Katie Echeverry, CEO and Founder of Unique Vintage, had a pharmaceutical sales job that she used to bootstrap with a paycheck for 5 years, before quitting to go full-time with her business, Unique Vintage. More stories like this can be found in my Bootstrapping With A Paycheck book.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Tell us where you’re from. Where did you grow up? Where were you born and raised?
Katie Echeverry: I was born in Burbank, California. I still reside in Burbank, California. I went to school and got my Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, but I ended up in sales. When I was about 26 years old, I ended up being a pharmaceutical sales rep, which I enjoyed. What I liked about sales is the harder I worked, the more money I made. I was a natural entrepreneur, but I just didn’t know the word for it. I worked really hard but that wasn’t enough for me.
I wanted to do something on the side and make some extra money. One of my friends built me a website. This was at the beginning of the web. It was pretty basic. My sister and I liked to go to garage sales hunting for bargains. I started buying and selling authentic vintage clothing. It took me six months to even get my first order. The process was very fun. I would go find the clothes and take pictures of the clothes. I started researching on SEO and did everything myself.
Sramana Mitra: What year did you start this vintage clothing business?
Katie Echeverry: I would say that was about 2000.
Sramana Mitra: You were still doing pharmaceutical sales at this point?
Katie Echeverry: Yes. Full-time, I was doing pharmaceutical sales and then I would come home and do the clothing. It took six months for me to get my first order. When I got that email in my inbox that someone had ordered from me, I got such a thrill. It was so exciting. That was definitely the beginning of my passion for doing something on my own and reaping the rewards fully for it, rather than just being a number in a big corporation.
Sramana Mitra: I have one question before you go on. You decided to sell your merchandise on your own website? You didn’t consider going to one of the marketplaces like eBay or Amazon?
Katie Echeverry: At that point, no.
Sramana Mitra: Why was that?
Katie Echeverry: I don’t know. I think eBay wasn’t as huge back then. Since I had someone to make me a website for free, it seemed like I wanted to do that. Because I was shopping on eBay for vintage clothing at that point, I thought to myself, “I should sell this stuff here too.” I opened up an eBay store, which was an additional source of income.
Sramana Mitra: So in 2001, you had your first order?
Katie Echeverry: Yes.
Sramana Mitra: Then what happened?
Katie Echeverry: My ranking on the keyword search engines started to become higher and higher. When I first Googled vintage clothing, I was on page 100. After a year or two, I was on page 5. Then, I was on page 2. Then I was on page 1. Then, pretty soon I was on spot 1. It happened organically. I even wrote Google an email thanking them for ranking my website on their search engine. At about year three, Glamour magazine mentioned me.