StickerGiant Chats with Kim Pinkerton, Co-Founder of Aloha Trading Co.
In this Stickers on the Mic episode, Megan sits down with Kim Pinkerton, owner and co-founder of Aloha Trading Co. in Longmont, CO. At just five months old, the consignment store Kim opened with her husband is growing strong, and building a community of consignors in the area.
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[00:00:00] Announcer: Welcome to the Stickers on the Mic podcast brought to you by stickergiant.com, where we talk with our customers about how they started their business, how they're marketing their brand and how they're growing their company. If you're joining us for the first time, welcome. If you're a regular listener, thank you for your continued support. Without further ado, it's time for the Stickers on the Mic podcast from StickerGiant. Let's get on with the show.
[00:00:34] Megan: Hey everybody, welcome back to the Stickers on the Mic podcast. I'm Megan, and I'll be your host for today. I'm on the marketing team with the rest of our podcast crew. Today I'm very fortunate to get to sit down with a special guest Kim Pinkerton with Aloha Trading Company, a new store right here in Longmont, Colorado. Kim, why don't we kick things off by having you tell us a little bit about Aloha Trading Company, what type of store is it, and what inspired you to open your store here in Longmont?
[00:01:06] Kim Pinkerton: We are a men and women's consignment clothing store. We're located right downtown on Main Street in Longmont. It's my husband and I who decided to open the store together, and I'm trying to think of the best way to start explaining this. I guess, I've always loved hunting for bargains and hunting for that little treasure that you find ever since I was a kid, my mom and I used to shop together and do this at a store in our hometown. It's something I've always enjoyed doing. Then, when we moved to Colorado a few years ago, I realized how big this industry was and I just really got involved in it.
Mostly just shopping consignment and second hand for myself all the time. I have twin girls and we're part of a twins club that has a consignment sale a couple times a year. We're really involved with that and just really enjoyed it and just enjoyed the community of it, the resale of it and the reusing of everything rather than just the waste of buying new and then getting rid of it again right away.
[00:02:19] Megan: Giving a second life to things as they come your way, or they go to someone else.
[00:02:24] Kim: Yes. I grew up doing a lot of donations and things like that, this is just a nice middle ground also. Actually, we have a large donation section as well that we give our consigners an option to donate their things afterwards if they don't sell, or if it's something that we don't choose to put out. So we have several groups that we donate to on a regular basis, because there were some people want to be able to donate, but not really sure what avenue to go through or don't even feel comfortable to on their own. We try and, I guess, make a smoother avenue for them.
[00:03:10] Megan: That's nice. What groups do you find yourself donating to the most frequently, or do you just try to balance it across as many as you can?
[00:03:20] Kim: Right now, the two that we focus with Our Center right downtown and Main Street, then also LifeBridge Church has Single Moms program where several times a year they put up basically a little boutique for single moms to come in, that they can shop for themselves, for their children and they just set that up. My feeling was, a lot of times when you get donations, it's just the worn out, really unstylish, just what no one wants anymore, and this is just a nice way to give them something that's nice and stylish, and just because it didn't sell in our store, it's still a really nice option and so they can still have really nice things.
[00:04:03] Megan: That's fantastic. As a daughter of a single mom, I think that's a really great idea. I know that it wasn't always the easiest thing sometimes, we've got one parent, it's also just a busy hectic life and it's nice to find a small community with that type of way to support it, that's wonderful. The name Aloha, that's very Hawaiian, so as many people know. What is the inspiration behind that?
[00:04:34] Kim: It's two things. Mainly, my husband's a graphic designer. He's always done a lot of conceptual design work, loves the meaning behind things, so he actually came up with it. We like the double meaning of Aloha, meaning hello and goodbye. We thought it was a fun twist on consignment where you're saying, "Goodbye to your old things and hello to something new that you like." The other reason is Hawaii's very close to my heart. We used to live there prior to coming to Colorado.
[00:05:07] Megan: Nice.
[00:05:08] Kim: We lived there for about seven years. I was a marine biologist there, and came to Colorado and being completely landlocked, this is my new venture, [laughs] something totally different. It just allows us to keep that close. If you come into our store, there's a lot of marine life inspiration and ocean ties to it.
[00:05:34] Megan: I will definitely have to stop in to your store, that's fantastic. A close friend of mine was actually a marine biologist on Maui for about four years and she now lives in Golden. She's from Colorado too. There is something to the Hawaii and the Colorado, and there's a lifestyle similarity and just the culture and the welcoming nature of the people, I think. It's fun, it's nice.
