After getting her two boys launched successfully into elementary school, Lucy Albrecht struggled to find the right way to re-enter the workplace because she wanted to be present with them before, after and occasionally during school hours.
Then, quite by accident, she discovered a website called Poshmark.
“When I was looking to go back to work, I happened to come across an article, a woman’s story of her success with Poshmark,” Albrecht said. “She was selling her clothes, and she was making something like $5,000 a month. … The more I checked into it, the more I thought this is really great.”
At Poshmark, sellers can create a “closet” where they sell clothing, accessories and shoes from their own wardrobe. Albrecht’s closet, which she opened in June, includes gently worn apparel from Ann Taylor, INC, Nike and Mossimo. Shoppers purchase the clothing and pay a flat shipping fee of $5.99 for packages that weigh less than 5 pounds.
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Poshmark recently selected Albrecht as one of 50 women from across the United States to receive a $500 microgrant from its 2016 Fashion Entrepreneurs Fund. They can use the money to invest in buying wholesale merchandise to expand their e-tail businesses.
Since opening her Poshmark closet, known as Linensbylucy, Albrecht said, she has made only 35 to 40 sales, but she’s not discouraged. She attended workshops at an event called PoshFest last November in San Francisco, she said, and she learned there that it’s not uncommon to start off slowly.
“People said, ‘Don’t get frustrated and quit because you’re not making any sales. It’s going to be slow to establish yourself. Eventually you’ll have repeat customers coming back, and word gets out that you’re a reputable closet,’” said Albrecht, of West Sacramento.
The nice thing about starting a secondhand store, Albrecht said, was that she didn’t have to invest money in inventory. In the beginning, she sold only items from her wardrobe that she didn’t wear much anymore.
Before getting the grant from Poshmark, Albrecht said, she spotted some apparel on sale at Kohl’s that she figured she could purchase and resell for more money. She told me she has now invested 90 percent of the $500 grant, buying wholesale clothing from merchants that sell to Poshmark e-tailers like her. She said she’s holding a little of the grant money to put toward clothing at a later date.
The grant has allowed Albrecht to get a taste of decisions that boutique owners make about what inventory to buy and how much of a markup to charge. Her dream, she said, is to run a profitable boutique on the Poshmark platform.
“You have to spend money to make money,” Albrecht said. “The $500 was huge. I can’t just go out and just say, ‘Let me spend $500 and not know how long it’s going to take to make a sale.’… It will broaden my closet and hopefully ignite my growing process even more.”
The 44-year-old Albrecht said she’d contemplated getting a part-time job but then realized that she would probably get hours that would force her to get child care for her sons, ages 7 and 9. She knew her sons didn’t want to go to after-school care, she said, and she thought the cost of that might eat up all her part-time wages. Plus, Albrecht said, she recalled how she had felt when her own stay-at-home mom had gone back to work.
“She got a part-time job at EyeMasters.” Albrecht said. “I was in high school, but I was mad. I did not like that she was out working when I came home from school.”
Albrecht said she spends about 30-plus hours each week building up the business for her Poshmark clients. Retailers outside the Poshmark community might consider some of her work to be a little odd. For instance, Albrecht spends time browsing through other Poshmark sellers’ closets and sharing items that she considers to be great buys.
It sounds counterintuitive, she said, but Poshmark functions as a supportive community, and when you help publicize another e-tailer’s closet, it prompts them to visit your closet, check out your style and then tell their followers about items they like from your closet.
“The sense of community is really big with Poshmark,” Albrecht said. “Say I knew you had something and I knew someone else was looking for it, I would say, ‘Check out my friend. I know she has this in her closet.’ It’s women supporting women rather than just everyone trying to get sales for their own business.”