Welcome to the Marketing in the Wild podcast. I’m Julia from Stratos Creative Marketing, where we are obsessed with finding real-life examples of the good, the bad, and sometimes wild, in marketing.
Julia: Well, Marketing in the Wild friends, I’m really excited to introduce you to two guests today. We have Aaron and Garrett, I’m going to have them introduce themselves separately so you guys can start recognizing their voices and then we will dig into our questions. So does one of you want to go first?
Garrett: Aaron! You go first.
Aaron: Yeah, I’ll go first, my name is Aaron. My sister is Justine, who I know you work closely with, Julia. I originally grew up in New England in New Hampshire, moved down to North Carolina maybe about 10, 15 years ago. And I’ve been here ever since. I attended UNC Chapel Hill, graduated from there in 2017 with a degree in economics and stats. I started working in the database world a little bit, doing some technology stuff for Fidelity Investments. And then just this year, that’s when Garrett and I kinda left our jobs to do this vintage clothing business, which we’re pretty excited about.
Julia: Yeah. Awesome. Garrett. You’re up next.
Garrett: Hi, I’m Garrett. Yeah, also went to UNC with Aaron, also an econ major. We had a lot of our classes together. Just kind of how we became close friends and started to learn that we shared similar interests. Yeah, I was, uh, after I graduated school in 2017, I worked in New York at Bloomingdale, so I was a retail manager at Bloomingdale’s in New York for a few years. Aaron and I always had the idea of starting a vintage clothing business. And like Aaron said, we started this past January and it’s been going pretty well for us. We’ve been, we’ve enjoyed it a lot.
Julia: That’s awesome. So that’s where we’re going to get into your business. It is called Secondhand Concession Stand, correct? First question is how you came up with that name.
Aaron: I guess that’s the question for Garrett.
Garrett: So, I guess the name came up, our original thought we were going to do like Secondhand Smoke Vintage. So we were thinking like, okay, like smoke, like fire, like heat. Like if you have a good shirt, it’s like heat or fire, you know? But then we were also thinking of other ways to, you know, sell things, so maybe we could have a little snack stand on the side? And I was like, okay, let’s call it the Secondhand Concession Stand. And then Aaron is like, “No, dude, that’s our name now!” So yeah, that’s kind of how it came about. Yeah, we’ve rolled with it and that’s kind of how all of our branding has been done, kind of around that concession stand theme.
Julia: I love it. I love it. I think it’s so creative and it rolls off your tongue, even though it’s like a longer name, and it’s really memorable. So how did you guys get started? So, to all the listeners, I’m coming into this a little bit blind, except for the fact that I know that you guys started at the beginning of this year, correct? So tell us about that.
Aaron: All right. Well, I would say like when COVID kinda came around, everyone was indoors. The Instagram community for this kind of like vintage clothing stuff, kind of, kind of started like blowing up. Everyone who is doing live sales on Instagram Live, doing some auctions, like claim sales, posting, a lot of cool, like vintage stuff for sale on their pages.
And so really like this whole community started kind of becoming a big thing. And we had already been planning on kind of joining the market, but we hadn’t foreseen that COVID would kind of blow up the Instagram scene, like so, so crazy. So when we saw it, uh, last summer, last summer, it really started taking off. We were working on our branding during that time and pretty much after we finished our branding in like the fall/winter, we just decided it was, it was pretty much time to get in since things were kind of going crazy at that point.
So in the winter, we hopped on a ton of live auctions with some bigger accounts. It definitely gave us some momentum to put our name out there, run some of the auctions of some of the stuff we have stored up. And that’s kinda how we grew quickly at the start and like got our name out there.
Julia: That’s awesome. So really kind of piggybacking or collaborating with bigger brands, but then also getting your own start. So, sweet. Tell us about some of the growth that you guys have experienced since the beginning of the year.
Garrett: Sure. So I would say our main kind of goal for growth has been via Instagram. And that was kind of like the main, I guess, vehicle we were kind of using to measure our, I guess, growth as a brand and growth as a company. So yeah, I think we have close to 5,000 followers right now.