[00:06:01] Kim: This has been a really good landing spot for us with coming back.
[00:06:05] Megan: Awesome.
[00:06:05] Kim: We really love Colorado.
[00:06:07] Megan: Nice. So consignment, you're working mainly with people bringing you things and how do you maintain your inventory and keep up with it, and what happens if you get too much?
[00:06:23] Kim: Well, when we started we weren't really sure if we were going to have enough. We did a lot of shopping and sourcing beforehand, and all of the research we had found said, "Don't worry, the consignors will come. It's going to be your biggest fear." I thought, "I don't know that I trust that," and we tried to find as much as we could ourselves to stock the inventory to the point that the office at home was literally waist-deep with clothing. I was like, "Well, at some point, we'll clear this out and it'll just go to the store."
We had a few pre-consignment days before we opened, where we just put it out on social media and said, "Hey, we're opening. If you want to bring your things in, we're going to start consigning." We had a really good turnout with people coming before we even opened. Now that we're open, we just invite people, "Whenever I'm open, just come in, bring your things in," I go through them. Then as things sell, the consignor gets a portion of the sale and have whatever things sell for and the store gets a portion of it. We quickly found that all her research was correct, that we didn't need to worry about consigners. We have almost 300 and we've been open since the middle of July.
[00:07:43] Megan: That's a healthy source of clothes to come your way and accessories and all sorts of different items, I bet.
[00:07:49] Kim: It's been amazing, the response has been so good, both from the consignors and the people in the community, it's been really positive. We have run into a point where I got backlogged, which is a good problem to have, not complaining by any means. I just had so many consignors that came in that I couldn't keep up, and it's just me working. I'm starting to get a little bit of help hiring a couple people here and there for a little bit of help, but up until October, it was just me. Going through 300 consignors was a little overwhelming. [laughs]
[00:08:28] Megan: It's a lot of inventory to sort through.
[00:08:30] Kim: It's unbelievable, yes. Even now, we ended up taking a pause in October, to not take any more for the rest of October, just so that I could try and catch up. I think when we stopped, I had 70 consignors that I still needed to get through. Now, we're pretty close to being caught up. [laughs] It's a good problem to have.
[00:08:55] Megan: It is a good problem to have. Can you tell us a little bit about how you deal with the inventory in your store and work with your consigners?
[00:09:04] Kim: Anytime somebody comes in, we put things out for 60 days that we choose. I go through absolutely everything with a fine-tooth comb for myself, it's pretty much my style or it doesn't go out, which is good and bad, maybe, I don't know. There are people who have different styles than me. Anything that sells, then I usually try and price it around 1/3 to 1/4 of what it goes for new. Every single item that comes in, I'm searching for-- This is why it takes so long, I search for the equivalent or if it's currently in stores, and then find what the retail price is and then price it according to where it would sell.
It's that fine balance of making the consignor happy that I'm charging enough, but also having it low enough that someone shopping is willing to buy it. We just got a $900 sweater in the other day. Well, no one's planning on spending $300 on a designer sweater. The third formula doesn't quite work there. After anything sells, people can use it for store credit or for cashback. If they want to do store credit, it's a 50-50 split for whatever the item is sold for. Then if they want to do cash, it's a 40-60 split. They get a little bit more if they do shop in-store or store credit, just to encourage them to keep shopping within the store.
We also just let them do a mix of things too. It's not a hard-fast, it has to be one or the other. That's our big thing, is trying to be flexible. I know when we were starting there were a lot of rules and a lot of different businesses and so we were trying to be as relaxed and flexible as we can.
[00:10:59] Megan: If someone wants to do the store credit they can, but if next time they're in more need of the cash, then you can do cashback and they get to do what fits their needs most of the time.
[00:11:12] Kim: Yes. I usually will do like, "If there's one thing you want to buy with store credit, that's totally fine, and then we'll just give you the rest in cash, whenever you want to do it."
[00:11:20] Megan: That's a great way to do it. Then 60 days, that way you're keeping that stock turned over. I feel like that would also give your people giving you the consignment items a little bit more of that deadline, and they know what to expect from it as well. Because sometimes if it's just open-ended, you might not know what's going to come of that piece, and if you never hear back from the shop, it's a big question.
[00:11:46] Kim: It is. That was one of the issues like the growing pains, I guess, of starting. I was trying to email every one of our consignors and say, "Okay, your things just went out. Here's your date of coming to pick things up." Things were just falling through the cracks. I was getting a stack of people I needed to email and I kept putting it off to try and get more things done. I thought, "I'll just write all these people later." Then they were calling because they didn't know what was going on.
