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Tom & Oksana Hill, owners of Midtown Bargains, know a thing or two about running a business. Between the two of them, they run a home staging business, two Airbnb rentals (plus RV rentals on Outdoorsy), and resell! Not to mention Tom is a licensed insurance agent and Oksana works for the state, all while running the online site for their resale business. They even find time to watch a few TikToks here and there.
The Hills’ reselling business, Midtown Bargains, was operating out of their home at first, but quickly grew into a 4,500 sqft warehouse and within five months, jumped to an 11,000 sqft warehouse operation. However, as with most businesses, even their success was challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shifting from a more local-based home decor and furniture pickup operation out of West Sacramento to online was no easy feat. And, brought its own set of challenges. As Tom said, “We shifted the way we did business and it cost a lot of work. We’re just smoothing that out now. Things were a lot easier, let me just put it that way.”
We chatted with Tom to hear more about their resale business, Midtown Bargains. In this edition of our Reseller Community Spotlight: Meet Tom & Oksana Hill!
In 2016, we moved to Midtown and my wife had already been buying some stuff from a wholesale reseller. They kinda do what we do now but on a much larger scale. She was buying small items and reselling them on Facebook and Craigslist. But I got tired of people coming to my house, to be honest. Plus, when we got a lot of stuff our house looked like an episode of Hoarders.
In 2017 we ended up renting a 4,500 sqft warehouse and within five months we jumped into an 11,000 sqft warehouse. Same building, just a bigger unit because things were going a lot better than we had planned. It took a month and was right in the middle of summer. I will never move in the middle of summer again!
It’s full-time. My son manages the warehouse and the day-to-day operations. We have four part-time people. We’re only open for limited hours: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. I’m here 7 days a week.
I’m the Vice President of the ‘Honey Do List Corporation.’ Oksana tells me, “Okay, we need all this stuff done in addition to the business,” and I say, “Okay, send me a text and I’ll get that done.”
Oksana was buying from RL Liquidators. I was trying to figure out where they were getting this stuff from. Every day we’d be picking up stuff – constantly. I had a little Toyota Prius and I would have that thing packed. I felt like the Beverly Hillbillies. The grandma on the top? That’s what I felt like, packing stuff. I had to go out and buy a truck!
We registered with B-Stock and that’s when we decided we were going to buy in bulk. That was after we got the first warehouse. We’ve tried a few other ones but pretty much you guys have everybody.
As we’ve heard time and again, our B-Stock buyers that go on to resell liquidation inventory have learned a thing or two along the way! Tom and Oksana are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to being business owners. (Five in total!) Here are a few highlights:
According to Tom, business owners become business owners for a reason. They have a drive that most people don’t have. And when it comes to taking risks, they’re willing to sometimes personally sacrifice time and family, too. Even to the point where looking back, they might not make the same call. It’s the drive that embodies the American dream.
“But when you know, that when you wake up you can’t call in sick, that’s your reality. Any person that has started a business, especially those first two years, is going to feel like they want to chuck it all.”
We also learned that looking in the long-term, as opposed to the day-to-day, is paramount. Business owners shouldn’t dwell on the mistakes but have an alternate course ready when things don’t go according to plan. Especially when it’s outside of your control—like a global pandemic.
“You have to think about the things that are the most highly unlikely because those are the things that usually happen. You need to be able to pivot.”
And sometimes those “highly unlikely” things turn into a great opportunity!
Tom: A Cuban leather couch with a frame – think about the rustic Joanna Gaines farmhouse – this couch came [in the truckload shipment], that was not on our manifest. It was a $9,000 couch on Wayfair! Just like they say, ‘If there’s a variation, that’s not our fault,’ we have to expect it. This one worked in our favor. Guess where that couch went?
Speaker: Into the Airbnb.
Good research is like a weapon. For resellers just starting out, it can’t be stressed enough that you should research how others are doing this, and from reputable sources. Even if you think you know what you’re doing, you need to be able to handle the curveballs along the way.
“You can’t get time back, you can get your money back, but you can’t get your time back.”
But at the end of the day, you can’t think of every possible outcome. What you can do is have some compassion along the way. For business owners, that starts with your customer service.
“I think that if you just treat everyone like you want to be treated, like as a customer, you’re going to be successful in life. No matter what you do.”
Speaking with Tom, we learned a few things about resale business’ durability during the pandemic. Most notably:
Originally, Midtown Bargains catered to the local market. Buying furniture and household items from Wayfair made up about 80% of the business. Meaning shipping wasn’t in their wheelhouse at all!
When COVID hit, as with all the other non-essential businesses, they had to shut down. This is when Midtown Bargains really had to rethink what they were doing.
“We shifted to stuff we can ship. Now, 90% of our business is shipping stuff outside of our local area. We’ve had to adapt with everything that happened.”
It seems like both buyers and sellers had to tighten their belts during this time. For buyers like Tom & Oksana, that meant not keeping a lot of items in stock or discounting items just for the room. But retailers as well weren’t providing the same supply of inventory.
“It’s been tougher finding stuff that we really want [from retailers]. Sometimes we have to go a different route than we wanted to. That’s all COVID-related.”
Changing the way Midtown Bargains operated was crucial for survival. “Adapting to the times” is how business owners like Tom & Oksana found a new way of doing things.
In fact, this happened across the board with our B-Stock community. Read B-Stock Buyers During COVID-19: Here’s What We Learned for more insights.
We asked Tom what the future of Midtown Bargains looks like. Here’s what he had to say:
“I’ll focus back on the local stuff because that was profitable. I tell them [customers] when things get back to normal, I’ll start incorporating things that I used to carry, but to survive I have to do it this way.”
The Hills’ business, Midtown Bargains, is based out of West Sacramento, CA. You can find visit their site for the best bargains on decor, apparel, and health & beauty.
B-Stock’s Reseller Community Spotlight is an ongoing series that aims to highlight our unique buyers in the B-Stock network.
Are you a B-Stock buyer and want to tell us more about your reselling business? Let us know and we can feature you in B-Stock’s Reseller Community Spotlight series.