How To Start & Scale A Reselling Business

How To Start & Scale A Reselling Business

Jennine Jacob is building her newly-launched resale business with a focus on growth and continuous learning.

  • Liisa Jokinen

  • Dec 12, 2023

“I have a history of entrepreneurship. I was a fashion blogger for 8 years, and had founded a fashion blogger network with over 68,000 members worldwide. After I sold the network, I tried a few things, but nothing really stuck. After a failed venture, and just wanting to actually make money, I googled, ’profitable small business models’ and on every list was clothing reselling. It’s a market that’s projected to double by 2027, and people are really starting to think of secondhand clothing as desirable (even though I’ve been happily wearing secondhand clothing since the early 90s).

Ultimately it was a business decision. I had tried a vintage shop on Etsy in 2008, and it was different then. I was living in Germany, and Europeans tend to buy less and wear their clothes longer than Americans, so it was harder to find vintage back then… the few vintage shops around back then actually IMPORTED their vintage from the US. So it didn’t really work that well for me.

This time it’s different. Being in the US makes it easier, not just with supply, but with networking. And what I found was that I really love every aspect of clothing reselling. I love fashion, and I have a fairly extensive knowledge of it, so that’s been incredibly helpful in finding great pieces. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get into it, actually.

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Before I was so in love with my ideas – I had just sold a successful business, and was in retrospect, delusional about how the business worked. I thought if I had a great idea the money would just come because it did one time. But business is not like that all the time.

This time I decided not to get too married to my ideas. I have a lot of bad ideas, we ALL have a lot of bad ideas – but I do not want to get too hung up when I have an idea and it doesn’t work out. It’s a learning experience, move on, and try something else. Eventually, I’ll have an idea that works. So far that’s worked out well.

Now I’m focused on growth, whereas before I just relied on luck to grow. Now I’m taking actionable steps and keeping an open mind to find things that work.

Growing my income means a few things: Listing more and streamlining the listing process so that I can list 10-15 items per day. That also means sourcing more efficiently.

Now I source every item individually which takes time. It takes me hours every day to go to the thrift stores and find quality pieces. So finding wholesalers is one option, another option is buying in bulk, which has its own pros and cons. I would like to figure this out so the business can scale, but it relies a lot on relationships and that takes time. In the next year I would like to have figured a lot of that out.

I am doing re-selling full time. I decided to take the first few months and just focus on learning how to sell. How to optimize photographs, product descriptions, how to price… and ultimately how to identify what will sell. Currently I’m about halfway to making a sustainable living, which isn’t bad for being in business for three months!

Everyone has different profit margins depending on what vertical they’re specialized in and what inventory they have available to them. For example, I talk with a reseller in the Midwest and she doesn’t have access to the level of designers I have access to on a regular basis in a Coastal City. So she focuses on volume and moving inventory quickly by pricing competitively. Currently I’m trying to list 10 items a day and have a $30+ profit margin. My goal is to have at least 10 sales a day, which sounds like a lot, but I live in a very expensive city so I have to do that to make it work.

Each of the selling platforms has its pluses and minuses.

Overall I perform the best on Poshmark, but in order to make those sales you have to pay for a bot to share your closet multiple times a day and respond to offers quickly. No human can feasibly do what is required to sell at scale on Poshmark.

Depop is my second best platform and it is less needy but it’s more flaky. People make offers all the time on that platform and then they don’t pay when the offer is accepted like on all the other platforms.

eBay is good, but I never list directly on there. I use Vendoo to crosslist on all the platforms, so I can write one listing and it goes onto six platforms. It’s been the best thing for my business.

I think live selling is the future of shopping.

Almost every app is trying to launch a live selling feature. Poshmark has one with their shows, Tiktok has their shop feature which you can use in your lives, I’m sure Instagram and Facebook are soon to launch their versions (if they don’t already have them). Whatnot seems to be the market leader, their interface and support is so good. There seems to be a lot of people shopping on Whatnot.

It’s just that video has become so commonplace now. eCommerce is still for the most part static. I think we are on the cusp of a major shift in how we shop, where we relate better to video content and therefore have more trust and feel more comfortable buying from a person rather than a static web store.

In the beginning, I thought if I liked a piece, someone else would like it and buy it. But that’s not how it works.

I tend to be very reserved in the way I dress, and that doesn’t sell well online. People like color and patterns and brands I wouldn’t even think to carry. But like I said earlier, I can’t be married to my ideas, so experimenting with different kinds of clothing and seeing how it performs has been the biggest thing I’ve learned to do. Some things that are for sure big sellers for other resellers tend to sit there for me, and things that sell for me sit there with other sellers, so there aren’t so many shortcuts to success, you have to find your own way and what works for you.

At my very first estate sale, there was a bed full of Louis Vuitton bags. They were heavy, had substantial hardware, leather, and had serial numbers and everything. I thought they were real, and they were priced at $65. But I don’t know much about Louis Vuitton, and I should have left them there, because the Estate Seller said she “didn’t have time to authenticate them”. But I was excited because they seemed real so I bought three bags. When I got home and tried to authenticate them, after several hours of pouring over photos and watching videos, I realized they were all fake.

There are a lot of counterfeits out there, and it’s not so straightforward what is real and what isn’t.

I picked up this Chloe blazer at the thrift store, the tags look legit. It could be a Karl Lagerfeld era Chloe blazer, but it looks like it has been dry cleaned a lot and the writing on the paper tag has been blasted off. Which happens a lot with dry cleaning. So I don’t know for certain if it’s real. So I’m holding it until I can get it authenticated.

At first I was learning by doing, watching a lot of videos, experimenting a lot. But recently I started reaching out to other resellers. So I’m looking for a mentor because there is only so much you can learn online.

My advice to aspiring or new resellers: Take it slow.

Start off by selling things you already have and are ready to let go of. Learn how to sell first. Then expand to thrift stores or garage sales. Buy cheap because you’re going to make mistakes. Get a feel for how much labor goes into every piece before you decide on what market you are going to get into.

Also, learn how to read the market and price accordingly. You can charge what you think something ’should’ be worth, but what the market wants and what you think something is worth are two completely different things. I check the sold prices on eBay, and I calculate the sell-through rate (number of active listings / number of sold listings x 100) to determine how much something is worth and the likelihood it will sell before I buy the inventory.

Everything goes in trends. There is always a hot new brand, and some brands fall out of fashion even though they make quality clothing.

I really love Tibi, and the founder Amy Smilovic is so knowledgeable about fashion and style, but the Tibi pieces I have for sale are priced under $40 and they haven’t sold after months of being listed. But if I have an Aritzia brand like Wilfred, even though it’s a fast fashion brand, it will sell for more and it will sell within a week. Even though the style of Wilfred and Tibi isn’t sooo far apart. (Except Tibi is much higher quality).

I don’t know why exactly, but that’s how it is. I see a lot of vintage Liz Claiborne pieces that are on trend, like cream color silk ribbed knit mock turtlenecks that should sell at a premium, but they don’t. It breaks my heart a little, but if you’re shopping for yourself, these are gems to be found.

I hope I can expand my business. I eventually want to outsource some of the more finicky tasks and focus on what I really love, and that’s sourcing. Probably live on a farm where I can store the inventory and do everything there.”

Follow Jennine on Instagram @jennine.jacob
Shop Jennine on Poshmark @somewearnice