We finally just invested in software that consigners can actually look up their account now online, which we've literally had it maybe a week, and it is so nice. At least even just from my side, but just knowing that every time I put something out on the floor, I don't have to email someone is such as a lift off of my shoulders already.
[00:12:37] Megan: Because your system is taking that piece for you and just sending them emails?
[00:12:42] Kim: Yes. They can look on it, and they can see their balance and what's sold, and when they need to pick their things up. We've had several consigners who've have come in and went, "Oh my gosh, this is so nice." I think it just--
[00:12:53] Megan: Yes, it is really nice.
[00:12:55] Kim: Yes. I think it just answers so many questions for them too, and puts their mind at ease of, "No, your things did not get lost. [chuckles] You didn't drop them off and they've disappeared. They are accounted for, you can check on it."
[00:13:10] Megan: You can see the status and where they're at, and the little delight moments if something's sold in the middle of the day you go, "Hey, look."
[00:13:19] Kim: It's been amazing how much some of the consignors have made already. We've been open for-- Well, since July, so a little over three to four months-ish, and there's one consigner who's made over $600 already. That's the 50%. It's amazing. She's come in a couple of times, but I looked at her total and was like, "Oh my gosh, that's amazing."
[00:13:46] Megan: Basically, if she's doing the store credit, she pretty much has a whole new wardrobe, or close to it at this point.
[00:13:51] Kim: Yes. Actually, the last time she came in and said, "I'm going to take cashback, I'm going to go buy myself a pair of Frye boots."
[00:13:58] Kim: I was like, "Go for it." She was like, "I looked here, but you don't have my size, so I'm going to go and try--"
[00:14:04] Megan: She tried!
[00:14:05] Kim: She did.
[00:14:07] Megan: That's some fantastic dedication.
[00:14:09] Kim: I know. It's been really good for both sides. I think the consignors are doing better than some of them expected.
[00:14:20] Megan: It sounds like it.
[00:14:21] Kim: I'm really glad it's taking off for them as well.
[00:14:24] Megan: Well, it's a great way to do it, because in most cases you don't go to a store and get cash back for your things. Most of the time, you just spend money and you come home with more items and where do you put them sometimes? There's always that big question, especially with clothes. In my world, it's jackets. I love jackets and vests and I don't have any room for them. When I go to the store, I just know I'm going to bring it home, but I don't know where I'm going to put it.
[00:14:53] Kim: [chuckles] I don't need to look, I don’t need to look!
[00:14:54] Megan: If I go through and then I clean out some of the sweaters that I don't wear because I wear my jackets instead, then I've done that before, but there's always that trade-off. We only have so much room to put things, so it's really nice to, like you said, say goodbye to some things and say hello to other things.
[00:15:13] Kim: Yes. I'm not sure are you familiar with the Marie Kondo-
[00:15:16] Megan: Yes.
[00:15:17] Kim: -crazy movement thing? I love it. Don't get me wrong when I say it's the crazy movement, it's amazing. That has been unbelievably positive, I think, for consignment stores and thrift stores. The boom that has happened of people of just-- Even the thrift stores saying they can't keep up with things has been remarkable across the board. I think it's been pretty huge on [chuckles] the response to that.
[00:15:48] Megan: I agree, I've seen it. Just in media and talking to people I know, I know I tend to every other year so remove those things from my life that I just don't need anymore, I'm not using, could never be as minimalist as the Marie Kondo 100% style, but I am a crafter and an artist, so I would never be able to have those clean surfaces because it just doesn't-- Those two worlds don't usually mix.
[00:16:16] Kim: No. I have that office that I was telling you it was waist-deep in clothing. It's probably gone to knee-deep at this point, we got about--
[00:16:24] Megan: That's almost like a foot and a half of depth to go through. That's impressive.
[00:16:28] Kim: We got rid of all the summer things, but now I've told myself we can't put anything out that we bought for the store until I get through all the consignors' things first. All the winter things are still at our house. That office is usually my sewing and crafts space and you can't even walk through it. No crafts until [laughs] everything else is done.
[00:16:49] Megan: Well, it sounds like you're going to be busy through the holidays anyway, so you might not have time to be in your craft room. [laughs]
[00:16:55] Kim: No, I don't think so. [chuckles]
[00:16:59] Megan: That's wonderful. How long have you been open?
[00:17:04] Kim: I think we opened July 5th.
[00:17:07] Megan: Very new.
[00:17:08] Kim: Yes. very new.
[00:17:10] Megan: That's exciting.
