What began as hobby has become a career for Lyssa Balick of Maryland. Secondhand furniture was always a personal passion for Lyssa, who furnished her own home almost completely with used items. She started as a Mid-Century Modern buyer for Orions Objects in Baltimore before setting up her own business. Now, her shop Off Main is a place for her to sell affordable vintage furniture. Lyssa continues to grow her business, recently moving into a new studio space. She shares her personal tips for becoming a professional reseller.
DO create your brand. This can evolve slowly but find a theme that resonates with your buyers. Maybe that’s specializing in shabby chic furniture or retro kitchenware? Your customers will become familiar with your style and come back expecting and wanting similar items.
DON’T sell only what you like (but sometimes that’s okay). I remember a fun peacock chair I picked up when I first started my business. My customers loved it but not enough to purchase it so it took a long time to sell. I’ve learned that my customers love to buy credenzas, dressers, and Danish-style lounge chairs. I curate a good selection of those for my clients but I like to have unique eye grabbers like the macramé Tiki bar I snagged this week.
DO connect with your customers. Who is buying your items? College students looking for funky accent pieces? Or maybe people wanting to buy nice (not Ikea) furniture for their house. Know who you’re selling to and interact with your customer base frequently.
DON’T spread yourself too thin. When I first started, my mentor told me “it’s an endless parade of stuff out there. You can’t get everything.” Know when to take a break and turn off your phone. Don’t worry if you missed out on buying the “must have” item. It will show up again and again.
DO legitimize your work. If you plan to grow your business, familiarize yourself with your state (or country) tax laws. Save yourself the headache in the long run by being diligent about income records. If you are growing rapidly, hiring an accountant is useful to discuss how to categorize and pay taxes on your items.
DON’T fear the competition. Get to know sellers that have a similar business to you. Whether they’re online or brick and mortars in your neighborhood — visit them, ask questions and network. Where I live, I interact regularly with vendors and we all help each other buy, sell and connect with customers. It’s your job to be unique and not a competitive replica of the person next door.
DO be honest. Vintage ware comes with imperfections. Some businesses fix them to almost new; others like to sell items with character. Let your customer know what they’re buying with photos and descriptions. If a customer asks a question about the item’s fragility, be upfront about the wobbly leg or the chipped handle. You will gain a loyal following for being accurate.
DON’T get discouraged if something doesn’t sell. Your business is all about connecting with your customers and getting your brand out there. There are multiple variables for something not selling such as wrong customer, wrong price, wrong style or just bad timing. Personally, I like to have a mix of items and am fine with some items not selling as long as I continue moving most of my inventory.
DO be clear. Your customers will ask if you’ll sell things for a discount, hold items for them, ship and deliver. Decide ahead of time what you want to do. It’s okay to say no but just be direct. Clarity will help you and your clientele.
DON’T keep holding onto something that just isn’t good. When I pick up something that gets no interest and no inquiries for a few weeks, I’ll take a hard look at what could be wrong. If it just isn’t the right fit, I will move it – give away, trade, donate, or price so low that people will come and grab it. Changing inventory is good for you and your customers and holding onto the wrong piece isn’t worth the price or the space it’s taking.