Carolyn Liu '17 - Owner of Hello Vintage
Carolyn Liu graduated from Pacific with a Bachelors of Arts in Communication in 2017. She currently lives in the Bay Area but is originally from the Central Valley. She transferred from UC San Diego and completed her junior and senior year here at Pacific. Liu recently opened her own business Hello Vintage in Berkeley with her grand opening in January 2018. Here’s the complete interview from her Pacific experience to starting her own vintage clothing business:
What is your favorite era of fashion?
I love the 40s and 50s but I think I wear the 70s the most because the 70s you don’t need all the foundation garments and you don’t have to worry about ripping it or getting it stained because the older pieces are so much more rare and so much more valuable.
What inspired you to code your own website?
The type of website that I wanted to make didn’t exist in a template. I wanted to make something where everyone could list their own things. And it would have a really good search bar so people could narrow it down by size color era fabric. I found a really straightforward e-commerce template and then learned how to code so I could just modify it to death and change pretty much everything. It didn’t look anything the same after I was done with it. But now it’s completely original.
What are some of the biggest hurdles you’ve experienced in opening up your own business?
The biggest hurdle is definitely on finding a place to lease when you don’t already have a job with a six-figure income especially in the Bay Area because all of them will look at your application. They looked at me like ‘that’s cute she wants to start a business.’ Especially because of my age and gender a lot of people would be condescending to me when I asked them to show me a space even though they didn’t know what I had saved up, my credit score, or anything about me. Yet they saw me in a floral dress being 22 at the time and they would laugh it off. There were also some situations where I had to walk away just because I was being disrespected by someone.
What have you learned from starting your business after college and what advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
I would say for someone who wants to start a business, just make sure that you know the market that you’re in. Have enough money for your deposit, make sure to have a business plan to make sure you can pay for the space, plus the cost of insurance, utilities, marketing, make sure that after one year, you have the potential to be profitable because if you can’t see yourself profitable after one year then it’s probably not the best time to do it or not the right business to go into.
Why Vintage and why do you love it?
Vintage is so unique yet it already happened and it’s the future and that’s the worst answer ever. You can’t make any new vintage. Everything is from the past so you’re kind of limited in what you have which allows you to be more creative because you have to work with what you have. I work really well under deadlines or under pressure while in a constrained space which is when I’m most creative.
"I would say for someone who wants to start a business, just make sure that you know the market that you’re in."
Where do you see Hello Vintage in five years?
My lease is currently for 3 years so in 5 years I want to be in a more central location for my shop so I could have more foot traffic.
Where is shop currently?
My shop is at 28442 Prince St. , Berkeley, CA and its right off of the Claremont area so it’s kind of tucked away in a neighborhood right now and it’s a beautiful space but it’s out of the way so right now that I think my biggest struggle is getting people in. Once they’re in there they don’t leave they love it so it’s just getting traffic.
What is your most meaningful Pacific memory?
I was in Alpha Phi Omega which is a service fraternity and I think most of my biggest memories came from there. One of the most fulfilling things I did was when I was volunteering for a program called Adelante which is bilingual tutoring for kids whose parents were Spanish speakers. I was helping bridge the gap either in English or Spanish if they needed it. I really saw such a huge improvement in the students that I was tutoring from September to May which is when they graduated from the program.
Visit Hello Vintage in Berkeley and check out her website!