I Have A New Little Brainchild

Sorry I’ve been a little lax in blogging lately.  My mind has been tied up elsewhere.  Where might ‘elsewhere’ be, you ask?  Oh, the usual places: planning menus, tracking down Christmas gifts, baking cookies, writing novels, changing worlds.

What can I say?  I’m a schemer, but I come by it honestly: it runs in the paternal side of my family.

Current case in point:

For a long time, I’ve wanted to open a thrift store that actually charged thrift store prices.

For an even longer time, I’ve wanted to help orphans find families.

In the comments of a recent post, I was re-reminded of one major hurdle families considering adoption must overcome: it starts with “the P” and ends with “rice tag”.

It struck me (again) as one of the saddest things in the world: good Christian families who want to adopt but can’t afford it.  It’s a lose, lose, lose situation.

The families lose.

The children lose.

Society loses.

Now I know there are organizations that offer financial aid in the form of grants/scholarships to families seeking to adopt, because I helped fundraise for one of them (Love Basket) in college.  But I don’t know all the ins and outs of the application process, and I can imagine that the supply of charitable funds rarely meets the demand of needy families. 

What if I opened a non-profit second hand store with all proceeds going to fund adoption costs for solid families?

What if I started out with an online venue–a bit of a ‘testing the waters’, so to speak–similar in format to an etsy store (or any other online shopping experience) with pictures of each product (right now I’m thinking of things that would be cheap/easy to ship: clothing, books, some types of glassware)?

What if I was able to charge competitive thrift store prices, so shoppers were not only supporting a good cause but getting great deals?

It seems to me like it has potential to be a win-win-win-win-win situation: good for families (they get $$), good for children (they get a home), good for customers (they get cheap stuff AND support a good cause), good for the environment (recycling/repurposing one man’s junk into another man’s treasure, all that), good for society (kids in solid homes are less likely to get in trouble in any number of ways)..

Any thoughts?  Am I crazy?  Has anyone else attempted something like this? Anyone have experience with a good ‘sell stuff online’ host?  ((I can’t use Etsy because it’s only for homemade items.  Paypal is an option; ebay is an option…I’m sure there are others I’m not aware of yet)). 

Would you buy stuff you liked from an online second hand store?  What would you buy?  Would you get clothes if you had to go by pictures and measurements rather than trying it on yourself?  What kind of clothes?  What’s ‘cheap’ for clothing in your book–would you pay $3 bucks for a used-but-in-great-condition shirt you liked?  $5?  How about a dress?  Books?  Maternity clothes?  Baby clothes?  Dishes?

Anyone else as excited about the potential in all this as I am?

Help me out, here, people–even if it’s just to tell me that my idea is a no-go.  If I hear it from you, it will make Tim’s job (the Reality Checker in our relationship) that much easier.

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  1. #1 by Sally on December 14, 2010 - 3:12 pm

    My first thought is that I would not buy clothes online without trying them on (unless there was an option to return them for a refund, but even then I rarely buy clothes online period—most stuff never fits me) unless it was a scarf or a bogan. Maybe buying clothes without trying them on works for some people, but it sure doesn’t work for me. The rest of the stuff, I don’t know for sure.

    • #2 by Cristy on December 14, 2010 - 5:50 pm

      I tend to be the same way–I’d much rather try things on than purchase sight unseen–but if it were cheap enough, maybe I’d reconsider…:-)

  2. #3 by Sheryl on December 14, 2010 - 7:20 pm

    Christy,
    I also have a reality checker… Seth… 🙂 I find it so helpful two minds think of so many things I myself forget.
    I buy lots of books online… used is great! I buy some clothes online of name brands that I recognize and have worn before. Adults and Childrens boots, winter coats… $3 – $5- $10 easily Childrens toys I look for and buy sometimes online. Glass ware you may have a harder time shipping without breakage. I would be glad to know I was supporting a good cause… you would need to charge enough to support the work.. and pay expenses… things would not have to be sold so cheap.. Just some thoughts I thought I would quick send your way… Let me know what you and Tim decide!

    • #4 by Cristy on December 14, 2010 - 7:25 pm

      Thanks so much for the feedback!! It really does help. Yes, I’m very thankful for the way Tim balances me out…he saves me from lots of scrapes!

