pace. I used to pass by this stuff all the time (and still do). I found out it might be worth picking up from other nice vintage thrifter folks. So, I hope that this post might help out someone who's new to the game - like we once were.
1. Taylor & Ng Mugs
This is one of my fallback searches when all the housewares are "new" at a thrift. Taylor & Ng made a host of different items from the 60s all the way up till the 80s. We mostly look for mugs, but there are canisters, boxes and other items you might find. The thing is that the mugs often look "new", so they're passed over. However, some of them are highly collectible. You do have to be careful, because some of the mugs have been reproduced. But even those may be worth picking up.
2. Vera Neumann Textiles
I have to admit that I don't really look through clothes and stuff at the thrift. But I do usually check and see if there's any Vera Neumann scarves. They also have napkins, tea towels and tablecloths with the Vera name (not to be confused with Vera Wang please). They were made from the 50s all the way up until present day (Anthropologie and other stores sell some Vera Neumann things). We just picked up the Vera book actually, but have't had a chance to look through it. There's also a guide to dating Vera scarves on the official blog.
3. Heller Massimo Vignelli
Used to pass over the "plastics" section completely at thrift stores, thinking that they were all cheap modern housewares. Then I discovered the minimal plastic dinnerware made by Heller and designed by Massimo Vignelli. Looks very unassuming, but again fun to collect and there's so many different colors it was made in. Again, be careful of repros - they have near identical pieces that are made in Hong Kong or China. If it doesn't have some sort of Heller / Vignelli marking on bottom, I usually won't pick it up.
4. Couroc of Monterey
Couroc trays are almost always made out of a very hard, black phenolic resin. These trays were made in Monterey, CA from the 1940s up until the 1990s, and most feature some sort of inlay done by hand. While there are a good number of collectors as well as a Flickr group dedicated to Couroc, not as much is known about the company. I personally think it's currently flying under the radar - I know these trays were not cheap when they were sold. However, if you look for them at thrifts, try to get examples that don't have too many scratches and marks - you can afford to be picky since the trays aren't that rare yet. The trays were nearly always marked, either inmold or with a gold sticker.
5. Cathrineholm Enamel
OK, so the ship has probably sailed long ago on Norway's Cathrineholm. What with the Lotus pattern line being featured everywhere from Rachael Ray's shows to Martha Stewart Living Magazine and having tons of attention on Flickr. We were lucky to have found out about it a little earlier than the current collecting wave, so we've picked up a few examples.
However, I still meet people online all the time who've never heard of it. In addition, many Cathrineholm items are unmarked, or they're only marked on the lids. So, it's still possible to score one. Also, there are many other different designs by the company. While they're not as popular as Lotus, they're still worth picking up if you can find them.
6. Dorothy Thorpe Glassware
Dorothy Thorpe glassware has gotten insanely popular because of one thing - the Mad Men show. The round "roly-poly" whiskey glasses star prominently in nearly every episode - indeed, it's so iconic that it's even featured on the cover of the Season 3 DVD.
As a result, prices for it have skyrocketed through the roof. One thing to remember is that the most popular items are the silver band roly poly glasses - people want those because they're featured on the show. Another thing to remember is that Dorothy Thorpe did not actually make these glasses - she only decorated them. As a result, any number of companies made similar looking glasses using the same stock glass (the "silver-fade" ones are a good example of non-Thorpe). Other companies often did not use real silver for the silver band and it's often thinner in width (though, Thorpe also did make some using non-silver material).
All that said - people don't seem to care as much what's real and what's not. The best thing about these glasses: they're fairly easy to recognize at thrifts, and 90% of time completely unmarked!
7. Lane Acclaim
I'm always looking for midcentury style furniture at the thrift, but rarely come across anything worth taking home. In general, I guess that's a good thing since we don't (yet) sell furniture in the shop and we have NO space at home. Still, if there's any Lane Acclaim furniture for sale, I usually take a look to see if we can fit it in somehow. These dovetailed pieces of furniture (actually, fake dovetails made out of an oak veneer) are pretty popular with the midcentury crowd but still turn up. Most often, we see 'em with damage like the one shown above. However, I've been meaning to take on a restoring project one of these days, especially if we can find a long coffee table. Here's somewhat of a guide for Lane Acclaim.
