Sailing Solo as a Fashion Entrepreneur

It was an average Spring morning as I departed the ferry at Horseshoe Bay, BC, when I decided to do some *light* retail shopping. As an island girl, I’ve never been well-versed in the Vancouver fashion scene, but as a Libra, my curiosity got the better of me. Within an hour I was devouring a vanilla-bean apricot scone at PureBread and reading a blog post about the top ten boutiques to visit in Vancouver (because, you know, research). At the top of this list was a shop called Mine and Yours.

Photographed: Courtney Watkins at the Granville Street pop-up shop

Mine and Yours—located at 1025 Howe Street—is a designer resale store owned and operated by Courtney Watkins. Resale, contrary to consignment, offers consigners money on the spot, making it a faster-paced transaction.

Watkins and her business partner, Jigme Nehring, opened the boutique in 2013 at it’s first location on Hornby Street. “It was a 300 square foot live/work townhouse,” Watkins explains. “Jigme lived on the top floor and the store was on the bottom. Over time, the store grew until Jigme was basically sleeping amongst Louis Vuitton,” she continues.

Originally from Maple Ridge, BC, Watkins moved to Los Angeles to study fashion at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM), but eventually relocated to Vancouver to take over the family saw mill. “I ran that for a couple years until I asked myself, ‘What am I doing? This is not my life’s purpose.’ Then, I was introduced to my business partner [Nehring] who also used to live in LA. She had this business plan and was looking for a partner who had experience in fashion and running a business. We were a perfect match.”

Early this year, Watkins bought out Nehring and now operates Mine & Yours solo.  “Jigme wanted to be a serial entrepreneur and open up a bunch of different businesses whereas I wanted to dig in and do something with Mine and Yours. Now that it’s all mine, though, all the pressure is on me.”

Photographed: Mine and Yours Granville Street location

Despite the challenge, Watkins has expanded the brand to have a second location; a pop-up shop on Granville Street. How does she manage it all? “Working with good people and knowing your weaknesses,” Watkins explains. “For me, my strength is not organization. So, right before I opened the pop-up I hired a manager who has experience running multiple locations and can compensate for me in that area.”

Now that the pop-up shop has been established, the team’s focus has shifted to Instagram: honing their account’s theme, pre-planning posts, and communicating between the store locations about answering direct messages and locating products for shoots. They have even created relationships with select clients who act as ambassadors, regularly posting to their social media accounts about the Vancouver store they’ve shopped at for years. Instagram has even been a tool for acquiring new consigners to gather inventory. Back in 2013, however, that was not the case. Their means of finding women with fabulous closets who were willing to consign came down to word-of-mouth: 

“My friend and I were out one night and we met this man who was talking about how his wife would spend 100 K shopping. Today, she is one of my top suppliers. It wasn’t like I gave him my card and she called me. In fact, she didn’t call me. I got her name and that’s all I had to go off of to try and reach out to her.” Eventually, Watkins did find the mystery woman who has since become one of their main suppliers of Mine and Yours merchandise.

Photographed: Courtney Watkins next to a Celine handbag display

Watkins advice to young aspiring entrepreneurs: “With anything, it’s a hustle. I’m seeing young girls interpret Instagram as ‘operating a business is so easy’ and not willing to put in the work beforehand. You have to grind away sometimes before things happen. Don’t expect a success overnight. I’m six years into my business and it’s awesome now. I loved it at the beginning—it was always fun!—but when we opened our doors… crickets. The person that introduced Jigme and I came and bought something that day. That was our only sale. It can take time to become a success. I feel lucky that I have found something that I really like to do, so that grind feels easier. There were years of running the mill where it wasn’t glamorous: I didn’t wear makeup, and I wore the same outfit to work everyday, but if I hadn’t run the mill I wouldn’t have had the experience to start Mine and Yours. It’s not always the dream job that you get right away, but it’s those random jobs where you acquire important skills for the future.”

Follow Mine & Yours on Instagram @mineandyoursco to see the latest goodies in store<3