Wink & Flip
Many of my peers look at my business success and think it was some kind of wizardry that got me to where I am now. It’s true that I’m 21 years old, have a thriving fashion jewelry business, a website (struggling), accounts with boutiques, and my products in magazines like Teen Vogue. But my success did not come overnight.
I began with a table in the basement of a church in Queens, NY where I live. Then I added one more church. At the holidays I tried to be at a church flea market on every Saturday and Sunday from Thanksgiving to December 25th. Most times my mother came with me because she wanted to look out for me. I was handling a lot but I was still only 15 and dealing mostly with adults.
It was a lot of hard work. Sometimes the event was not well publicized and the only customers I had were the people who wandered in after a church mass. But I stuck with it. I learned to give change, make my set up look good, and I talked to other vendors. I ate more than my share of chips and soda while waiting for the end of the day to come. But I also made some money. Church flea markets usually charge just $25-$35 to rent a table at a flea market, so it’s a good way to get started. My business grew slowly, but that’s why it’s still around. I graduated from church flea markets to street fairs held around the city. Overnight I went from less than a hundred customers to thousands of people walking past my table. For two years, that’s how I made money.
The work never stops. Two years ago, I opened a website, www.winkandflip.com, and started selling every Saturday on the Lower East Side at the Hester Street Fair. The fair is a mix of vintage/antiques, gourmet foodm, and crafts. I’m part of a community of vendors there. It’s new to me to work every single Saturday but I enjoy it, and I’m looking forward to balancing work and school this semester.
If I had to name three secrets to my success I’d say they were:
- Persevere. I would not be here today if I gave up at any point along the way. Things do get tough, but if they do, I just slow down and ask other people in business for ideas on how to be successful. I also think it’s important to have a mentor.
- Put money aside to reinvest in the business. I always put 30% of my sales in an envelope marked “Capital.” I have to pay that envelope first, so I have money to buy new inventory, or restart the business after a bad season. I never have to ask anyone for a loan because I have the Capital envelope.
- Try new ideas. Some ideas work, some don’t. I recommend challenging yourself to come up with 10 new ideas and then try out the best one or two. You’ll never know if an idea is successful until you try it. But don’t go big; Start a new idea as a small test.