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Childhood hobby to small business: How a student began a MSU vintage online store

June 21, 2021
<p>Senior advertising management Jared Perlin lays in an assortment of his thrifted MSU vintage clothing that he&#x27;s collected over the years.</p>

Senior advertising management Jared Perlin lays in an assortment of his thrifted MSU vintage clothing that he's collected over the years.

As a child, advertising management senior Jared Perlin would often go to his local thrift store with his mom and brother. From there, his passion for thrifting grew, and Perlin began to notice the exponential growth in the resale community.

Perlin realized that he could take his childhood family thrift shopping routine and passion for clothes into a business. In the summer of 2019, Perlin started pursuing his fascination for clothes by thrifting every day for clothing that he knew would sell: rock tees, vintage graphic tees or old Disney clothes. From there, Perlin dived into the resale community through Facebook groups and various resale platforms.

Initial steps

During Perlin’s freshman year at MSU, he noticed how passionate and unique many other students were when it came to their outfits on game days. 

“I knew that if I could kind of gauge that and bring the customers exactly what they’re looking for, something unique, that no one else would have, that this could be a successful business,” Perlin said.

Right away Perlin began stockpiling purely MSU spirit wear throughout last summer. With the pandemic, Perlin knew that it was the perfect time for him to focus on his small business: MSU Vintage. 

When Perlin first started, he was buying at local thrift stores in his hometown. However, once school started, he didn’t have much time to go thrifting in person, so he began thrifting more online.

“I knew that I wanted to grow not just a business but also grow my knowledge of doing a business in social media and how to gauge a customer's interests,” Perlin said.

In July 2020, Perlin began selling on Instagram, and he knew that he had a general idea of what price he could sell his pieces for. T-shirts were not as popular so he knew to keep the prices lower on them, but other pieces of clothing vary more based on what he wanted his profit margin to be. 

“I do it based on what I would pay for because that’s how a lot of things are gauged these days is how much is someone willing to purchase,” Perlin said.

Expanding outward to new pathways

As orders began piling in, Perlin decided the next crucial step was to begin selling online in January. In the beginning, he started by selling solely on Instagram, but Perlin found that it was difficult to hand-deliver each item, especially with his busy schedule.

“I wanted to be able to focus on school at the same time and not have to take the time out of my day to go meet up with someone or someone come pick it up from me,” Perlin said.

He realized that this way was fairer and simpler for customers and him as well, including helping national customers that initially weren’t able to get the same face-to-face delivery that local customers received. 

With experience from his major, Perlin learned tactics so MSU Vintage would be able to grow a greater audience and cultivate more customers by following friends that he knew who went to Michigan State, MSU fan accounts and other MSU small clothing businesses on Instagram. 

To grow his following more, he also collaborated with other MSU fan accounts including VIM and SlackersMSU on Instagram by creating giveaways with them.

MSU Vintage has made immense success with selling over 300 vintage pieces, Perlin said.

Bumps here and there

Although from the outside MSU Vintage seemed to be selling extremely well, Perlin also hit some troubles along the way. On some occasions, customers would disagree with how he ran the business, but he said he has learned how to deal with these situations.

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Perlin emphasized the importance of keeping track of all his sales, how much money he makes and making sure that he doesn’t put too much money into investing. Time is a huge factor that, as of recently, Perlin said he has found difficulty in taking control of. 

Progressing into the future

Expanding to in-person shopping is one of Perlin’s biggest goals by potentially starting a pop-up shop in the downtown area of East Lansing or pairing up with MSU sororities and fraternities to directly sell pieces straight to customers. He also is hoping to partner with Barstool MSU, an MSU-specific branch of a social media company that produces content around sports and pop culture.

“I just want to see us to continue to grow and get more product out there so that we’re big enough that everyone kind of has their own piece,” Perlin said. “I feel like this is something that everyone really wants, there's no one really out there that’s not trying to rep their school.”

With the pandemic getting better each day, Perlin is hopeful for the future that more students will have the opportunity to shop for MSU Vintage pieces during tailgating or sports games in the fall.

“This is something even after I graduate I hope to keep going,” Perlin said. “At the end of the day, it is nice making money, but I would like to just see people being happy and having clothing that’s unique and different from others.”

Perlin leaves one last piece of advice for anybody that is inspired to start a small business for themselves.

“[Make] your dream into a reality: It’s as simple as you make it,” Perlin said. “If you believe and you see that thing happening in the future, you can make it a reality…Continue to be a student, have that student mindset. That’s for sure the biggest thing because you can learn something new every single day of your entire life.”

Perlin sells his MSU thrift pieces on his website as well as his Instagram.


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