I get by with a little help from my friends.
(written in 2016)
With any business, there comes uncertainty and doubt. There’s also the anxiety but once you get past the initial frustration and start putting in the work, you realize the potential for something larger than you had previously imagined.
When we left for South Korea to open our vintage furniture business, we didn’t really know what to expect. We didn’t have a whole lot of funds and we had no idea how the market for our merchandise was.
Once all our inventory arrived, we photographed everything and developed our online store. We waited anxiously for our first order but nothing came in. We sent out PDFs to retail shops, went door to door and sent out cold mail but not much had materialized. We initially got by selling to our friends and family. They told their friends and so on and so forth.
It took time for some actual business to roll in but eventually it did. My wife was busy writing for our blog and little by little we had accumulated a steady stream of customers and clients.
We were lucky to have such little over head, but even without much bills to pay, it always seemed we were a month behind on everything. We went out to flea markets, joined online communities, visited all the other vintage shops in Seoul and soon, we were making genuine connections with people. It was with these connections that we were able to say, “hey, lets step up our business and open up a retail store.”
The storefront that we found was more than 3 times what we were paying at our warehouse. The location wasn’t that great, but we loved the building and space and knew that a small community of like minded people existed.
I always emphasize community and people, because these people are your customers, these people are you co-workers and these people are the reason you do what you do.
Running a small business, there’s no way to compete with Target, Costco and all these box store chains. But the one thing you can do is have a whole lot of fun and enjoy life as you figure out the maze that is entrepreneurship.
We soon had an amazing network of friends and peers, and together, we put on shows, flea market events, had an alternative band, had communal dinners and whatever else to try and make our short time all the more eventful.
With our flea market events, we invited over 50 local artisans, craftsmen and artists to come out and sell their goods. This went on to become a quarterly event and despite the state of the economy, some of our artisans went on to open their own brick and mortar shops and with the networking that was created, developed relationships with different people in a vast array of industries.
We were able to make connections with famous photographers, and ignorantly asked them to hold shows at our space. Pretty shocked when they responded yes and so thankful for the amazing experience we received.
We had video shoots, many dinners and drinks and relied on each other to get through the brutal winters. We helped each other with marketing materials and good coffee was always provided.
You really can’t determine who you’re going to meet and where your journey is going to take you, but if you keep an open mind and absorb all things great, you will start seeing all the opportunities out there.
Earlier this year, we made another decision and decided to move back to the United States. We knew we had to move back at some point and it just felt like the right time. Our time in South Korea was amazing, met friends that will last us a lifetime and into the next.
We are opening up our new space in Hamilton, New Jersey and hopefully, our enthusiasm for culture, vintage furniture and fun will translate into meeting some great people.