8. Eva Zeisel Dinnerware
Eva Zeisel is an amazing designer, and even more amazing is that she's still involved in the design process over the age of 100! I won't get into the whole history thing here (there's books on her worth reading - she had a very interesting life alongside her design prowess), but I'll just mention two of the lines. The first is Town and Country from Red Wing and the second is Hallcraft Century and Tomorrow's Classic. We always keep an eye out for these, heck, ANYTHING by Eva Zeisel, at thrifts. But we come across these lines the most.
Hallcraft is actually marked most of the time, but some people might think it's new (interestingly, Crate and Barrel re-released some of her work as "Classic Century"). You might be able to score some - remember that there are quite a few different patterns on it as well besides plain white. Town and Country is a bit tougher since most pieces aren't marked as far as I know. However, that same fact might enable you to score some if you keep an eye out for it.
9. Iittala Glass
We have a huge bias for Scandinavian items here on A La Modern. I could've probably filled this list entirely with items from Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. However, I picked Finland's IIttala to feature here because there's such a good chance of coming across their glassware at thrifts, sometimes in the original box.
Iittala's also still in business (website is here, believe they are currently under the Fiskars umbrella of brands?), so a lot of items you might find are newer. I still pick them up, as long as they aren't that damaged. The variety of items, number of great designers and relatively obscure name makes the company a top search for me at thrifts. Keep in mind that many items will have no markings, except for the little red Iittala sticker that often comes off.
10. Russel Wright
I'm going to end this list with one of our favorites - Russel Wright. But I'm going to leave it up to you to do the research on him if you don't know anything about this famous designer. Chances are that you've already come across him on your own if you do a good amount of thrifting.
OK, hope everyone enjoyed this tips post. I'd be curious to hear if anyone has favorites of their own that they look for at the thrift store. Of course, I'm not saying you have to spill all your thrift secrets! But I'd like to hear about them if you're willing to share.
The next Tuesday Tips will probably dive into the whole starting up a vintage business thing. Not sure if I'll be able to get these type of posts every Tuesday, but will give it a shot.
Sunday January 9, 2011
Hello everyone - hope your new year has been great so far! We've had a bit of a slow start as we've gotten behind on several things. Most importantly, we're still working on our store's Shopping Cart. Just so you know, the store is 100% open while we wrestle with the code-bugs. All items are for sale, please contact us if you're interested in anything!
With that out of the way - we can get back to the good stuff. We've already had a couple of productive thrifting runs for new items to add to the shop. The above mish-mash of thrift goodies picture was all from one day. (Sorry, the photo's a little small - click on it for a bigger view.)
Starting in the front right - we picked up a couple more bright Vera Neumann scarves to add to our Etsy outlet. These colorful vintage textiles are popular, yet they slip through the thrift radar of a lot of folks. Look for these to be featured in more detail in an upcoming thrift tip post...
To the left of the scarves, we found a nice little candleholder in the shape of a squirrel, and a four color Pottery Craft bud vase. These type of items are usually inexpensive at thrifts, but can be fun to collect because they're readily available.
To the left of the squirrel is an interesting Swedish glass "souffle" dish and trivet with spoons. The spoons are glass, but the handles are cork! The striped box in the back contains two more pieces from this company - Boda Nova. I immediately thought of Kosta Boda, and it turns out it's an offshoot. Not too much other info on the company, still need to do some research. But it's always fun to find Scandinavian goodies in their original boxes.
The large black dark grey platter in the back is another Michael Aram piece in the same pattern as the pitcher that we found earlier. Almost didn't pick this one up because it's so wide and weighs a good 5lbs. So I knew it'd be difficult to ship - but the price was reasonable.
To the right of the Boda Nova box is a covered dish and two candleholders made by the California Cleminsons company, probably in the 50s-60s. Unmarked except for the word "Caltempo" - but we've had a lot of experience with California Pottery, so we knew what they were right away.
To the right of the Cleminsons items is a Dansk Mesa blue bud vase and two blue Frankoma mugs in the "Lazybones" pattern. Ordinarily, we don't really pick up Dansk Mesa, and we also have been passing up a lot of Frankoma. But we thought they might provide some variety and a change of pace for the Etsy shop. We've been thinking about adding other more "traditional" collectibles to the mix over there.
Finally, one of our favorite finds was this yellow-orange, gooseneck lamp from the 70s or 80s. While it's probably not as old or valuable as some of the other things we've found, it reminded me of my younger years when we used to do homework by the light of similar desk lamps. Probably shouldn't have bought it, but... a little nostalgia can be a dangerous thing for your wallet. =)
OK, thanks for looking at all of our thrifted goodies. Hopefully, there'll be a different post on Tuesday that kicks off the "tips" series we've been thinking about.