Juliana Ruiz had her three children so close together that at one point she had three cribs, three high chairs and two play pens set up in her Pembroke Pines home. In June 2008, when her kids were 4, 2, and 6 months old, she and her husband, Mauricio Jimenez, decided it was time to get rid of some of the baby goods.
"I had all of these large items, and I didn’t just want to give them away," Ruiz said. "I had spent so much money. We were in an economic recession, and I really wanted to get some of that money back."
Ruiz founded Lolliposh, seasonal consignment sales that help moms sell baby goods. Here’s how she did it:
Lolliposh holds three-day seasonal consignment sales of upscale, gently-used baby and maternity items two to three times a year at the Soref Jewish Community Center in Plantation. Mom consignors pay $12 to register and can earn 60 to 75 percent of sales, with higher percentages given to moms who volunteer at the event. Entrance to the sale, which also includes business vendors, is free.
Ruiz has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Miami. She worked in marketing in the graphic design industry before becoming a full-time mom. Jimenez works in information technology.
After trying garage sales and Craigslist to sell her items, Ruiz wasn’t happy with the process or her return. She looked into opening a consignment store, but didn’t have the time or money for a start-up. She thought about inviting friends over for a clothes swap, but didn’t see it as a money-making venture.
In her Internet research, Ruiz learned about seasonal consignment sales - popular around the country but not yet in Florida.
"Start-up costs were very low, and the time requirements for a mom of three young children fit my life at the time," she said.
Ruiz visited consignment stores and looked at Craigslist and eBay to size up the competition.
In 2008, Ruiz put together a business plan and tried to find a venue to rent.
"Finding a venue is the No. 1 obstacle in consignment sales," she said.
Most city-owned facilities did not want to rent to a for-profit business, Ruiz said. It took four months to find the Old Davie School in Davie, which rented by the hour, and ended up costing $4,000 for the first event, more than twice what she pays now.
The initial sale, in the fall of 2008, was chaotic, Ruiz said.
"Because it’s such a new business idea in the area, development has been trial and error," she said. "I looked at what mistakes other sales around the country were making."
Ruiz began with a $15 fee for consignors and a 50-50 split.
"You can always go higher with the percentage, but you can’t go down, it won’t look good," she said.
Ruiz organized a system in which consignors register, input and price their items online. Barcodes are generated, which the consignor prints on stickers to price each item. When a consignor drops off items at a sales event, an inspector looks at each item and rejects any that are stained or damaged.
"We promote ourselves as an upscale sale, so we have standards to keep up," Ruiz said.
As sales are made, barcodes are scanned, and the consignor is credited. If a consignor volunteers for two four-hour shifts at the event, they get a 10 percent bonus in sales commission. If they help distribute postcards to at least nine locations to promote the event, they get a 5 percent bonus.
About 75 percent of consignors volunteer, Ruiz said.
After the three-day sale, a vendor picks up unsold items. A few days after the sale, they receive a commission check. Ruiz said she has 120 consignors for each sale, with a waiting list.
Lolliposh will hold its ninth sale March 29 to April 1. Ruiz was profitable after the second event, but does not draw a salary.
Ruiz spent about $7,500 for start-up costs, including 130 clothing racks, three laptops, two printers, software, marketing materials and advertising. She bartered with a friend to build her website.
Ruiz relies heavily on social media and said word-of-mouth is her biggest ally. She advertises in parent magazines, submits sales dates to community calendars and keeps her website updated. Volunteer consignors help distribute postcards promoting sales to area daycares and pediatrician offices.
Finding venues. "If I want to grow and have more events a year, I need to find more locations," Ruiz said.
"I want to grow into Miami. That’s been on my radar for a long time," she said. Ruiz also launched Poshsicle, consignment events for upscale women’s wear and accessories, in September 2011. Because it’s a different clientele, she is working on marketing strategies.
There are only two to three events a year, so most days Ruiz is a full-time mom. When she is in event mode, she rises at 5:45 a.m. and gets kids Gabriel, 7; Sofia, 5; and Daniela, 3, ready for school. The kids are dropped off by 8 a.m. and Ruiz heads to her home office.
She spends about three hours checking email, contacting vendors and returning phone calls. Then she turns back into a mom and homemaker.
"I get emails throughout the day, which I respond to on my iPhone," she said. "But now the business is on autopilot. I’ve done nine events. It’s a lot less labor intensive than before."
During an event, however, Ruiz rents her venue for a week and typically works 12-13 hour days. Her husband and paid sitters mind the children during those weeks.
"Really know what you’re doing and have really clear goals and objectives before you get into something," Ruiz said. "Treat your venture as a business. Your husband and relatives may be able to step in and help at first, but they can’t volunteer forever. You need to hire help."
ABOUT THIS SERIESEvery month at MomsMiami, the Mom, Inc. series will profile a South Florida business that was inspired by motherhood. Are you a momtrepreneur? Email us your story at email@example.com for consideration. (Locals only, please - and no multi-level marketing ventures).
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