It all started with a $5 t-shit Olivia Hillier found at a thrift store. Medical student at Rochester, Michigan-based Oakland university by day, a side hustle queen in her spare time, it was never her intention to make it this big until she did.
The resale app Poshmark enables people to buy and sell all sorts of vintage clothing, furniture, and accessories online. It started at the height of the Covid-19 epidemic when Olivia noticed other sellers raking in huge profits from “flipping” trendy items online. A lot of these treasures were thrift store finds.
Student loans can be crippling, so Olivia decided on a side hustle
Medical student loans are not small; at $220,000 in debt, Olivia needed to find a steady income source. And fast. Olivia started off by studying these master sellers’ strategies and devised a plan for her own side hustle. She piloted her first sale – the $5 thrift store t-shirt, and it sold for $20.
Hillier’s side hustle has raked in a whopping $117,000 in revenue, with $85,000 of that coming from last year alone. She’s averaging between $6,000-$7,000 a month in profits. With this new income stream, she has since purchased a five-bedroom house. “If I wouldn’t have had this business, I wouldn’t even have a savings account,” Hillier, 26, tells CNBC Make It. “And I’d have to take out loans to cover my living expenses, on top of tuition.”
Recently graduating from medical school, she has moved to Kansas to pursue her dream
Olivia graduated and made a big move. She traveled to Kansas with her husband and has since started a family medicine residency. The closing fees and down payments on their new home of $25,000 were covered by her side hustle, along with the $2,100 mortgage every month. But what was the trick to make this work?
The side hustler built a solid strategy
In August 2020, Hillier embarked on research after noticing that many Poshmark sellers were listing many items that couldn’t have possibly come from their own closets. She discovered that many of these sellers were sourcing their inventory from thrift stores and popular retailers like Nordstrom Rack and TJ Maxx.
Hillier spent the following months experimenting with various sellers’ methods, honing in on a specific style – bold and colorful vintage statement pieces – because they sold quickly. Her store gained traction among a “young professional” demographic, predominantly consisting of women aged 25 to 40.
Read: Texas couple turns grain silos into boutique tiny home
Despite her side hustle success, Hillier wasn’t earning much money at first. Initially, she charged a flat rate of $20 to $30 per item, regardless of its source. However, after conducting research on comparable pieces’ prices at popular retailers and on Poshmark, she adjusted her strategy. Presently, her dresses – which she claims are her most popular items – fetch anywhere from $25 to $200 each, depending on their brand and retail value.
Hillier’s side hustle only started to take off when she established a routine that allowed her to balance selling clothes with attending medical school. She set aside Fridays to visit thrift stores, where she would spend her evenings sorting and cleaning clothes. Sundays were reserved for modeling and photographing her new inventory.
During her hospital rotations on Mondays, she would upload the newly acquired products to her Poshmark store. Additionally, she made trips to the post office every other day. “You’ve got to be regimented and have a routine,” Hillier says. “If I didn’t love it so much, I wouldn’t make the time for it.”
Her closet has since expanded
According to Hillier, she currently devotes 20 to 40 hours a week to the tasks of sourcing, posting, and shipping clothes. She has built up a large inventory of over 1,100 items, which helps maintain a steady income even during weeks when she is preoccupied with hospital work. However, the process is not without its flaws.
Hillier points out that Poshmark retains 20% of every purchase exceeding $15, whereas competing platforms such as Depop only charge 10%. On the other hand, Facebook Marketplace does not currently levy any fees on sellers using a Facebook Shop. Despite the fees, Hillier considers Poshmark’s seller-friendly services to be worthwhile.
When someone buys an item on Poshmark, the platform sends a label to the seller via email, complete with pre-populated shipping weight and address information. All that remains for the seller to do is attach the label to the box and drop it off at the post office. Furthermore, the platform offers assistance with resolving buyer complaints and handling returns, which Hillier asserts would be challenging otherwise. “It’s hard to negotiate with people sometimes, and you can’t please everyone,” she says.
Platform fees feel like loose change when you have a sound plan
Despite the fees imposed by the platform, Hillier’s progress has not been impeded. In fact, her side business has generated over $55,000 in revenue in 2022 alone. Now residing in Kansas with her husband, who works as a commercial pilot for SkyWest Airlines, Hillier has set aside a specific room in their home for her Poshmark endeavors.
A portion of the profits goes toward paying their mortgage, while the remainder will be allocated to expenses such as furniture, travel, their two dogs, and student loan repayments. “A lot of people can’t get a stable job in med school because they don’t have the time or flexibility,” Hillier says. “It’s nice to not only have time to do something I like, but afford other things … I want to keep this business going through residency, and I hope to continue it when I’m an attending doctor.”
Olivia has a problem with haters, and hits back
In a recent post from late February, Olivia discusses life updates and some of the downsides of her side hustle. Take a look below.
Keep Reading: Teacher Quits His Job To Be Walmart Manager, Says He Earns $20K More ‘Not Using Degree’