It’s been a while since we talked about business-y things and today seemed like a good day for it. I was actually planning on a day in the studio, working on furniture, but my boys had another snow day, so we just hanging around the house.
I dug through my “things to post about when I’m not sure what else to post about” folder and found this comment…
“Marian, I so love what you are doing with your pieces, paint, fabric and everything. I want to do something similar but in a coastal style. How did you get to the point where you could go shopping and buy items for Lucketts and other shows? I really don’t have any income to back what is burning in my heart to do and I don’t want to borrow money to do it. I remember reading in one of your posts that you were on a limited income too.
Again I love your work and the feeling of homeyness, love and family I get from your designs.
Ah, yes, Denise. What you’re asking about is buying power.
I remember when I first started buying and selling furniture and antiques, $20 was pretty much my limit for a piece of furniture. $3.00 was more in line when my budget!
I had started my business to make money, not spend it, but how could I have things to sell if I didn’t buy anything first? And how could I buy anything to sell if I did’t have the money, which is the whole reason why I started a business?! And around and around it goes until you feel like starting a business like this just isn’t possible for someone like you.
Let me start off with a reminder – everyone starts somewhere. It’s unfair (not to mention discouraging) to compare your little-bud-of-a-business with one that is firmly rooted and thriving after years or growth. In other words, your buying power isn’t going to be what theirs is. But, you can get there!
Here’s how I grew my buying power over the years…
Develop an income stream that doesn’t require an investment
This can be really helpful when you’re trying to build some capital to work with. I started my business offering services as well as products, because services don’t require purchasing “stock” to sell. In my case, I did murals and custom-painted furniture. All I needed was a ladder, brushes, some paint, etc. I painted room murals, signs for a bed & breakfast, furniture and accessories for clients, gold-leafed some frames…whatever work I could accept that was within my scope of abilities.
Those jobs brought in some money that I could then reinvest in merchandise to resell.
Shop at the right spots.
I remember walking out of antique stores, bummed that I couldn’t afford to buy anything that could be resold. Well, I couldn’t afford to buy anything, period. I learned that I needed to find other places to shop. I mostly hit thrift stores and was out every Saturday during yard sale season. In fact, the booths for my first three years at Lucketts were outfitted almost exclusively with yard sale and thrift store finds.
I also went to auctions, but I usually hung out in the “back room” where they had the boxed lots and things that needed some work. I knew I could win bids there, which was much harder for me to do in the “big room”.
So, set yourself up for success and shop where you’re more likely to find things in your budget that you can at least double the price on for resale.
I went through my house and sold anything I felt I could part with. I sold all sorts of things that I didn’t use, need or love and those dollars added up to a little money to reinvest. And then I even sold things that we used and loved. The best case was when I sold my dining room set. I had no intention of selling it, but someone came to my house to buy a French sofa and offered to buy the dining set as well. I just couldn’t turn down the money, so I sold it, leaving a big hole smack in the middle of the dining room.
I cried when the buyer pulled away, but it was a big step for me as an entrepreneur. I was able to turn that dining set into another dining set PLUS more furniture that could be refinished and sold for a profit.
If you followed me in the early years of my blog, you definitely noticed that furniture was always in rotation in my house and that is why. It’s not so much that I wanted change, but I wanted to build my buying power.
Accept freebies & be resourceful.
It didn’t matter if something wasn’t my style. If it was free, I would take it and try to make something of it. And I was a champ at sniffing out cheap furniture. If it was $5.00 or less, I would snap it up. I bought this plant stand for $2.00 at an auction, painted it and sold it for a nice profit.
I bought this for $3.00 at a yard sale at fixed it up.
(It was fun to look back at some of my old posts and projects as I was working on this post. Ah, the memories!)
Anyway, remember that you make money on a piece when you BUY, so buy smart.
Don’t go into debt.
This is just my own personal opinion. Well, I suppose it all is, really! It’s so much better to start small than to overextend yourself. That can make your business a stressful, nail-biting experience instead of a creative journey.
There were so many times that I wanted to just rack up my credit card, buying great things to sell, and then hope it would all work out, but I knew that was a gamble that wasn’t worth it. It has meant that my business has grown slowly, gradually, but it has also meant that I could enjoy it.
So, start with your $3.00 thrift store side tables and you’ll be buying stacks of ironstone before you know it!