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Scaling up shop: 5 steps to set up your vintage resale business for growth
Set yourself up to scale from the start if possible, says Taylor Jochim-Smoot, founder of Portland Revibe (pictured). Photo: Jaime Cartales/Voyage and Vine courtesy Portland Revibe

Scaling up shop: 5 steps to set up your vintage resale business for growth


A reseller’s Cliffs Notes on how to build a business foundation for efficiency, success and, eventually, expansion

The avoidance of the dreaded storage closet was real.

The thrill of the hunt for new vintage products had far extended the breaking point of available space and the only way out was through.

Everything tangled and mismatched in a pile of boxes conveniently blocking the rest inside.

Item records lost in the fray. Products shelved for months taking up space, not collecting new dollars. Projects stuck in limbo-land simply because there wasn’t enough time.

This scenario can be all too familiar to even the most seasoned of resellers. What starts as a hobby can quickly grow out of control into the inventory dead pile of nightmares.

On top of inventory management, the learning curve that comes with managing all of the business operations adds daunting layers to the mix. There‘s a reason why larger companies have individual people and dedicated departments to manage these business functions.

A small business doesn’t have that luxury. That’s why finding the right tools, resources and getting organized is critical in maximizing your time to grow that passion project into a full-time scalable business.

Through my 12-plus years’ experience helping small to mid-size businesses expand globally and across the U.S., I realized the importance of dedicating time up front to research and build the critical support framework needed for me to do more with less and scale sustainably.

I also wanted a business model for my vintage resale shop that allowed flexibility and diversification.

Here are five of the steps I used to turn Portland Revibe into a debt-free, scalable business over the last 10 years.

1. Start with a business plan.

Many small business owners skip a critical step — taking the time to construct a full and thorough business plan.

A business plan is the blueprint for your shop. Not only does it help you establish what the business is and will be about, it determines how you want to structure and build for the future.

A business plan consists of many parts, including but not limited to:

  • Your shop’s mission, vision and goals.
  • Financial strategies.
  • Personnel you may employ or plan to hire, and third-party service evaluation.
  • General business, process improvement and tool review.
  • Marketing strategies.
  • Competitive landscape and economic review.
  • New business opportunities.
  • Your most important business initiatives.

Having a guide like this throughout the year helps to maintain focus on priorities so you can achieve your larger goals, one step at a time.

These metrics and evaluation points, along with other tools such as sales tracking, can also alert you to the need to pivot when things aren’t working. Business plans should be updated each year, with prior years’ plans saved and archived for reference.

Taylor Jochim-Smoot in her Portland Revibe storage unit
The author in the Portland Revibe storage unit. Photo: Portland Revibe

2. Come up with a versatile and classic business name.

Whether you already have a name for your resale shop or are looking to come up with one, finalizing a business name is a critical step for many reasons. A solid business name reinforces your shop’s core values and gives consumers an idea of who you are.

It lasts through the ages and can pivot or be built upon if the business focus changes or expands.  

A business name gets implemented into everything the business touches. This includes: formal state/province and federal business registrations, branded items, legal documents, website URLs, email addresses, dedicated social media platforms, etc.

As brand recognition grows, the business, branded URLs and social media pages also become assets that have actual value.

I invented Portland Revibe’s name with a lot of factors in mind. Whether I live in Portland, Oregon or not, the city’s name represents the values of sustainable living.

“Revibe” describes our mission to bring previously loved items back into circulation, support other small businesses in the restoration and repurposing of items, and educate the public on sustainable practices and resources. We want to be a circular company that pays it forward. Our motto: “Reduce, Revibe, Recycle.”

For our brand logo, we chose the PR initials with an arrow so people would eventually begin to recognize the symbol alone.

We also included a circle around the PR initials so that we can place words below or above the logo to identify different aspects of our business without committing to those words in our formal branded name.

For example, we use “Vintage Collective” for our vintage-only shop and “Revibe Retreat” for our short-term rental that is furnished with vintage decor.

Portland Revibe logo with arrow
The author’s logo allows for different segments of the business to be replaced in various applications. Image courtesy Portland Revibe

3. Separate financials and legally register the business.

Untangling personal and business expenses is time-consuming and leaving them together can open you up to financial liabilities down the road.

When you keep your transactions separate, there are various expenses that also can count as tax deductible toward the business to help reduce taxable income at the end of the year.

I highly recommend a tracking system such as QuickBooks Online as it can scale, offers mobile record keeping for when you’re on the go, provides analytics to track business health, and makes filing taxes a cinch at the end of the year.

It also has a library of additional tools that come in handy when managing contract workers, capturing receipts, tracking mileage, invoicing, etc.

You also want to establish the business legally with your residing state/province and the federal government. In the U.S., registration will provide a unique state and federal business ID number.

Editor's note: In Canada, you can start with registering provincially in most cases, which will provide you with a business number. You don’t have to register federally until you apply for a GST/HST number, or until you incorporate.

As a solo shop owner, it’s likely you are operating as a sole proprietorship, which means your business is unincorporated. But if you plan to expand and scale, you may want to consider incorporating.

(Continued below)

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What does incorporating mean?

