Olivia Hillier started it all with a $5 t-shirt she found at a thrift store. By day, she is a medical student at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, and by night, she is a side hustle queen. It was never her intention to make it this big until she did. Poshmark is a resale app that allows people to buy and sell vintage clothing, furniture, and accessories online. It all started during the peak of the Covid-19 epidemic, when Olivia noticed other sellers making huge profits by “flipping” trendy items online.
Many of these treasures were discovered at thrift stores. Olivia needed to find a steady income source because she owed $220,000 in medical student loans. And quickly. Olivia began by researching the strategies of these master sellers and devising a plan for her own side hustle. Her first sale was a $5 thrift store t-shirt, which she sold for $20. Hillier’s side hustle has brought in a whopping $117,000 in revenue, with $85,000 coming in just last year.
She makes between $6,000 and $7,000 per month. She has since purchased a five-bedroom house with her new income. “I wouldn’t even have a savings account if I hadn’t had this business,” Hillier, 26, tells CNBC Make It. “And, on top of tuition, I’d have to take out loans to cover my living expenses.” Olivia graduated and made a significant career change.
She moved to Kansas with her husband and has since begun a residency in family medicine. Her side hustle paid for the $25,000 down payment and closing costs on their new home, as well as the $2,100 monthly mortgage payment. But what was the secret to making this work? Hillier began researching in August 2020 after noticing that many Poshmark sellers were listing many items that couldn’t possibly have come from their own closets.
She discovered that many of these sellers obtained their inventory from thrift stores and well-known retailers such as Nordstrom Rack and TJ Maxx. Hillier spent the next few months experimenting with different sellers’ methods, eventually settling on a specific style – bold and colorful vintage statement pieces – because they sold quickly. Her store gained popularity among a “young professional” demographic, primarily women aged 25 to 40.
Despite her side hustle success, Hillier wasn’t earning much money at first. Initially, she charged a flat rate of $20 to $30 per item, regardless of its source. However, after conducting research on comparable pieces’ prices at popular retailers and on Poshmark, she adjusted her strategy. Presently, her dresses – which she claims are her most popular items – fetch anywhere from $25 to $200 each, depending on their brand and retail value.
Hillier’s side hustle only started to take off when she established a routine that allowed her to balance selling clothes with attending medical school. She set aside Fridays to visit thrift stores, where she would spend her evenings sorting and cleaning clothes. Sundays were reserved for modeling and photographing her new inventory.
During her hospital rotations on Mondays, she would upload the newly acquired products to her Poshmark store. Additionally, she made trips to the post office every other day. “You’ve got to be regimented and have a routine,” Hillier says. “If I didn’t love it so much, I wouldn’t make the time for it.”
Hillier estimates that she spends 20 to 40 hours per week sourcing, posting, and shipping clothes. She has a large inventory of over 1,100 items, which helps her maintain a consistent income even during weeks when she is busy with hospital work. The process, however, is not without flaws. Hillier points out that Poshmark keeps 20% of all purchases over $15, whereas competitors such as Depop only keep 10%. Facebook Marketplace, on the other hand, does not currently charge any fees to sellers who use a Facebook Shop. Despite the fees, Hillier believes Poshmark’s seller-friendly services are valuable.
When someone purchases an item on Poshmark, the platform emails the seller a label with pre-populated shipping weight and address information. The seller only needs to attach the label to the box and drop it off at the post office. Furthermore, Hillier claims that the platform assists with resolving buyer complaints and handling returns, which would be difficult otherwise. “Sometimes it’s difficult to negotiate with people, and you can’t please everyone,” she says.
Despite the platform’s fees, Hillier’s progress has been unaffected. In fact, her side business has already made over $55,000 in revenue in 2022. Hillier, who now lives in Kansas with her husband, a commercial pilot for SkyWest Airlines, has designated a room in their home for her Poshmark endeavors. A portion of the profits will be used to pay off their mortgage, with the remainder going toward other expenses such as furniture, travel, their two dogs, and student loan repayments.
“A lot of people don’t have the time or flexibility to get a stable job in med school,” Hillier says. “It’s nice to not only have time to do something I enjoy, but also to be able to afford other things… I intend to continue running this business during my residency and, hopefully, after I become an attending physician.” Olivia discusses life updates and some of the drawbacks of her side hustle in a recent post from late February. Take a look at the images below.