Julia: Which is awesome for in a year. Like that’s pretty impressive. So good job!
Garrett: And yeah, Aaron said you know, collaborating with bigger accounts, but also we do a ton of pop-ups locally. So we’ve really tried to not only kind of cultivate a lot of followers that we meet within that vintage Instagram community, but also you know, local people, just people interested in things that, you know, that are pertinent to them.
So North Carolina stuff, a lot of Duke students, UNC students, uh, State students, we do a lot of stuff with the universities and Aaron had a genius marketing tactic of, along with our Secondhand Concession Stand branding, we do free Capri Sun for a follow at our pop-ups.
Julia: That is excellent!
Garrett: Yeah , so everyone that follows us on Instagram gets free Capri Suns for life at all of our pop-ups. So if you see us at a pop-up, follow us and you get free Capri Sun!
Julia: That’s great. And so that’s what I want to hear more of, is that you guys have come up with some really creative marketing activities, like the free Capri Sun. I also heard about a Rock, Paper, Scissors segment that I would like to hear more about. And so I would love to hear some of these creative ideas that you guys can come up with and why they worked or didn’t work.
Aaron: Absolutely. So for the Rock, Paper, Scissors, that was kind of an off-shoot of taking advantage of Instagram Live and how that whole system works. So, yeah, if for those not familiar with Instagram Live, you can go live with someone else. So that’s, that’s how, kind of like the whole auctioning platform started is, you know, if you have a big account with like 20,000 followers, then you can have someone pay you to use your platform and, and be on Instagram Live with them, selling your stuff. So if you are just starting off and you had like a hundred followers or something, you could have access to these accounts of like 20,000 followers, because they would be bringing you onto their Live.
Now this past year, I think it was in the like early spring or maybe like winter, they enabled a four-way Instagram live. So instead of just having two people, you could have four people on the same screen. And, um, well that would be up to four. So you could have like two, three, or four. And so we basically wanted to get a jump on that feature rollout. And so we realized that if we could get three people on, then we could host a kind of like, one-on-one game show kind of thing.
So that’s how we came up with the Rock, Paper, Scissors. And what also happens is, whenever you bring someone on your Live, it notifies all their followers that they’re going live. So, essentially the idea was like the more people you can bring on Live, the greater your reach is and your reach would eventually become almost exponential, as long as you kept bringing on new people. So yeah, we tried to take advantage of that. And, we did Rock, Paper, Scissors with like a cash prize for like a couple of months. And it did work out really well for a while but eventually, like, I guess like the novelty kind of wore off, so we decided it wasn’t worth it anymore. But for a while, it was going crazy. Like I think at some point we had like, like close to a hundred viewers on our Lives. And at that point we only have like maybe two or 3000 followers. So yeah, that was, it was really fun.
Julia: So like, it was game show-esque. How did you connect it to your product or your business or was it just for entertainment purposes?
Aaron: I would say largely for entertainment purposes, but also like, it was just good for getting people to recognize our faces and putting our face to like the brand and I think going live with so many people, kind of getting to know these people, you know, making jokes and stuff, we really formed some connections that I don’t think we ever would have, had we not done it. And yeah, just putting like the face to the name and getting people to kind of trust us as a brand, I think and, you know, having fun.
Julia: Yeah. And I mean, getting to know your customers too, because if they’re the ones showing up, like you’re getting to know your community, so that’s awesome. Are there other things that you guys have done to market your business? I know you mentioned events. How did you guys get involved with events?
Garrett: Let’s see, our first-ever event. I guess our first event was a local art market. Another local small business puts on art markets and we happen to have a relationship with them and they invited us and it went really well for us. So we started kind of seeking more opportunities in the events space. You know, we started doing just the Raleigh flea market. Some things like that. And then, yeah, started getting involved with more all-vintage events and yeah, this past summer we kind of did our own all-vintage events with vendors and, you know, having other people come and we sponsor and, you know, having a whole big, all vintage market.