In the U.S., new small businesses generally opt to be a limited liability company (LLC) as it is the simplest way to classify the business and file taxes.

An LLC vs. sole proprietor can also provide protection by separating personal from business financial liabilities. As consistent income levels grow (to around $40K+), you can consider an S. Corp to supply significant tax savings and additional opportunities around payroll and investment account contributions.

Editor's note: In Canada, the terminology is a bit different (there are just “corporations,” not LLCs and S. Corps), but the protections are similar. Operating as a corporation means lower tax rates, limited liability and continuity for your business.

No matter where you are located, be sure to talk to a financial advisor and CPA on what fits best and how to plan for the future.  

The author, Taylor Jochim-Smoot, founder of Portland Revibe, advises separating financials as early as possible. Photo: Jaime Cartales/Voyage and Vine courtesy Portland Revibe

4. Build your processes and organizational structures from the start.

In order to scale Portland Revibe, dedication to building the necessary systems and processes before doing the fun part of growing the inventory was critical.

I personally stuck with my corporate day job to allow myself adequate time to build the essentials and get to a point where I felt comfortable financially making the leap. Jumping too soon would have put unnecessary stress on something I loved.

During the foundation-building phase, I created a virtual filing system with dedicated folders for the various business departments and functions.

I built proprietary tools and materials for branding, marketing, customer service, inventory tracking, logistics management, etc., and established physical inventory management and logistics processes.

We researched to find the top tools, apps and software solutions that fit the criteria we needed to operate every arm of the business and that could scale, connect across platforms and automate core parts of our business.

Such tools include:

  • Thermal shipping label printer.
  • Shopify: Our website provider doubles as an inventory management platform and cross-lists to other online marketplaces. This platform provides incredible analytics and capabilities so you can do so much with your brand.
  • QuickBooks: Our financial management platform (explained above).
  • Later: Our social media content manager with analytics allows us to create large batches of social media content at once on phone or desktop. Posts can be made straight from the app, which provides key engagement times and ranks postings over time.
  • Various graphic design and automated media editing tools to create video and listing content such as Inshot, LightRoom, Canva, etc.

Portland Revibe founder sourcing items. Photo: Jaime Cartales/Voyage and Vine courtesy Portland Revibe
Get systems in place to scale, says Taylor. Photo: Jaime Cartales/Voyage and Vine courtesy Portland Revibe

5. Be selective with your sourcing, evaluate your inventory and complement current trends.

Identifying which products will trend in the era of fast fashion and online shopping has become increasingly difficult. One of the main things I love about vintage is that you can complement current trends with the one-of-a-kind products you supply.

You may even start the trend yourself by showcasing vintage alongside already-trending new products and designs, so don’t be afraid to get creative!

Trends simply allow you to home in on what is heating up or hitting a lull in the market. Some trends are classic and never dull, or come full circle over the years. Portland Revibe has hit a few major trends before seeing big-box stores reproduce the key popular items.

While it isn’t always easy to predict what the next big thing will be, there are some golden rules at Portland Revibe that ensure the items we source are worth the squeeze.

For starters, I don’t think about the cost of a product as simply being what I paid for it. I consider the entire product cost across our inventory handling process. I think about the transportation and time to source, repairs, photography, skuing, online listing builds, pricing, warehouse organizing, packaging, shipping, storage and any materials costs to handle the items.

It is also important to consider the item’s “deadstock” cost when it has been sitting too long. Items not sold means less space for new, vibrant items to join the inventory.

I evaluate items on quality, cost with assessed return, scarcity and desirability. At the end of the day, I do want my items to hit the mark with our target audience and key trends, but they also have to fit the brand’s overall aesthetic.

Often, if a sourced product won’t yield a certain percentage in profit based on the calculated criteria above, it isn’t worth picking up and handling. We also avoid major project pieces that require repairing unless it is worth the effort.

The author on a thrifting expedition. Photo: Portland Revibe/Voyage and Vine
Taylor on a thrifting expedition — it's important to be selective with sourcing, she says. Photo: Jaime Cartales/Voyage and Vine courtesy Portland Revibe

Overall, I try to stick to these guidelines while also watching product performance so that we maintain a quicker item turnaround with a higher-margin return to pay the bills, help achieve the overall goals I am working towards, and adequately reward efforts.

Slow product turn rates can indicate that I need to evaluate current pricing strategies, inventory and future inventory purchases. With the backend tools I implemented early on, it is always clear where things are falling short and when we need to pivot.

New technologies and tools will continue to present different solutions over time and, as with any other business, resellers can use and modify standard industry practices to build solid-yet-nimble business structures that support ongoing growth.

It is important to keep evaluating, learning and implementing as these tools and practices will continue to support the scalability of your vintage resale shop by automating and simplifying your process.

As you are getting started, the foundational pieces listed above will set the framework to be able to propel your shop to new heights, explore new opportunities and focus on the things that are most important to the health of your business.


Taylor Jochim-Smoot is the founder of Portland Revibe, a company dedicated to supporting progress toward more eco-sustainable practices that also support local communities. We strive to source and process unique previously loved decor for use in residential and commercial design.

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