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Bootstrapping With A Paycheck: Katie Echeverry, CEO of Unique Vintage (Part 2)

Posted on Tuesday, Sep 22nd 2015

Sramana Mitra: What happened in year one and year two? What kind of numbers did you do in year one and year two?

Katie Echeverry: I think I did about $3,000 in my first year, and then $6,000 the next year. Every year, I doubled.

Sramana Mitra: In year three, you still have your pharmaceutical job, and Glamour magazine calls you their favorite place to shop for vintage clothing.

Katie Echeverry: At that point, I was doing $1,000 a month. That month, I did $5,000 a month. That got my attention. I never thought that it would make me enough money to pay the bills. I was really excited about that. Then, I put more and more energy into the website. By 2005, I had gotten married and was pregnant with my first daughter, and I had a decision to make. By this time, I was probably working three or four hours at night on my website. With the baby on the way, I was unsure what to do. I had a nice job with a nice salary and a boss that I adored. It was a tough decision for me.

When I was out on maternity, my boss called me and said that she was leaving her position. For me, that was the sign. I told my husband I could contribute $1,000 a month to our household finances. I asked him if he could support us so that I could try this. He supported me. This was at a pivotal moment that I decided to switch from one-of-a-kind authentic pieces of vintage clothing to vintage-inspired because there was no way I was going to make a lot of money from one-of-a-kind items. I started sourcing items that looked like they were from the 1950’s. They were offered in various sizes and colors. One thing with vintage clothing is, the sizes are very small. Most items were size 0 or size 2. That opened the doors for me. Immediately when I switched, I could barely maintain the business by myself. Here I was thinking that I had made this huge decision to be a stay-at-home mom. Within six months, I had a babysitter. I had three people working out of my house. My dad helped out in shipping out. By the first year, I was shipping about 100 orders a day out of my house.

Sramana Mitra: What price point were you selling at?

Katie Echeverry: About $150. At that time, I was still taking my own pictures in my spare bedroom. It was still very early. I was still figuring it out as I went. Because I also did customer service, I realized that there were things that they wanted that I couldn’t find.

Sramana Mitra: What’s an example of that?

Katie Echeverry: For example, they wanted a red swing dress that went up to size 2x. I asked my vendors, “Can you make 2x dresses?” So I decided to make this myself. Because I didn’t know where to begin in downtown LA, I went to Google again. I typed, “manufacturers of apparels in China.” What do you know? Alibaba popped up which is so well-known now, but was not 10 years ago. I found a supplier in China. I sent him a cotton dress sample. He sent me a counter sample back. It looked great. I was so surprised. He said, “You’ve to wire me $2,000 if you want me to make 100 dresses.” I was like, “How do I wire $2,000?” I had no idea.

I went to the bank and wired $2,000. I crossed my fingers hoping that I get the products. Six weeks later, boxes were out at my doorstep. He delivered on what he said he was going to deliver on. I started making my own label of dresses. Around 2007, I had definitely outgrown my house and needed to venture out in a real work environment. I then rented my first space.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Bootstrapping With A Paycheck: Katie Echeverry, CEO of Unique Vintage
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