Julia: That’s awesome. Was it scary to make the transition from being a participant at an event to being a host of an event? Or were you guys like, “We’ve got this!”
Garrett: It was, I mean, I think like the day before there was definitely like, “Oh, what if nobody shows up?” Like, you know, there’s definitely a little bit of fear, but we did a lot of groundwork. So we felt good about it, but you know, there’s always that thought in the back of your mind, “What if everyone hates us, what if no one comes? What if it’s just like a bust for everyone?” But they all turned out really well for us. So that’s kind of what we want to continue doing, those kinds of things.
Julia: Totally. I think that’s like a normal feeling. Every time we all, any of us who has a business, try something new, like it could be a little bit intimidating. How did you guys know you were ready to host, like be the host, rather than a participant?
Aaron: Yeah. So I guess when we started participating in the markets at first, we found we were making a lot of connections with other sellers that were just looking for opportunities to sell their stuff, to gain exposure.
And we felt as though, um, something like an art market, wasn’t really the perfect place for a vintage clothing vendor to be at. Just kind of a different space than like, you know, selling artisan soap or like pottery or something like that. So when we started seeing some of these like other vintage markets doing pretty well, we decided, you know, we have all these connections, why don’t we just try hosting an event since we have the vendors eager to sell their stuff. So, yeah, we just decided to do it. And I would say definitely like, after the first one, which was pretty wildly successful, like better than we could have hoped, it really did a lot for our confidence for like hosting events and making connections to other people because we kind of knew, you know, there’s a big demand for it. And there’s also a big demand to get into these markets as well.
Julia: And I think it’s cool that then you can kind of ride the coattails of your previous event too, like if it was successful, then more people want to show up to it, too.
Aaron: That’s right. Yeah.
Julia: Awesome. So I have just a couple more questions that I didn’t include, but they just came to mind. Who would you guys say, I am curious, who is your audience? Like who are you selling to?
Garrett: Yeah, so I guess in markets specifically, I think, we do really well with students. So, some of the markets we were hosting were right by Duke’s campus, so you know, we were actually at Duke kind of handing out flyers and doing a lot of, you know, guerilla marketing. So we do do a lot of work with campuses. We did a frat court event at UNC. The events we do in Greensboro are super close to UNC Greensboro and North Carolina A&T so I would say, yeah, we do gear a lot of our stuff towards students and I think that shows in our price points. I would say, compared to some of the other sellers, I do say we do have a lower price point than a lot of people. And that’s just because we, you know, we kind of know our market.
Julia: Yeah. So, students, I feel like, I was looking through your shop and I also feel like millennials too, a little bit, maybe? Because there’s some things on there that I was like, what, that’s something that I grew up with! And so I could resonate with it. And I think about the free Capri suns, like none of our parents would be appealed, like that would not appeal to any of our parents.
Garrett: The website customer is definitely different from the in-person customer. I would say we’ve tried for our website to kind of be more specialized, more like a collector’s website. So like you said, kind of like millennials and we’ve catered to, kind of like that Y2K theme. That’s kind of what we are going for, but yeah, so there’s some higher price point stuff there, but in person, we’ll sell $5 shirts, $10 shirts, and just try and get everybody something cool for a decent price.
Julia: Yeah. To anybody listening, if you’re a big Justin Bieber fan, I saw a picture on there of a Justin Bieber shirt. So awesome. Wow. I just feel like there’s so many, I just really appreciate hearing from people who are creative and clearly you guys have not been afraid to reinvent the wheel or try new things. But also you’ve also taken on some of the things that you know work, in terms of the Instagram algorithm, stuff like that. I’d be curious if you met somebody today who is thinking about starting a business, what’s one piece of advice you would give them in terms of marketing?
Aaron: In terms of marketing, I would say, well, like you said earlier, it’s important to know who your main market is. You have to know who you’re marketing to in order to come up with your strategy for marketing. So definitely have a clear idea of the kind of person that you want to market your product or your service to. And then also have a personal connection to what you’re actually doing. Like, it’s important to really put your soul into it so that other people can really like, recognize the value of it and they really see that, you know, you’re putting a lot of effort and care into it and that makes them want to be a part of something cool. Rather than like, oh, if it’s just like, you’re like tossing around flyers for something you don’t really care about. Like, it’s definitely a subtle thing, but it’s make or break really, I would say.
