Most moms know that by the time their baby is 6 weeks old, all of those beautiful clothes they received at baby showers don’t fit any more. But what to do with them? That’s what Gabby F asked herself when her daughter was several weeks old. Having been laid off from her job at a furniture company at the peak of the economic downturn, Gabby was searching for a venture that would be recession proof. Many of the clothes she had received for her daughter, still had the tags on them, never worn. She could use a traditional consignment store but they have so many restrictions and she would only get pennies on the dollar. She would have to wait perhaps months until her items sold, they would go to charity if they didn’t sell or she’d have to pick them up – so many negatives. Her other mom friends had the same issues. What if she started a new kind of swap shop for her friends that answered these stumbling blocks? “We need a place where we can swap out what our kids have outgrown for things that fit?” This type of swap shop didn’t exist, so Gabby decided to create it.
Starting with an internet swap club where everything was done by mail in September 2009, Gabby initially acted as the middle man through the web and charged a fee for members. Setting up in borrowed office space to house inventory, she got some traction. Many local parents wanted to come see the clothing and Gabby realized quickly that a store front would be a great addition to her idea. So in April 2010, the Gum Drop Swap opened in Bridgeport, CT in the beautifully restored Arcade Mall, one of the oldest malls in the United States. This is an architecturally significant building that houses boutiques and restaurants and is a gem for the area. Gabby built her business based on what she would want in a swap shop. When a customer comes in with items to swap, whether clothes, toys, books or baby items, they are given gum drops to spend immediately. Instead of waiting for their items to sell, they can bring in gently used things that are valued on a set scale and can shop right away. The store charges a 20% per swap fee. Other membership savings exist and details are listed on the site. This is a unique spin on the old consignment idea and it’s working. And with the current green movement, helping families recycle children’s clothing puts less in landfills and saves families money at the same time.
Some customers come in every week, some come every few months to shop the ever evolving inventory. The Gum Drop Swap takes all brands any time of year. Gabby loves that she is providing a service that helps people during tough times. “Kids grow and always need clothes. It can be such a huge expense, so to be able to offer a swap, makes me feel good about my venture.” Gum Drop Swap works with local charities and donates vouchers for families in need. The shop has new things too. Gabby buys wholesale lots to add to inventory. So moms can get beautiful new children’s clothes at a fraction of the cost; there are items worthy of being baby shower gifts. Gabby’s daughter comes to work some of the time, so Gabby included a play space in her store for kids to hang out while moms shop.
“I’m a one woman show and taught myself how to do everything.” From marketing to social networking, Gabby is always implementing new ideas to get families into the shop, like sponsoring the Boo Bash Halloween Party which brought in over 250 families from the area. Her advice for entrepreneurs, “You may have to tweak your idea a few times. I got lots of advice from future customers before I started. A few months into it I found myself changing the business model when I realized something wasn’t working.” So by taking an old idea and addressing the issues, Gabby has recreated the consignment boutique in a way that works for what moms need now.
Look at what the negatives are with an old business idea and see if you can present the same business in a new way that works for what clients need now.