Not too often are individuals able to turn their passions into a profession. Virginia Tech Students Brad Kesling and Kyle Tan, however, have managed to turn their longtime love for thrifting into a campus-recognized business. Starting with a fifty-dollar investment (a twenty-five-dollar contribution each), the two business partners grew from a company with a small following of 300 customers, into VT Thrift, an Instagram based thrift shop with over 2,000 followers.
Kesling and Tan adapted VT Thrift from Virginia Tech student, Carter Davis. The two were customers of Davis, and when he decided to give up his business, Kesling and Tan took over the account and developed VT Thrift into a brand of its own.
“Kyle and I had always thrifted together, even before VT Thrift began.” stated Kesling, “It [VT Thrift] was a passion turned into a business.”
Together, Kesling and Tan have gathered and sold hundreds of thrifted items to customers as close as Blacksburg, and as far as Australia. Over time, the two have developed the VT Thrift brand but have also developed their business methods and partnership skills.
“At the beginning, we had a lot of disagreements. A lot of which were because we both had our own idea of what we wanted this business to become,” stated Tan. “We didn’t really communicate that [our separate ideas] to each other.”
“We’ve grown a lot since then.” continued Tan.
“I feel like we’ve learned to deal with conflict, and do so civilly.” added Kesling.
Aside from running their very own company, both Kesling and Tan are both double majors in business. These students have managed to stay on top of their academic and work responsibilities by communicating effectively with one another.
“We always like to say, ‘Owning a business, we make our own hours’, but we are trying to structure it a little more” stated Tan. “It’s really just about having communication with your team; telling them if you have two tests this week, and them knowing that things may slow down or pick up.”
“I feel like the platform we use it [VT Thrift] on, being all on Instagram, it’s pretty easy just to work in between classes,” continued Kesling. “A lot of the work we do doesn’t necessarily need an hour plus amount of time to work. It’s really just, do it when you can, work.”
Kesling and Tan have thrifted all over the U.S., including cities such as Richmond, Charlotte, and Atlanta. Over time, they’ve acquired a knack for spotting seller items.
“When we first started, I feel like we looked through every single thing, and it took forever,” stated Kesling. “But after so much time doing it [thrifting], you can almost run your hand through it [the clothing] and gaze through.”
“Brands aren’t very important, but we do look for those.” added Tan.
The two highlighted the importance of patience when thrifting. There are so many items of clothing, and you may not always find an outfit you were hoping to. Although the two don’t set out looking for big brand items, they do come across some. Ultimately, Kesling and Tan emphasized the sense of individuality thrifting can bring to a person’s style. Vintage looks and bright patterns can inspire an outfit an individual may have never bought or found in a mall. Thrifting gives people a chance to take a few fashion risks, at a very low cost.
So what advice do these two entrepreneurs have for you? In regard to thrifting, don’t worry about the brand. Instead, focus on creating your own unique style. In regard to starting your own business, just go for it. Find something you’re passionate about and jump right in. Consider finding a partner who you can bounce ideas off of, but who can also keep you accountable and motivated.
Kesling and Tan have one main goal: to give back to the Virginia Tech community. The two feel lucky to have this experience and want to get people engaged with and excited about VT Thrift. VT Thrift has provided many students with internship positions, allowing them to get involved with the company and add some work experience to their resume.
VT Thrift delivers their orders to customers as fast as possible, and also host pop-up shops within the Blacksburg area. For more information, check out their Instagram page @vtthrift and make sure to look through all the unique items they have for sale!
Images 1-3 were taken by the author.
The 4th image was a screenshot of the VT Thrift Instagram page.