MICHIGAN – Olivia Hillier’s side activity started with a $5 T-shirt she found at a thrift store.
Hillier, an Oakland University medical student based in Rochester, Michigan, had some experience selling some of her own old clothes on resale app Poshmark. She never thought much about it. But during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, she noticed other Poshmark sellers profiting from thrift store fashion finds.
Motivated by looming student loans (medical school tuition cost her roughly $220,000 over four years), she began studying his strategies and using them to create her own desire to move forward.
That first shirt sold for $20. Since then, Hillier’s side job has generated more than $117,000 in total income, including $85,000 last year alone. She is currently averaging $6,000 to $7,000 in earnings per month, according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It, recently helping her buy a five-bedroom home.
“If I didn’t have this business, I wouldn’t even have a savings account,” Hillier, 26, told CNBC Make It. “And I’d have to take out loans to cover my living expenses, plus tuition.”
Hillier graduates from medical school on Friday and will immediately move to Kansas with her husband to start a residency in family medicine. She says the income from her job helped cover $25,000 in closing fees and a down payment on her new home, and will more than cover her mortgage payments of $2,100 per month.
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This is how Hillier built his side job:
ADAPTING YOUR BUSINESS MODEL
Hillier’s investigation began in August 2020, when he noticed that other Poshmark sellers were listing thousands of items that couldn’t possibly have been from their own closets. He learned that many got their inventory from thrift stores and retailers like Nordstrom Rack and TJ Maxx.
He spent the next two months testing the methods of various vendors. He focused on one style, vibrant vintage statement pieces, because those items sold faster. Her store gained traction with a “young professional” audience made up primarily of women ages 25 to 40, she says.
But she wasn’t making much money. Initially, she charged $20 to $30 per article, regardless of the source of each article. After researching why similar pieces were commonly sold, both at Poshmark and popular retailers, she adapted. Now her dresses, which she says are her most popular items, each sell for between $25 and $200, depending on the brand and retail value.
However, Hillier’s work didn’t really advance until he found a routine for balancing clothing sales with medical school.
On Fridays, I went from class to the thrift stores and spent those afternoons sorting and cleaning clothes. On Sundays, she modeled and took photos of her new stock. On Mondays, between hospital rotations, she would upload her new products to her Poshmark closet. And every other day, she would run to the post office.
“You have to be disciplined and have a routine,” says Hillier. “If I didn’t like it so much, I wouldn’t have time for it.”
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EXPANDING YOUR WARDROBE
Hillier says she now spends 20 to 40 hours a week buying, posting and shipping clothes. His large inventory, now over 1,100 items, has helped keep revenue steady, even in weeks when the hospital takes over his life.
The system is not perfect. For example, Hillier points out that Poshmark keeps 20% of every purchase over $15. Depop, a competing platform, only takes 10%. And Facebook Marketplace currently doesn’t charge sellers with a Facebook store anything.
For Hillier, Poshmark’s seller-friendly services make the fees worth it. When someone buys an item on Poshmark, the platform emails a label to the seller with a preset weight and shipping address. All the seller needs to do is stick the label on the box and drop it off at the post office.
The platform also helps with buyer complaints and returns, which Hillier says he would otherwise have trouble with.
“It’s hard to negotiate with people sometimes, and you can’t please everyone,” she says.
Platform fees don’t appear to be holding back Hillier’s progress. His side business has already generated more than $55,000 in revenue in 2022.
In their new home in Kansas, Hillier and her husband, a commercial pilot for SkyWest Airlines, have already designated a “Poshmark room.” Some of the money from her side job pays for the mortgage on the house. The rest, she says, will go toward new furniture, travel, her two dogs and student loan payments.
“A lot of people can’t get a steady job in medical school because they don’t have the time or the flexibility,” says Hillier. “It’s nice to not only have time to do something I love, but also allow myself other things… I want to keep this business going during my residency and hope to continue it when I’m an attending physician.”
East Article was originally published in English por Megan Sauer for our sister network CNBC.com. For more from CNBC go here.