A 'Unique' idea by Katie Echeverry

Hey! I'm Katie, the owner of UniqueVintage.com! UV is an online retailer of vintage-inspired clothing, accessories and so much more! It's been a long road and interesting ride as to how I got here: I started Unique Vintage about 10 years ago. I was 27 and was working full-time as a pharmaceutical rep. My husband (boyfriend at the time) was a workaholic and had just entered into a very time-consuming promotion. He was tired of me complaining about how he didn’t spend enough time with me, so I thought to myself, "I need a hobby!" I tried scrapbooking (I'm not very artsy). I tried making jewelry (I did not have the patience). I thought to myself, “What can I do from home in my spare time to make some extra money?”

Vintage was HOT at the time and readily available here in Los Angeles. My pharmaceutical job took me all through Los Angeles and I passed vintage shops every day. A good friend whipped me up a basic website in a day (for free!) and walked me through the process of getting my business license. I came up with the name Unique Vintage in about five minutes! It was all so cavalier and spontaneous. I started stopping in vintage shops on my lunch hour and scouring flea markets and estate sales on the weekend. I bought tons of vintage clothing books and read up on what was valuable and what wasn't. I printed a list of vintage brands and designers to look for when I was "shopping". I often carried a clipboard around and shop owners thought I was working for the studios. Nope! I was just so GREEN and trying to teach myself about vintage clothing. It's so silly and such a weird way to learn about the vintage world.

It took me about six months to get my first order. I had started to think it would never happen. But when that first order came through my email, I was elated!!! What?? Someone actually stumbled across my website, LIKED what I had to offer and TRUSTED me enough to put in their credit card and buy it?? Holy cow! So it began! My garage became crowded with racks of vintage clothing. I took pictures on a dress form that I bought from the goodwill for $40 in my spare bedroom. I had a 50-foot Internet cord so that my laptop could go with me all over the house (this was just before wireless, folks!). I spent every spare moment researching vintage online, learning Photoshop, cropping images and writing descriptions for my clothing. I was OBSESSED! EBay was my best friend. I learned how to write good descriptions and what would fetch big money and what wouldn't.

Fast-forward five years. I was doing about 20 orders per week. Not much, but the business was paying for itself and making me some extra money. A customer emailed me and said "I just bought this great blouse from you and you can thank Glamour!" I emailed her back.... "Glamour? What do you mean?". She said, "You didn't know? You were mentioned in Glamour magazine this month!" WHAT?! I tore through my roommate’s stack of mail and found her Glamour. I found it! There was a Fashion Q & A section and there it was: “Dear Glamour, Where does a small town girl go for great vintage fashion? I don't have any vintage stores nearby." And there was my little business in the answer! Shop at UniqueVintage.com, one of the editor’s favorites! OMG! That month, sales shot through the roof! This hobby was starting to have some potential! I started doing my research and looking into how to make this hobby turn in to a business.

In 2005, I took a huge leap of faith. I was pregnant with my first child and was unsure about how I was going to work full time, pack my orders at night (around 10 per day at this point) AND take care of a baby. I decided to quit my corporate job and put all of my efforts into Unique Vintage. I started introducing "new" clothes, with a vintage style, so that I could sell it in various sizes and not have to spend so much time looking for individual pieces. The business took off! When my daughter was nine months old, I hired a babysitter so that I could spend more time working on the website. At one year, I hired my college student neighbor to help me ship orders. Pretty soon, I was asking her if she had any friends that needed a job. Then I hired my dad. And then, a full-time nanny. A year later, we were shipping out 100 orders per day, UPS and FedEx trucks were rolling up and down my block every day. I started manufacturing items myself that I couldn't find locally. Packages from India and China started arriving. I was using a dolly to drag boxes from the sidewalk to my garage. My house was packed! It was time to move. It was 2008. My daughter was two and the economy was terrible. Everyone kept telling me that it’s the worst time ever to open a retail store, but I have outgrown my house. I found a small retail location on Magnolia Blvd. close to home in Burbank. I was NERVOUS, but signed a lease! We used that first retail space to house the Internet business, stock and house a small retail boutique. I didn't even hire a retail salesperson. We just came out of the back to help the customer if they happened to walk in. Within six months we had outgrown that space and thank goodness my neighbor was moving out. We broke the middle wall down and expanded. In 2010 we were shipping up to 500 orders per day, and I had 15 employees. We had two storage units in the back and I was renting space across the street for our photo shoots. It was time to make some decisions. Last November, I moved the website part of my business to a 12,000 square foot warehouse. We remodeled that original space on Magnolia and it now boasts 4,600 square feet of retail space.

I love my employees, some of which include my neighbor (same one!), her mom, her high school friend, my dad, my nephew, my sister, my sister’s friend from junior high and many more great people who I love! I've taken them on two annual UV trips, one was a weeklong cruise in Mexico and this year we went on a party bus for a weekend in Vegas. We are so lucky to be near the television and movie studios in Burbank and every so often celebrities and stylists walk in looking for clothing to use on-screen. Many of our items have recently been seen on “Glee”, “The Vampire Diaries”, “Good Day LA”, “Parenthood” and David Tutera’s “My Fair Wedding”.

Like I said, it's been quite the adventure and I look forward to what the future brings! To keep up with Unique Vintage, follow us @UniqueVintage1.

XOXO Katie