[00:17:11] Kim: It is. It's a little terrifying. It's still surreal, being here today. Like, "I'm doing a podcast because I have a business. This is really weird to me." [chuckles]
[00:17:22] Megan: It makes it real. You have a business.
[00:17:25] Kim: I know.
[00:17:25] Megan: Downtown Longmont, what was the process of getting a store in a downtown spot? Can't imagine that's exactly easy.
[00:17:34] Kim: No. Our landlords were wonderful, honestly. We were very fortunate to get-- We had a few there-- It's a female landlord and a female owner of the building and they've been just extremely encouraging for women businesses, and upstairs from us, I think, there are four more women owned businesses that are upstairs from our building. They've just been very encouraging, very easy to work with, wonderful. We kept looking at a couple of different places, and we liked the idea and the feel of Main Street, but we thought, "I don't know if we can actually be supported down there, if we'll get enough business."
We were looking at other places and Main Street just worked out in the end, and we are so glad that that's where we ended up. The community's incredible. The people that live around Main Street, they come in and support us and just the other businesses, the small town, and the small businesses that are there-- It was more than I ever expected and the encouragement that we get from each other.
[00:18:41] Megan: So you found a little community that you moved in and it sounds like it was meant to be.
[00:18:46] Kim: I think so.
[00:18:46] Megan: That was probably where you're supposed to be.
[00:18:48] Kim: I think so.
[00:18:52] Megan: It sounds like so much has happened even in the first few months of having your business open. What's coming up next as far as what are some goals that you would love to see in the next year, or two years?
[00:19:09] Kim: At this point, we did our projection. We did our business plan, and we're still trying to see how close we are to that and we're monitoring that just as the first two months. We're really just hoping and praying that it remains successful. We were told that most retail businesses are not profitable at least in the first six months to a year. I try to be really careful with our business plan doing that, and we've been okay from the start, which is good, we've been positive from the start.
[00:19:43] Megan: Well done.
[00:19:45] Kim: I just want to see it continue to do that. I think what I'd really like to see-- We don't have any idea, any plans to franchise or expand. It's more just getting better at what we're doing, make it a smoother process and be able to get involved in the community more. We're doing the donations, but then also we've looked at doing some of the prom--
[00:20:13] Megan: Yes, help kids get ready for the prom.
[00:20:15] Kim: Yes, like dresses and suits and things, and have that option for kids that-- It's so expensive.
[00:20:21] Megan: It is.
[00:20:22] Kim: Yes, and just do different things like that in the community. We just found out we were nominated as the new emerging business with the Chamber of Commerce. Fingers crossed that that-
[00:20:37] Megan: Congratulations.
[00:20:38] Kim: -actually happens, it's just a nomination.
[00:20:40] Megan: It's still a big deal.
[00:20:42] Kim: I was shocked, I was really excited. I'm hoping that that's a good sign that people like us being here and that we can return that in some way.
[00:20:52] Megan: I definitely think it's a sign that people are noticing and seeing the business and know what Aloha Trading Company is. You're making a mark.
[00:21:00] Kim: Trying to. Growing slowly but surely.
[00:21:03] Megan: I have to say, I've seen the adorable logo stickers with that great little elephant come through. You said your husband is a graphic designer, I'm guessing he has some magic behind that. Is there a story behind the elephant? Is it a favorite animal or--
[00:21:22] Kim: I know, it sounds very odd. I do love elephants, I'm not really sure why. I think 18 years ago, my husband and I when we had our first Christmas together. He bought me a stuffed animal that was an elephant and I've just loved them ever since. We have elephant photos in our house and various things. The elephant has been very much just a favorite animal. Then we just put it on a surfboard just to be goofy. When you're in the store, you'll see, we have a lot of artwork up that my husband did and it's like an octopus wearing shoes, or a puffer fish with headphones. Just goofy things.
[00:22:01] Megan: I love it.
[00:22:02] Kim: Yes, we just wanted it to be a fun, chill, laid-back, just a light-hearted space. We've been really fortunate, Mark's an amazing designer. Like I said, the conceptual side that he does is always remarkable. He does all of our social media, which I've been so fortunate, because I cannot do that. He's so good at it.
[00:22:27] Megan: Got a good balance going.
[00:22:28] Kim: Yes. Like, "I'll do the customer service, you do all the social media and we're good." We're a good team. We ended up getting our stickers with our surfing elephant and people love them.
[00:22:42] Megan: They're adorable.
