Michelle Nguyen has a passion for sustainable fashion, loving clothes since she was a child. A self-proclaimed “true soul entrepreneur,” she resells trending styles and rescues beautiful fabrics from the landfill and thrift stores, turning them into re-imagined, one-of-a-kind looks. eBay has given her the opportunity to gain economic independence while doing what she loves — on her own time and terms.
Get to know Michelle below (also, visit her eBay shop right here):
A passion for fashion from an early age
I was born in Vietnam and moved to the United States at a young age. I didn’t have any friends as a child because we moved a lot but I could sew.I would buy clothes that I really wanted to wear that were cheap or on sale, but didn't fit me. I’d alter them to make them fit, with just a needle and thread.
I’ve always loved art and I’ve done a lot of different kinds like painting, printmaking, knitting, cross stitching — any kind of crafty art. One summer I decided I was going to focus on one kind of art and that was fashion. I made my first dress, and then enhanced my skills with each new dress I made, introducing new techniques and designs.
I bought my first sewing machine and laptop when I started college as an art major. I was working at the movie theater for a few years and saved up a few thousand dollars. Before that, I’d sew and alter everything by hand. So when I got the sewing machine and the laptop I was able to start my hobby and do more complicated things.
From sourcing to sewing her own unique looks
When I first started sourcing for clothing at thrift stores, I saw so many beautiful items — fabrics, print patterns, silks and wool that people don't pick up, because maybe it has a little flaw. I knew I could create something from them, and I saw the potential in them, so I started making designs out of old clothing and fabrics. I would keep up on trends and source for seasons and occasions to make sure that I was picking up things that people are wearing this year.
I’m so inspired by fabric, patterns and prints I find at the thrift store. If it’s a flowy fabric, I visualize a nice flowy dress at the beach. So I really envision an end product when I see certain materials that are pre-loved.
Sustainable fashion, sustainable life
I love being an eBay seller because I know that I am selling things that people want, and also protecting the environment at the same time. Instead of selling or producing or manufacturing brand new items, I’m giving them a second life.
Sustainability is a big part of my business and it's very important to me personally because I consume fashion more than anything else in my life. I buy clothing and fabric but I didn’t realize that I was doing damage until I saw a documentary and learned about how much we consume, how much we waste and how much we produce. And it made me feel really guilty.
And so now I source from thrift stores, I keep fabric out of the landfill and I resell. And sustainability has kind of bled into my personal life as well. I try to avoid plastic and single use items. I’ve started gardening and just being more green and environmentally conscious.
Finding economic independence through eBay
Before starting my reselling business I was working in higher education. I worked there for six years, and even though I was able to save, I never made enough money, and I lived with my parents. Since selling on eBay, I’ve been able to move out on my own and support myself. I can go on vacation without having to worry about money.
eBay has changed me in that I now see myself as a businesswoman and an entrepreneur instead of a hobbyist. When I first got started, I didn't know what I was doing, but the success and the consistency and the steadiness of eBay has really calmed me.
Winning the eBay Up and Running Grant in 2022 kind of solidified that and made me feel like, okay, I’m a real businesswoman — I’m seeking out resources and I'm growing my business. I'm a lot more confident in my business and in myself as an individual. I can see a long-term future in what I’m doing.
eBay’s impact on her business, as a Top Seller
I started selling on eBay in 2020 when the pandemic hit and I launched my business. Everyone said eBay was the site to sell on because it’sthe largest recommerce marketplace with the most shoppers.
In general, eBay is very seller friendly and hands-off. I can list my items and people will find them. I can make sales passively. eBay is great for “real” reseller entrepreneurs.
Since receiving the Up & Running Grant in 2022, my business now gets more attention from buyers, and more recognition in general. And becoming an eBay Top Seller has brought an audience to my shop.
Her top tips for new sellers
My top productivity hack is waking up early. Waking up at 5am has been a game changer for me. I go to the gym and I do a 20 minute meditation in the sauna. It helps calm me down and also kind of set my day. From there I have the energy and the stability to do what I need to do.
A big tip I give people when they’re starting out on eBay is to make sure that your items can get found. Because you can have a product listed, but if people can't find it then they can't buy it. So be sure that you have keywords and SEO and things like that squared away for all of your products.
I also recommend using the eBay tool for marketing, sales and promotion. You can run a sale whenever you like, people will watch the listing and then you can automatically send offers to everyone who watches it. That's a real plus, because on other platforms you have to go one-by-one, which is a real pain. So eBay is definitely very intuitive.
Living her passion
My favorite quote, and it's gonna sound really cliche, is “do what you love, you'll never have to work a day in your life.” It feels awesome to find success doing something that I love. I don't feel burnt out or tired, because I enjoy it. Every day I get to choose what I want to do — like go shopping or do a photoshoot.
In my last job, I didn’t feel that way. Now I even seek out extra opportunities like volunteering for the EARTHx conference or attending personal growth events because I can and I want to improve my skills.
I love being able to grow the business in my own way and at my own pace, versus being locked into a salary or a job.
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