Organic & Whole Living: Household Product Challenge Part 5 - " Life without Plastic"
Through the Lens: Raceytay

Small Business: "If you don't earn it, someone else will." by Mitzi Curi

Vintage Indie would like to welcome shop owner Mitzi Curi for her inside tips for making some cash this spring and summer with antiques, refurbished housewares and more.

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Now that spring is in the air, at least in this hemisphere, go outside and take a deep breath.  Can you smell something different in the air, besides the the perfume of spring flowers?  It's the smell of money, honey!  There is money out there, floating about with the pollen.  If you don't earn it, someone else will.  How can you earn it?  By buying and re-selling antiques and vintage goods.  You can get started pretty easily in a part-time antique business without much initial investment.  Today, I'd like to suggest three different ways to get your foot in the door of this fun and exciting world!

Photo Copyright © Blandy Snorhal

Becoming a Picker:
Just like in the natural world, there is a "food chain" of sorts in the antique selling world.  Close to the bottom of the chain are the "pickers".  Pickers are folks who comb the countryside looking for antiques.  This doesn't have to include cold-calling on residences, asking owners if they have things to sell.  Pickers can also acquire their goods from garage sales, Salvation Army or secondhand stores, Craig's List, or even eBay.  The trick is "flipping" your acquisitions quickly to antique dealers and making a profit.  Basically, if you are a picker you are a supplier, and you have total flexibility in terms of how much or how little time you put into your business., and you won't be tied down to a bricks-and-mortar shop waiting for customers to show up.

If you are able to "pick" a cache of goods, you need to call upon some antique dealers to show them your wares.  Contact an antique mall or antique store, preferably during a slow time such as a weekday morning.  You might want to call first, just to make sure you will be welcome.  Simply tell them you have a selection of goods to sell and show up with your treasures.  If you have very large items, such as a dining room suite, you might bring pictures instead, and maybe one part of the set as an example.  Be prepared to deliver the items when convenient for the buyer.  When a picker shows an antique dealer their wares, they should have an asking price ready for each item, leaving a bit of room for negotiation.  Don't be offended if the dealers don't bite.  There are many reasons why they might not be in a buying mode.  They might be strapped for cash, or simply uninterested in the items you brought.  Simply leave your business card and move on to another antique store.

I think it goes without saying that it helps to have some basic knowledge about the stuff you are trying to sell.  You don't want to make a costly mistake such as "flipping" a  piece of pottery you purchased for $4 at a garage sale to a dealer for $8, then later seeing the pottery priced at $125.  Even though you made a 100% markup on the piece, you want to avoid that sick feeling that a situation like this might elicit.  So do your research and learn as much as you can as you go.


Photo Copyright © DOTTO

Occasional Sales:

  If becoming a picker doesn't appeal to you, perhaps conducting "occasional sales" by yourself or with a group will be a better option.  This can be as simple as having a sale at your house, which you can advertise as you would a garage sale with an emphasis on antiques, or as elaborate as a group sale at a special venue such as someone's barn.  Be certain you obtain any necessary permits from the city for holding a sale such as this, and plan for the parking so customers can safely and easily visit your location. 

Refinishing and Rehabbing Furniture:

  Another business idea without investing a lot of money is to buy furniture in the rough, refinishing or painting it, and then selling it to dealers or directly to the public via occasional sales or shows.  I can think of one gal that rented a booth at an antique mall and sold her painted furniture quite briskly there. 

If you have some furniture repair skills, you can put them to use by purchasing furniture that needs "help", getting it back in shape, then giving it your special paint treatment.  You might need to learn how to re-glue rickety chairs, replace missing hardware, or find other solutions to bring old furniture back to life.  My suggestion would be to perfect a "Shabby & Chic" inspired paint treatment.  The shabby look is still quite popular, and painting furniture is easier than stripping off the old finish and staining and sealing it. 

Personally, I like colorful furniture, but in my experience white sells the best.  Consider adding special details such as glass drawer pulls on the dressers, or maybe painting floral designs on a headboard.  One invaluable resource for the furniture repair person is the Rockler Woodworking catalog.  They have everything you need to get furniture up to speed.  You can really feel good about "furniture rehab", because you are rescuing things that might have ended up in a landfill and are giving them a second life.

These three ideas should help get the wheels turning and maybe inspire you to get involved in a new small business.   Even if your dream is to someday own your own store, these are easy ways to dip you toe in the water without investing the large amount of money that starting up a store would require.  You will meet other dealers, learn something new every day, and be on your way to joining a group of folks that have already discovered a fulfilling hobby/business that can be enjoyed for a lifetime. 


My name is Mitzi Curi and I am striving to become the "New Face of Antique Dealers"!  I think the time is right for us to incorporate vintage goods into our modern lifestyle and appreciate things that have a history and story to tell.  Re-purposing antiques and crafting with vintage materials are my favorite pastimes, and I love to share my passion and enthusiasm with readers at my blog Mitzi Collectibles 



This was such a great read! The timing couldn't be better for me. Just yesterday I decided to pursue my dream of rehabbing furniture for a living. I started collecting free and cheap furniture to fix up a few years ago because I was a freshman in college and needed cheap stuff. Now it is a hobby that I hope I can make a small profit from. Plus, reusing is very popular these days (rightfully so).

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