“My first test market was at Camberwell,” Ashley Tell, founder of Global Vintage Collective recalls. “I remember clearly, my boyfriend at the time said if I paid my wage for the day it was a bonus and to treat the experience as a fun day out, and not to take it too seriously as I had another job. Before lunch time, I had made my weekly wage and then some.”
For California native Ashley, a foray into vintage resell territory in 2013, with the opening of what’s now known as one of Melbourne’s best loved vintage stores, wasn’t exactly in her sights. But neither was an extended stint in Australia.
“I came to Australia for a three-month modelling stint, which turned into 22 years,” Ashley explains. “The modelling work led to other industry freelance work [in] styling and production.”
Always a “thrifter”, Ashley was keen enough to see if there was a market for her keen vintage-collecting eye by dipping her toe in local markets, reselling her hand-picked goods from frequent trips back to her home country. While sales flourished, like any new small-business owner, transforming her expert curation into a fully-fledged operation was another matter.
“Backing myself, both financially and emotionally, and fighting that constant voice of self-doubt. I think any business owner goes through this,” she says, when asked what the hardest part of building her business has been. “[And learning] to outsource to people who are great at things I struggle with. The nuts and bolts, numbers… are to be done not by me; I delegate!”
One of Ashley’s favourite recipients of her new-found fondness for delegation is the much-loved Square reader, which she’s been using for two years and keeps her multi-faceted business running on several fronts.
“I have three locations that I need to run card readers from,” Ashley explains. “The multi-location tools that I can turn on and off from my iPad allow me to oversee what’s happening at any of my locations, whether it’s a market stall or the main storefront.”
Not only that, but Ashley can also make certain she’s the only one to see what’s happening, even when her team are using it.
“I also have four employees that need to have access to the Square app, so it allows me to set restrictions for what each employee can view within my account while I manage the whole operation, which has been really useful as I’ve grown.”
Although Ashley plans to add an exclusive online extension to the physical offering, she resists the current trend towards completely online-based fashion businesses, insisting instead that having a physical shopfront is a fundamental element of maintaining a sense of community with her clientele.
“Our oldest customer is a sharp 102-year-old gal, and she’s a crack up!” Ashley says. “We like to photograph our clientele for social media, which, strangely, is fun to boost the confidence of a person that doesn’t consider themselves photogenic, then they’re pleasantly surprised. Holly, our ‘shop dog’ is also a big part of the atmosphere, people often pop in to see her and visit; online doesn’t offer this human connection. I think there has to be an element of ‘retail-theatre’ nowadays, so it’s memorable and people want to come back.”