It was 1999. There were rumors of the world coming to an end because of the Y2K programming shortcut. If I was going to go, I wanted it to be in New York City, watching the apple drop partying like it’s 1999.
I had the brilliant idea to write off my vacation and visit the famed Garment District. I was curious because NYC women seemed well-dressed regardless of their size from what I saw on tv. I did not find the same clothing offerings in the Seattle area at the time. The clothing options for plus-size women looked like repurposed table clothes and bedsheets. It was not flattering at all.
The internet was starting to take off, so I thought I might be able to bring New York to every plus-size woman. I called some stores in the Garment District, told them I was visiting, and asked what I needed to get to do business. They told me I need to a resale certificate. I opened a business, dba Cleo’s Place – bought the domain, and flew to New York to party!!!
I was right and bought an initial order of clothing with the money I didn’t have, but thankfully I had a credit card – so nearly $1000 of inventory would be shipped to my place after my vacation was over, and it was officially a write-off.
I was a proud businesswoman.
Besides, having inventory on hand would drive a sense of urgency to recoup the money. It’s funny how we can talk ourselves into these things.
I figured I would hit it big or learn. You must be optimistic when you’re spending money you don’t have. When I came back, I started to work by creating a website and using PayPal as the payment provider. My skillset was more in development than design, so it wasn’t the prettiest site, but it worked. If I knew where I had pictures of it, I would post them. After all, one picture is worth a thousand words.
After having a wonderful end of the world celebration, I came back, eager for my new beginning. Now, in the red financially after having a perfect time in NYC, spending a little more liberally than I should because I dreamed of my dot-com success (that hadn’t happened yet). I was scared. Real money was on the line. My money. Oh my goodness, what did I do?
The clothing arrived, and I went to work. I
- Logged all of the inventory in a spreadsheet
- Posted everything on eBay
- Tried to post on Amazon but got shut out because I wasn’t a big retailer
- Put it on Craigslist (it didn’t work well at all)
- Advertised needing plus-size models in BBW dating groups for free pictures of themselves in cute clothes.
Then I became interested in learning digital marketing because these clothes weren’t moving fast enough for my taste.
During this time, I had a water leak in my condo and had contractors paid for by HOA came to fix it. Somehow, according to my spreadsheet, a significant portion of my inventory was missing. The contractors and the HOA didn’t know what happened, even though they were the only others with the key. So I didn’t sell all of my inventory because a significant part of it disappeared.
All of this was my side hustle while working full-time in sales and trying my best as a single mom. It meant writing website copy while watching my daughter’s gymnastic lessons.
She was a never-ending bundle of energy, as most children are. We spent hours at McDonald’s while she played until she was bored or exhausted while doing whatever projects I could on the laptop that didn’t require internet. (I would save them throughout the week for the special occasion). It was a routine we carried over from my college days – McDonald’s Sundays (and sometimes Friday nights).
After all of the hustle, I broke even on the monetary costs (including all of the expenses on the trip to New York) but didn’t have much of a profit. It was less than $100 (and it was much work to move that much merch).
I found that I had some hot sellers and what I called real dogs (merch that didn’t sell). When I went to reorder the hot sellers, the distributors were sold out but were happy to send me the inventory they had on hand sight unseen. Even though digital cameras existed, distributors weren’t using them to do business. (I suggested it, though). Merchandising is about predicting taste and the future, and I wasn’t comfortable taking that gamble. Now they do and send you updates through What’s App.
I tried to find a way to make it work, but frankly, I didn’t have that much time off to take more trips to New York (which I gladly would have). I’ll go to NYC any chance I get.
While I reluctantly let the dream die, the lessons live on.
It was a roller coaster of feelings and one of the best times of my life. Profit? Less a $100. The experience? Priceless.