'I had to either sell some, get a bigger house, or stop collecting': How a passion for vintage clothes turned into a thriving business

'I had to either sell some, get a bigger house, or stop collecting': How a passion for vintage clothes turned into a thriving business
Dinah Sackey
Dinah SackeySoul Urge Ltd

Posted: Fri 29th Jun 2018

A collection of vintage clothes has turned into a successful fashion resale business for Dinah Sackey, founder of The Freperie. The Enterprise Nation member, who joined through our partnership with Velocity Growth Hub, tells her story.

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How did you come up with your idea and turn it into an actual business?

I've always seen fashion as transformational. I started collecting my own vintage and designer pieces about 10 years ago and it reached a point where the collection became a boutiques worth of clothing.

At that point it was either sell some, get a bigger house, or stop collecting.

I decided to set up an online store and sell my personal collection and on the way discovered reliable sources to curate from. I now have two part time employees and a collection of 1,600+ vintage & designer clothes, shoes, and accessories.

What start-up challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

The first challenge was time. Having time to work full time, raise two children, and run a 'side business'. This meant working almost 24/7 but I loved the business and saw it's long term potential.

The second challenge was finding reliable sources for vintage and designer clothes, shoes, and accessories. The market is flooded with counterfeit, sourcing volume is difficult, and even good sources sometimes offer questionable quality (e.g. stained or damaged beyond repair). It's taken six years to build a solid list of reputable sources!

As the business has grown the three challenge has been money. The business is now in profit, and healthily so, but in the six years since creating a limited company the market has grown and the future is in consignment sales.

To take the leap to the next level will need some investment to rebrand the website, market to the right audiences, secure the physical space needed etc. so that the foundation of what has been created can expand to compete with the likes of Open For Vintage.

What has been your biggest achievement with your business so far?

Growth in the last three years has been 125%, 52%, and a predicted 25% this year. The wider market is signalling a rise in the demand for pre-owned apparel, and the business is well positioned to benefit from this.

Whilst it's modest to say I, and the business, have been lucky because of the foresight I had in 2008 when I felt my love for affordable vintage and designer clothes was not unique to me, and that re-sale would be the way forward for savvy fashion lovers!

What is your next big business goal?

I've decided to sell the e-commerce brand as I've started a SAAS platform that reflects the work I do full time.

The proceeds from the sale of the e-commerce brand will fuel the SAAS platform, take on a small team, and align my full time work with my side business!

I love my e-commerce store as it's a creative outlet that gives me a break from the monotony of corporatism but I have to focus all my energy in one direction if I'm really going to transition from 9-5 into my business.

What do you think will be your biggest challenge getting there?

Finance is always a tricky challenge.

The time to sell the e-commerce brand can take up to 12 months so I can't rest on my laurels and will have to keep growing it as planned, so the profit maintains the current outgoings, whilst subsidising the developments on the SAAS platform.

Additionally I can't let the SAAS platform suffer or will miss some key opportunities coming this year so I'll have run both, and work full time, all whilst managing the turbulence of two teenage children!

It sounds ridiculously challenging, and it is, but taking each day as it comes and planning for the pinch points will keep a certain level of sanity as the months roll by.

How has Enterprise Nation helped your business?

I've just joined Enterprise Nation after following a link on the Velocity Growth Hub.

Advice and networking has been something I've not used enough of in the past six to eight years but recognise that if I want to achieve the growth that I've been planning for I've got to take reach out and connect with others.

Which other entrepreneur inspires you and why?

Michelle Mone, Sophia Amoruso, Mellody Hobson.

I have a lot of admiration for female entrepreneurs knowing how difficult it is to get funding and support, often growing businesses whilst growing families.

It's 2018 and start-ups founded by women still receive less investment (but generate more revenue). Knowing these women still built their brands into empires is motivation to keep going.

What are your three tips for business success based on your experiences so far?

Do something you love that comes naturally to you. I call it the path of least resistance but it comes in really handy when things get tough and you think of giving up!

Don't ignore trends. I use social media to promote my business and had established a Facebook page with 12,000 followers, backed by a Twitter following of 1,200, and Pinterest of 500.

When Instagram came along it felt like too much effort to add another platform to the mix but my pseudo-husband convinced me that it was the right marriage for a fashion based business. Two and a half years and 1,200 followers later Instagram has offered the highest engagement when it comes to connecting with potential customers!

Be vocal about your business! If it's your passion others will feel passionate just hearing how excited you are about what you do and that excitement will spread around their circles too.

I'm an introvert who's fiercely private so the thought of bending someone's ear about my side business seemed a turnoff.

I'm often asked where I get my clothes from and one day simply decided to spill the beans. Simply letting people know what I do 'on the side' has led to clients who've asked if I could sell their wardrobes on their behalf

Anything else you would like to share?

When I first flirted with the idea of turning my hobby into a business I drew up a business plan and shared it with a contact who was a business lecturer at a popular university.

His feedback was he couldn't see how a business that sold [what is essentially] second hand clothing make any real dent in a market where big brands dominated.

The resale market is now worth £20bn and set to increase to £40bn according to industry research. I shared the same business plan with my bank and my assigned manager also couldn't see how I was going to achieve the figures I'd presented on my three year plan - especially starting from a base of zero.

The business now turns over three times what I planned for it in that business plan!

The moral of this anecdote is don't let other people put you off. Do your own research, trust in your vision, and get to work!

If you're running a fashion business, the Fashion Exchange in London on 6 July is a must attend event! Find out more and book your place here.

Dinah Sackey
Dinah SackeySoul Urge Ltd
I'm a management counsultant who has worked in, and with, the public sector for over 16 years. I specialise in transformation, service improvement, and contract performance management. Alongside my 9-5 I've grown an ecommerce business that sells vintage and designer clothing. I've grown The Freperie into a robust lifestyle business that turns over £80k - £100k p/a and I'm now in selling it to fund a new venture. If you have a passion for fashion, or are aware of the growth of ecommerce and the resale market please mail or call. It could be the right side hustle for you! Through my work with the public sector I've developed contract management software that simplifies the complex governance that underpins good contract management. We're trailing this software with a large hospital trust with the intention of further refinement and commercialisation. I intend to raise our first round of seed funding when the real world validation has produced the business case we need to launch our product fully. If you have a taste for health tech, legal tech, or start-ups in any tech get in touch. I'm always on the look out for potential connection that can help us grow the business.

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