This story was originally published on June 12, 2015.
I guess you could say that an ugly poncho changed my life. When one of my online purchases arrived at my doorstep, I totally hated it and decided to try my luck selling it on Poshmark, a free app for buying and selling clothing, that I downloaded on a whim after reading about it on Refinery29. The impulse buy — that poncho — sold in 20 minutes, and I was so excited that I went up to my closet and listed anything I hadn’t worn over the past six months for sale, which ended up being 25 items. Fast-forward to today, and I am running a six-figure fashion business from my phone. When I downloaded the app three years ago, I had no idea it would completely change my life. At the time, I was a 19-year-old student heading off to fashion school in New York City. While the cost of a private education was daunting to both my parents and me, we agreed to take on the big expense of what was sure to be over $100K, together. I knew about the chokehold that student loans could put on your finances after you graduated, and came to accept that debt would be part of my foreseeable future.
Now mind you, I never knew that online consignment was actually a thing before I tried Poshmark, embarking on a journey that would help me pay for college and catapult me into starting my own business before the age of 20. There was something about this app that made selling your clothes seem easy and fun — and not like a chore. Forget about carting your stuff to Buffalo Exchange or dealing with what Crossroads will or won’t accept; I was in complete control of everything — most importantly the prices I listed — and could do this in my pajamas. With a few clicks of my iPhone camera and a short description for each piece I was selling, I was building my store. I may have become a bit obsessed, listing basically everything I owned. And it all sold. Next, I started looking for inventory to post. I'd research an item to see what it could sell for before I even bought it, and so I was pulling in a profit from day one. With money coming in, I felt a lot less guilty about buying new clothes, which was a dream. People seemed to take notice of my style as I started amassing a following on the app — I now have over two million users following my closet on Poshmark. Some of them started asking if I had my own boutique. That’s when I decided to look into what starting my own business would entail and see if it was something I could pursue while still in college. In 2013, my e-commerce shop Hannah Beury was born. Women really seemed to love the accessories I was selling on Poshmark, so I started Hannah Beury with jewelry. The cool thing about selling online is you can reach a very wide audience from all across the country; my customer base ranges from young girls like me who love shopping my style to older customers who are looking to see what’s on trend.
Before I knew it, I looked at my earnings and I had reached over $80,000 in gross sales. By late 2014, I decided it was time to expand my offerings into clothing. It was trial-and-error finding wholesalers who offered great quality clothing in my price range that fit in with my brand. My mother, whose house I have taken over to operate my business out of (love you!), is convinced that I am a shopaholic, but she’s very happy that I am using my obsession to build my own business. Now I’m 23 years old, have sold over $100,000 worth of merchandise on Poshmark, and will be able to graduate without any student loans.
If you want to try your hand at starting a business selling clothes online, here are some tips: — Create your own personal brand: A big part of selling online is selling your personal style. It’s important to know your brand and what makes you different from other sellers, so your shoppers can be inspired by what you, specifically, have to offer. — Build your network: Connect with other sellers and help each other out. I’ve met some of my best friends via Poshmark and we all support each other as we grow our businesses. Plus, anyone you connect with is another potential customer. — Stay organized: My house was starting to look like a Hoarders episode with my inventory in every room. Once I created a specific space for my merchandise, it really started to feel more like a business and not just this thing I was doing. It also helped my business grow: Being organized cut down on my shipping time, and I was much more efficient when I could clearly see what I had in stock. — Be bold: Don’t be afraid to take chances. You might hit some bumps along the way, but the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. For example, if you find inventory you know your customers will love, buy it in bulk. — Market your items: With social-selling apps like Poshmark, you can actively market your items to help them sell. They have themed "Posh Parties" three times a day where you can share your items to hundreds of thousands of new shoppers who are in the app, or you can share other people’s items to your following. They will often return the favor, introducing you a whole new crop of customers. — Focus on the fun part, but don’t forget to manage your money: While I love shopping and can now say I do it for a living, I have learned through this process the importance of keeping clear records of cost, the price that items have sold for, and my profit margins. I started off just buying things that I loved, not paying as much attention to whether I was making profit. As my business grew, the more savvy I became, realizing that it was much more fun to do it the right way. It means you'll have less stress and you’ll make more money along the way (you know, for more shopping).