  3. #5 by Matt Beatty on December 14, 2010 - 10:03 pm

    Count us in. We love it… especially those cute kids in the pictures. Who are their parents – they must be so blessed! 😉

    Call Dupree at GCC’s Entrepreneurship Program and run the idea past him. Remind Tim that following Christ is, by definition, risky (for our comfort, ease, and well-planned futures)! 🙂

    • #6 by Cristy on December 15, 2010 - 1:39 pm

      Hahaha–I’m pretty sure the parents (and friends) of those kids do feel pretty blessed. I may just call GCC here soon–thanks for that advice! Interestingly, we’ve just been reading in our morning devotions from Spurgeon on giving generously of time/talents/money/resources–for the sake of spiritual dividends!

  4. #7 by joannamv on December 15, 2010 - 7:02 am

    I’m not entirely sure how it would work as an online venture. If we were in the UK, I would tell you to just go ahead and open a thrift store, and I’d volunteer to help out. (Maybe starting by travelling around doing car boot sales.) But thrift stores here seem a little different.

    If you were to start something online, say using eBay, then I’d guess that initially your customers would be your acquaintances who want to help you and support the cause. And so I wouldn’t think that there should be so much emphasis on “thrift store prices” to start with. Just go for a reasonable price initially. I guess I’m saying that you want to be cheap, but as expensive as possible whilst still being competitive? Hmm you could auction stuff on eBay, then you could put the reserve as the minimum price you’d be willing to accept but have the possibility of stuff selling for higher…

    I don’t tend to buy second-hand products online. Books from amazon yes, but there you have, like, 12,379 customer ratings telling you that the company can generally be relied on. Online ventures are probably harder to get off the ground than “real-life” ones, unless you are very very lucky.

    I do wish there were more little downtown thrift stores around though. Especially ones that actually support a cause I can believe in.

    • #8 by Cristy on December 15, 2010 - 1:37 pm

      I know what you mean about Richmond’s thrift store selection: it stinks. At least, so far I haven’t found any super great ones. How do thrift stores work in UK? I’ll have to find out from you tonight. 🙂

      • #9 by joannamv on December 16, 2010 - 12:19 pm

        Missed you yesterday! Hope you are feeling chirpy today!
        In the UK there are lots and lots of small charity shops. Often they will be close together, although not always. But people like to spend time going to lots of different ones, so they do tend to congregate haha. Some are run by big nationwide charities whilst others are just independent ones supporting a local cause. We don’t really have big stores, or vaguely for-profit ones.
        I just get the feeling that it would be easier, in some ways at least, to do this in the UK because you could just find a row of charity shops with an empty store-front, open there and be guaranteed interested foot traffic.

  5. #10 by Evelyn on December 15, 2010 - 11:02 am

    I love the idea! At least, if you can find any way to fill that need for families and children, that’s wonderful. Practically, some of my thoughts…

    How good are your photography skills? I think it’s really important to have good quality photos where you can really see the details and condition of something you buy online – especially if it’s used. Good photos would also set your website well above most sources which are often junky-looking.

    I generally would not buy clothes online without trying them on, unless it was a really hard-to-find item that I can’t find in a store anyway (like maternity clothes–there’s not much selection especially in thrift stores–or modest formal dresses or something). Children’s clothes may be easier though because they aren’t as hard to fit right. Books, music/movies (if I can be sure they’re legal), appliances (if I can be sure they work), linens – I’d certainly buy those online.

    What about shipping? I wouldn’t buy a $3 blouse and spend $5 to ship it. At least not if I can find something else that will do at a local thrift store instead, which I probably can.

    If you have a website that makes it easy to shop and find things, with lots of helpful categories to search or browse, I might look there first because it’s quick and easy to see if you have what I want, even if I pay a little more for it. It’s hard to find a specific thing I want by browsing the whole thrift store rack.

    • #11 by Cristy on December 15, 2010 - 1:36 pm

      These are great, super helpful thoughts! Thanks!!! I’ll keep you up to date if plans progress. I had thought the same thing about the photos–I don’t know that I’m that good, but I’m definitely willing to learn (especially if it will get me a new camera…:-) )

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