[00:22:43] Kim: Yes, and they went so fast. Our first batch was gone. We just had them out of the counter and people were like, "Is this a sticker? I love stickers," so they would take them. We've heard about them-- of course, being on water bottles, that seems to be the most common-- I actually had a woman who came up from Lafayette and she said, "I was really excited because one of my students opened her computer and she had your sticker on the front of her computer," and I thought, "Wow, all the way in Lafayette. This is good."
[00:23:11] Megan: You saw your stickers out in the wild.
[00:23:13] Kim: They're expanding, they're going different places. [laughs]
[00:23:16] Megan: They do travel like that.
[00:23:17] Kim: Yes. We're trying to decide with our next batch if we'll keep the elephant, or if we're going to do something different, I don't know.
[00:23:24] Megan: There's so many different things you could do. The elephant on a surfboard would make an adorable sticker just cut to a custom shape too. It's a great concept.
[00:23:33] Kim: Yes, we love them.
[00:23:35] Megan: We do too. Holiday season is coming up, are you getting busy, are you going to do any fun events, or just keep your doors open and hope to help everyone find some amazing gifts?
[00:23:53] Kim: We're hoping to-- Downtown has just so much planned, it's amazing. Honestly, it's just trying to keep up with making sure we know what they're doing and keeping up on all of the activities that they're doing. I'm trying to get ready, just have everything ready so I can focus on just being there for people. We're also looking at bringing in some things that are more stocking stuffer type, because I thought people are who shopping for themselves at Christmas, may have someone that they don't want to buy second-hand necessarily for their brother or for their boyfriend, or someone who they may not know that they would be comfortable with--
We're trying to get some of those things, mostly local, we have a local soap company that is also from Longmont that we're wanting to carry their things. I'm trying to keep it-- other local companies for the most part, I'm just trying to support some of that.
[00:25:01] Megan: Bringing a few local craftspeople into the mix with some of the things that they're creating, it sounds like?
[00:25:07] Kim: Yes. We're trying to have those options. A couple of new things mixed in with the second-hand as well.
[00:25:15] Megan: It sounds like a good blend of stuff.
[00:25:17] Kim: Yes. Right now our big focus is what are we doing with those windows. We have massive windows and we have no idea how to decorate them. [chuckles]
[00:25:24] Megan: Window displays, they can be their own epic project on their own. [chuckles]
[00:25:30] Kim: Yes. That's another thing I've just left for my husband. Like, "You're really good at this, you do it."
[00:25:36] Megan: Maybe come up with a theme for the Christmas window perhaps.
[00:25:40] Kim: Maybe, yes.
[00:25:41] Megan: One of the stores I worked at had giant windows like that. It was always an epic adventure, and trying to theme it for the downtown events. More power to you, I'm sure you'll find some fun things to put in there and put some of that great inventory that you've got. That can just make the window for you.
[00:26:02] Kim: Hopefully.
[00:26:02] Megan: It's amazing how much just having your items up there with a little bit of tinsel and put some snowy frost on the windows, there you go.
[00:26:11] Kim: Put a tree in the back with sparkly lights, we'll be good. [chuckles]
[00:26:13] Megan: Exactly. I love the twinkle lights. Well, it has been so amazing to chat with you today.
[00:26:20] Kim: It's been nice talking with you.
[00:26:21] Megan: It sounds like you've got some amazing things that people are going to need to go find and going to want to know how to find you. Can you do a quick shout-out for us, share your website and your social media handles and tell people how to find you.
[00:26:35] Kim: All right. Our physical location is 356 Main Street. We are just north of The Dickens and just south of Samples. That's usually the easiest landmark for us. Also, if you're going through the back alley, we have a gorgeous painting on the back of our building that downtown Longmont had a grant and has had different artists do the work in that alley area. We have a beautiful painting that someone did. That's another way to find us. Our web address is alohatrading.co. No “M”, not .com. Instagram is @alohalongmont. You can find us there and you can always call us, I think our phone number is online as well. Feel free to stop in at any time that you guys are downtown.
[00:27:24] Megan: Wonderful. For everyone that wants to go find some unique gifts, or just find something fun for yourself, be sure to find your way down to Aloha Trading Company.
[00:27:34] Kim: Thank you.
[00:27:34] Megan: Thank you.
[00:27:38] Announcer: That wraps up this episode of Stickers on the Mic, brought to you by stickergiant.com. You can download us on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, SoundCloud or your favorite podcatcher. If you enjoy what you're hearing, please leave us a review, it helps us reach new listeners and share our customer sticker stories. Thanks again for listening to Stickers on the Mic.
[00:28:22] [END OF AUDIO]
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