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Starting a Business

The Aquarium Vintage & Costume - Northcote Store

So you want to start a business?

Well, this is one thing people always ask me about. I’m happy to share my experiences, mistakes and lessons learnt.

I didn’t have much help setting up my business so I’m always keen to help others because I feel excited for them and like being a mentor.

Two things to consider way before you start:

1. Do something you LOVE!

I would not recommend starting a business unless you love the work you’re about to embark on in every aspect!

If you adore fashion and styling but hate selling to people then maybe working in retail isn’t for you. Maybe you should be a stylist.

Think of the aspects you LOVE and weigh it up against the attributes you despise and tailor your business around that.

Remember starting a business is a career choice, a lifestyle and a big deal!

Be 100% sure this is something you love.

Test the water and perhaps start working in the field you’re interested in.

I worked in vintage shops before I started selling my own vintage as a hobby.

I found the things that I hated about my previous jobs taught me how to run a business better. While the aspects I loved about the work is something I replicate here in the shop.

2. You Better WORK!

In the words of Rupaul: ‘You better work’!

I have Rupaul’s picture up in the shop and I relate everything I do back to this motto.

If you want anything you have to work for it!

We all know that, but with this subject in mind you need to work a lot!

Running a business is not easy. It requires constant attention to morph and evolve with changing trends and demands. You need to be organised and be prepared for busy moments or the slow months.

You need to prepare for the fact that you will work 7 days a week with early starts and late nights. Sometimes without days off and less holidays than you’re perhaps used to.

But whom are you working for? YOU!

Rupaul -  'You Better Work!'


Those, which I just mentioned above, are the two significant factors you need to accept before you read on.


Let's begin! Here’s some initial info to help you on your journey on setting up your own business. Whether it’s selling vintage like me or starting a new project.

Start Now

There’s nothing stopping you from re-searching, planning or starting your business on a very small scale NOW.

Write down your vision. You’re vision may change over time but this is the best way to get the ball rolling.

Buy yourself a notebook and start planning what you want to do.

I used to plan what I wanted the shop to look like or feel like. I always liked the idea of feeling like you were inside a mermaid’s wardrobe.

By planning my vision it helped me figure out what kind of items I wanted to stock. I also had to think about where a place like my ‘mermaid wardrobe’ would suit!

In your notebook you can start recording information you’ve sought.

I used to dedicate at least an hour a day to researching.

We can all think something we make will be awesome. But until you’ve actually done your research then you’re walking into it blind.

Examine the market. Is your project original? How could you be different in an over saturated market?

Researching and recording now will eventually help you start writing your business plan down the track.

Start Small

Don’t feel like you need to dive into a big ocean. Have a splash in the small puddle first!

This is one of my most valuable pieces of advice.

If I hadn’t started selling vintage at markets on a small scale I wouldn’t have learnt some imperative lessons e.g. what are people actually buying or how much are they willing to spend. Starting small means that any mistakes or losses that occur aren’t that damaging.

Taking small steps costs less, is easier to manage and isn’t a lot of time or money wasted if you decide you’re not digging that scene.


Once you start getting a feel for things double the scale of what your doing.

I expanded from a small market stall and started selling in other people’s shops.

I leased space in Lost & Found Market and Vintage Garage.

This meant I could double my inventory.

My stock had somewhere to be stored that it could also be sold, making me more money to invest in more stock.

Expanding doesn’t just mean upsizing. It can mean advertising in different ways, networking, or trying another project like opening an online store.

By slowly expanding you learn valuable information quicker: what’s working and what’s not?

Expanding proves to yourself that you’ve completed stage one of your goals and now you can start to act big.

Know Your Product

Ok, I know you’d feel you do, but do you really know your product?

You need to know as much as you can about everything your involved in.

You’re the person people ask when they want to know about what you have.

I need to know how old my items are, who made them or what fabrics are used.

That’s more valuable to people than the price tag and more often than not equates to a sale.

Learning about my product is the most beloved aspect of my job.

Knowing your product can also extend to understanding your product.

I always assumed that people who liked vintage would buy all kinds of vintage pieces.

Here’s a big lesson: people don’t always like what you like!

I wish I could stock 60’s psychedelic dresses. But that’s not realistic.

Take a look around outside of your perception and try to see the reality.

For example I need to stock denim jackets over 80s blazers at the moment. It’s what the majority actually want and will spend money on.

Understanding how people perceive your product is valuable information.

Invest in Quality not Quantity!

This seems obvious but sometimes it’s easy to buy bulk just because it’s cheap.

But, it’s likely cheap for a reason because perhaps it’s damaged or it’s something people don’t want to buy right now.

My stock is my most important investment.

I spend more on vintage so that I can put a price tag on something that is truly valuable and is justified.

You can’t just buy cheap second hand crap and put a high price on it.

The best feedback I get from my customers is that they love the quality of my stock. That praise gets me up in the morning! I come to work earlier and work harder to keep that standard high.

I buy from Canada. Which is costly when shipping is added to the equation.

I developed a relationship with another vintage entrepreneur and together we work hard to keep quality vintage an easy addition to daily fashion and not something out of reach for ordinary people.

My wholesaler is a legend and when you work with a quality dealer you’ll get quality product sent your way.

Quality is longevity.

Money, Money, Money!

The money will not flow in overnight. Nor should you dip into it when it arrives.

Sure you must pay yourself but re-investing is very important to get the business growing. That’s an easy topic you should all know already.

Be frugal and thrifty with your money. Every dollar counts!

What I really want to mention is to understand money not just as a profit.

Money is also an expense and a value.

You must account for the cost of your inventory, the time spent during your processes and the overheads you have to pay. These factors aren’t cheap.

Don’t drown yourself in the deep waters of debt if you spend your profits and don’t price your items correctly.

This brings me to pricing your product.

This is a crucial component to your business.

Do not think for a second that affordable prices mean pricing low.

Pricing vintage needs to factor in what that items value equates to e.g. rarity.

Honestly, people don’t mind paying for, what I’ve mentioned before, QUALITY!

Good things take time.

Where you see the business going will not happen overnight. Another obvious statement… but some people do get frustrated and give up too soon.

It took me a year to get my Etsy store running successfully. That took a year of detailed listings, endless photographs and frustration!

But by keeping it alive and adding to it religiously it now contributes to my takings during the slower months and helps pay the bills.

It took me 4 years to open my shop.

Perhaps I could’ve done it sooner but the topics I’m writing about were lessons I needed to learn.

I’ve got the POWER!

Sometimes taking on a new project can be daunting. You’ll feel like a small fish in a big pond. But, you’ll never know unless you try.

Do not underestimate the power you have to build something and make it work!

How badly will you fail? You’re not going to die. Your ego may hurt a little but it’s not the end of the world. Also, money is money. You can get it back.

You need to recognise your ability to be able to do whatever you want and succeed! Once you know that in your soul, then you’re ready to begin.

You’ve made it this far in the world why not push yourself further.

These are just some pieces of advice to start you off.

I’ll post the next steps it took in setting up my business soon.

Get in touch if you have questions you want answered or topics you’d like more info on.

But hey, what are you waiting for, start dreaming and working towards your goals!

| Leah |

#runningabuisness #startingavintageshop #sellingvintage #openingashop

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