And then the other thing is, just don’t be afraid to try creative things that might fail, but, you know, they might be really successful as well. A popular thing now is a philosophy of failing fast and failing big. So like, you know, try something crazy, and then if it doesn’t work out, then you can move on to something else immediately. Yeah, just trying a wide variety of things and seeing what sticks, that’s all part of the like entrepreneurial mindset.
Julia: I think if we were not as afraid of failure, we would be more innovative because right now I think a lot of people in our culture, myself included sometimes, are afraid of failure. And I think that we would have really cool ideas if we weren’t afraid of it. Garrett, do you have anything to add?
Garrett: No, I think Aaron said everything, I guess the piggyback, I think, you know, along with, you know, finding who your customer is, finding your niche. I think we’ve kind of tried to, you know, get to the forefront of like North Carolina and like, you know, two thousand Y2K things, and not spread ourselves like, you know, have our Instagram plastered with everything that’s vintage, you know. You’ll see us post like vintage pants and shoes and everything one day, I think kind of being hyper-focused on a couple of categories and, and kind of, yeah, just establishing your niche within something. You can always, you know, a lot of people think if you kind of go and spread your net wider, you might be able to grab some more people, but I think if you can be hyper-focused on a couple of niches that you can really grab a lot of, you know, a high percentage of that niche and that can be kind of your thing. So then you can be known for that thing. So I think that’s kind of what we’ve tried to do.
Julia: Such good words of wisdom, honestly. So I have a question for you guys, and I’m not sure if it’s secret, but can you tell us how you find your inventory? Or is that like a trade secret like, “No, we can’t tell anybody.”
Garrett: We do a lot of thrifting. I mean, we hit a lot of thrift shops. We also, me and Aaron used to thrift a lot in college and then when we got jobs, we took vacations, like our PTO and did thrifting trips together. So we would go up and down the east coast and just thrift the whole time. And yeah, found a ton of good stuff then, and just kind of stockpiled it. So that’s definitely helped us with inventory now.
Julia: Any favorite thrift shops that people should stop at? This is a curveball question.
Aaron: Well, I mean countrywide, I would say like, you know, everyone knows Goodwill. But like Salvation Army, I would say Salvation Army family stores are really, um, their prices have stayed pretty good and they continue to get good stuff. Whereas I would say a lot of Goodwills nowadays, they’re kind of catching onto the trend and if they see something that might be worth, you know, anything to them, then they might hike the price up to something like, you know, kind of unreasonable. But yeah, besides like that, uh, like value village, just those kind of stores that get like a ton of donations and move a lot of stuff. I would say that’s probably your best bet.
Julia: Awesome. That was totally like a personal question. I love thrifting. I don’t know if you guys have been to the west coast on any of your thrifting adventures, but San Francisco has some sweet ones.
Garrett: Oh, do you live in San Francisco?
Julia: No, I live in Utah. But once upon a time, I went on a trip to San Francisco and went thrifting. So anyway, I will not leave you guys, we’re not going to call you the thrift shop experts. Like we’re going to call you like the vintage experts. I really, really appreciate getting to know you guys and your business. If people want to find a Secondhand Concession Stand, where should they go?
Garrett: Oh, Instagram for sure. So our Instagram is @2ndhandconcessionstand. And then our website is 2ndhandconcessionstand.com. And yeah, you can message us, email us at email@example.com. We’ll respond instantly. We’re always, we’re full-time with it so we’re quick.
Julia: For sure. Yeah, for sure. Awesome. Well, everybody, I hope you enjoy and I hope you got some good takeaways too, of taking risks and also being able to be confident in knowing who your market is and what you are selling. So, Garrett, Aaron, I just really appreciate this. Thank you.
Garrett: Of course. Thank you so much.