Two Old Beans is a vintage clothing shop that was started by two friends. Jack and Charlie (or Jessica Courter and Ellen Vernier) live in TN with their families. Interviewed here is Jessica who lives with her 10 siblings that are still at home. You may remember that I interviewed her father two weeks ago who is also a successful entrepreneur. As to her familiarity with vintage life, her family just finished putting on a WWII reenactment in TN this past September and will be hosting it again this year. I hope you find this interview encouraging and inspiring as I have always found her to be.
1. Why this business?
Well, I already had an interest and intermediate knowledge base in vintage clothing, so it really made sense for me to try and do something with this desire. I also knew that vintage clothing is a currently expanding market, so with enough business sense it could be turned into a viable business.
2. What made you start?
The opportunity came along for me to partner up with Ellen, so I took it. I have always been hesitant about partnerships because of the cautions throughout Proverbs, so I thought about the decision a while before I actually went ahead with it. I think that as long as both partners understand the dangers and potential struggles with partnerships, they can make it work. Honestly, in this case, I feel like partnering with Ellen almost triples our effectiveness and potential because our passions + goals are so similar and our skills mesh up extremely well.
3. What were your goals in starting this business?
These goals have morphed for me as the business has grown and progressed. Originally I was hoping for a nice little side job that the two of us could work together and make a little money at, but more recently, I’ve been working to turn this into a full blown operation. Currently this means Ellen and I are involved in every single step of the process, from buying, to sorting, cleaning, mending, photographing, listing, shipping, customer service, paperwork, marketing and a host of other things, but I’m hoping (and believe it’s quite possible) to streamline the process to where it requires minimal work and/or we start hiring out jobs.
4. What were some things that you did to get your business off the ground?
Invest time. Lots of time. Ellen and I talked over marketing plans and ideas and then we just dug in. We hadn’t a clue what would work and wouldn’t work so it took a lot of time at first, but by being attentive and persistent, it eventually paid off and we’ve already learned a lot about what works best for our market and have been able to cut our time down considerably. We also researched what other companies were doing and tried to learn from them. However, I think the biggest thing that we’ve done that has helped get the business going is just being there for people — whether its on our etsy store, instagram, or anywhere else, we try to be super fast with responses, as helpful as possible and very relational. Ellen and I are both relational people, so that last one comes fairly natural to us, but I think (at least in our market), that people really appreciate our effort to connect with them as people, not just buying customers.
5. What are some lessons you've learned from this?
Strategy is super important. The saying “if you don’t know where you’re going, than any train will get you there” is true. You really need to be forward thinking in starting a business — trying to accurately predict business growth is really hard when beginning, but you need to be thinking about the possibilities of both a boom or bust. Knowing when and how much to invest in new equipment and merchandise is really important. So I guess the best thing I’ve learned is how to think through things, set goals and take the appropriate action.
6.What kept you going?
More like what keeps me going, since we’re nowhere close to where we want to be :] To be honest, it’s really the knowledge that I simply need to be making money! But it’s also knowing that by getting this venture running on it’s own, I’ll be able to pursue some of the other dreams I have! I find all this stuff really exciting to me :] Besides, starting and running your own business (when run right) is a very rewarding experience.
7. What are some tips you have for the readers?
I guess it would be just do something — find where your interests already lie and see if you can capitalize on that to create a business. By doing this you’ll be making money and doing what you love. Maybe you don’t know for sure if it’s what you want to be doing for years to come, but get some goals and start. In the process of just beginning, you’ll learn a multitude of things that you could never learn by just thinking about it. Your goals can and will change as you grow, but you have to begin somewhere. Something I like to remind myself of is that avoiding failure is to avoid progress. If you want to get somewhere, you have to be willing to take risks. Remember, there is no victory without a battle and there is no elevator to success. Take the stairs and make the most of what you already have!