Popping tags

UofSC graduate adds bricks and mortar to her online consignment store

Walking into Messie’s Closet, a recently opened contemporary consignment store in West Columbia, is like entering a whole new world covered in sequins, suede, leather and plenty of other brightly colored fabrics.

Its curator is Hawa Lukulay, a 23-year-old alumna of the University of South Carolina's College of Information and Communications, who has an eye for detail and a gift for memorizing brands.

Lukulay started buying and reselling clothes during the summer between high school and college and continued during her time at UofSC. While it was difficult in the beginning shifting from the consumer culture and styles in Maryland to those in South Carolina, she eventually got a handle on it by her junior year when she had her first $10,000 month.

Yes, you read that correctly: $10,000 in sales from buying clothes in boutiques on clearance, on sale in department stores, from yard sales, thrift stores and discount stores and then reselling them online on eBay or Instagram over the course of a month.

“I call it an obsession not a business,” Lukulay says. “The thrill of treasure hunting.”

After graduation, she decided to use the public relations skills she learned while earning her communications degree and opened a store to go along with her online business. Winning the 2018 Young Entrepreneur Award at the eBay SHINE Awards for Small Business was the sign and financing she needed to get her store open.

“I decided that opening a space and growing from my apartment to a brick-and-mortar shop would be a good way to grow my business, get my name out there and effectively spend that money,” Lukulay says.

Lukulay drives across the Southeast to find the one-of-a-kind contemporary pieces that fill Messie’s Closet. Most of the clothes are new and high quality, and Lukulay does research on all her pieces so she knows what she has in her store and how best to price it.

“It’s more than just a sparkly dress, it is a sparkler minidress from Love and Lemons and it retails for $218 and someone’s selling it right now for $75,” Lukulay says.

She also knows her audience is young and sets her hours and social media marketing accordingly.

“A lot of consignment stores cater more to older women, but there’s a lot of younger women who are into secondhand fashion now and sustainability,” Lukulay says.

Which means that the market is more crowded than ever, but Lukulay isn’t just competing for shoppers in the Columbia community. She learned in her economic geography class that the entire world is open to her because of technology, so something that doesn’t sell well here in Columbia may go to someone in Denver or Chicago.

“But I want to be connected to the community,” Lukulay says. “I enjoy my interactions with my customers.”

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