Spotlight on Maureen, Amy and Michelle of Vitrine3
Today on the Blog we have Vitrine 3, a fairly new journey of three friends Amy, Michelle and Maureen, sourcing and selling vintage products found in France.
The concept is simple, lovingly-sourced vintage kitchenalia, furniture, decor, mirrors, linen and lighting, straight from the Vide Greniers and Brocantes of rural Brittany to you.
No hidden costs, no high-end mark-up. Just the unique vintage pieces that you’ll want, at the prices that you’ll love.
You can shop Vitrine3 through the button below.
1. What was the reason behind you starting your business?
We have all been friends for about 15 years (we met working as stylists in the music industry) however Vitrine3 stemmed from a booze-fuelled weekend when Maureen and Amy visited Michelle in Brittany, from London, last year. Michelle has holiday lets and was struggling with what to do with her excess vintage stock as she likes to source new pieces every year. With Maureen's background as a stylist and Amy’s as a PA, we thought we could all bring equally important but different skills to the table.
2. How did you start up?, kitchen table? Mum’s garage, renting premises?
We all work from our homes (well Michelle works from her car mostly, hunting out gems) plus we have a storage facility in SW London. We also meet in London every 3 months and FaceTime every 2-3 weeks, plus our What’s App chain is probably record breaking.
3. How did you fund your business?
Small equal cash investments from Maureen and Amy, matched by Michelle in product. At the moment, we have taken very little capital out; it all gets ploughed back into product.
4. What was the most difficult part of starting up your business? Access to money, advice, finding people to buy, marketing etc?
We are only 3 months old so to be honest, it has all been a steep learning curve. Probably for Maureen and Amy, it was the tech side; setting up the website on Shopify was totally out of our comfort zone but we are now whizzes.
For Michelle, the biggest issue has been with product; knowing what stock and exactly how much to buy. The Vide Greniers (Flea markets) in Brittany are the best and cheapest way to source but are seasonal (March to October) so we have had to rely on Brocantes (antique shops) and Vide Maisons (house sales ) which are a lot more expensive. This year we can be more prepared and really stock up through summer to cover the lean times, with a lot more knowledge about our customer.
5. What help was missing for you?
We were lucky enough to have Maureen’s partners help in London with the tech side of things as that’s what he does for a living. Otherwise we would have struggled more with google and shopify, plus he introduced us to amazing, time saving apps like Freshdesk for customer service.
6. What went wrong in your first year? Few months if you haven’t been trading that long?
Postage and shipping has been the bane of our life. Trying to get the balance right between covering costs and not scaring off customers with inflated prices is really tricky. As all our items are one offs, from small wire egg baskets to rows of vintage cinema chairs, it has all been total guesstimates and we have definitely lost some money along the way. We are getting the hang of it now, and have great relationships with our local Post Offices and a few courier gems up our sleeves that will drive pieces from London to anywhere for reasonable rates.
7. What have you learnt?
So much. That we all love working for ourselves, but it is relentless. We all have ‘day jobs’ and children and other halves and the hardest thing is finding the spare time to do it all.
Also, Instagram! Its been the most incredible tool in connecting us to customers. We have been lucky enough to be supported from day one by some amazing influencers and it’s been invaluable.
Lastly, you can never, ever guess what people are going to like when sourcing vintage. We had some amazingly colourful enamel cafetieres we thought would fly out of the shop immediately but were slow and steady. On the other end of the spectrum, Michelle sourced some WW1 and WW2 brass shells that were beautiful but we weren’t sure if people would ‘get’ them. However we posted a picture on instagram and the response was overwhelming- we sourced and sold dozens before Christmas with lots more on back order.
8. What is the most important piece of advice that you could give others thinking about starting a business?
As a small business, customer service is SO important. Things like hand written notes, close engagement on Instagram and personal delivery where possible have meant we already have some amazingly loyal and lovely regular customers.
9. And what do you enjoy the most?
Working together definitely - I am not sure any of us could imagine doing this on our own. We are there for the highs and the lows and to bolster each other when we are struggling. We have been friends for so long, we know each other inside out and we all love the autonomy of working for 'us’.
10. On a scale of 1-10 how hard do you find it to run your own business?
Maybe a 6 or 7? The positives absolutely, totally outweigh the negatives.
Nicola says "Another business started by ladies that have day jobs, trying to juggle it all, grow organically and work out how much stock to buy, what to charge, and use instagram and social media to promote. Its a familiar story of a very young creative business on a steep learning curve."
The Girl with the Green Sofa