How This Medical Student Bought a House Selling Used Clothes
Olivia Hillier’s secondary hustle started with a $5 t-shirt she found at a thrift store.
Hillier, a medical student at Oakland University, based in Rochester, Michigan, has had some experience selling a few of her own vintage clothes on resale app Poshmark. She never gave it much thought. But at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, she noticed other Poshmark sellers taking advantage of “flipping” trendy thrift store finds.
Motivated by impending student loans—medical school tuition cost her about $220,000 over four years—she began studying their strategies and using them to create her own stampede.
This first t-shirt sold for $20. Since then, Hillier’s side hustle has brought in more than $117,000 in total revenue, including $85,000 last year alone. He currently averages $6,000 to $7,000 a month in profit, according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It, recently helping him buy a five-bedroom house.
“If I didn’t have this business, I wouldn’t even have a savings account,” Hillier, 26, told CNBC Make It. “And I would have to take out loans to cover my living expenses, in addition to tuition.”
Hillier graduated from medical school on Friday and immediately moved to Kansas with her husband to begin a residency in family medicine. She says the income from her side hustle helped them cover $25,000 in closing costs and a down payment on their new home, and that will more than cover their mortgage payments of $2,100 a month.
Of course, not everyone’s closet is conducive to such a lucrative business. Here’s how Hillier built his side hustle:
Adapt your business model
Hillier’s research began in August 2020, when she noticed that other Poshmark sellers were posting thousands of items that couldn’t have come from their own closets. She learned that many source their supplies from thrift stores and retailers like Nordstrom Rack and TJ Maxx.
She spent the next two months testing the methods of various vendors. She focused on one style — vibrant vintage statement pieces — because those items sold out the fastest. Her store has gained traction with a “young professional” audience of mostly women between the ages of 25 and 40, she says.
But she didn’t earn much money. Initially, she charged between $20 and $30 per article, regardless of the source of each article. After researching the prices of similar commonly sold pieces, both on Poshmark and at popular retailers, she adjusted. Now her dresses — which she says are her most popular items — each sell for between $25 and $200, depending on their brand and retail value.
However, Hillier’s sideways hustle didn’t really take off until she found a routine to balance selling clothes with medical school.
On Fridays, she would run from class to thrift stores, spending her evenings sorting and cleaning clothes. On Sundays, she would model and take photos of her new stock. On Mondays, between hospital rotations, she would upload new products to her Poshmark closet. And every other day she would run to the post office.
“You have to be regimented and have a routine,” says Hillier. “If I didn’t love him so much, I wouldn’t take the time for this.”
Hillier says she now spends between 20 and 40 hours a week researching, posting and shipping clothes. His vast inventory – now over 1,100 items – has helped maintain a steady income, even in the weeks when the hospital takes over his life.
The system is not perfect. For example, Hillier notes that Poshmark keeps 20% of every purchase over $15. Depop, a competing platform, only takes 10%. And Facebook Marketplace currently doesn’t charge anything at all to sellers with a Facebook Shop.
For Hillier, Poshmark’s user-friendly services are worth it. When someone buys an item on Poshmark, the platform emails the seller a label with a pre-populated weight and shipping address. All the seller has to do is stick the label on the box and drop it off at the post office.
The platform also helps deal with buyer complaints and feedback, which Hillier says she would otherwise struggle with.
“It’s sometimes difficult to negotiate with people, and you can’t please everyone,” she says.
Platform fees don’t seem to be slowing down Hillier’s progress. His side business has already brought in more than $55,000 in revenue in 2022.
In her new Kansas home, Hillier and her husband — a commercial pilot with SkyWest Airlines — have already designated a “Poshmark room.” Part of the money from his side business pays for the mortgage on the house. The rest, she says, will go towards new furniture, travel, their two dogs and paying off student loans.
“A lot of people can’t get a steady job in medical school because they don’t have the time or the flexibility,” Hillier says. “It’s nice to not only have time to do something I love, but also to afford other things…I want this business to continue during residency, and hope to continue when I’m a doctor. treating.”
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