At 16 years old, most of us were focused on getting our driver’s license or hanging out with friends—but Kaitlin Kao was starting her first business. As a junior in high school, she started selling secondhand clothing online with Poshmark and quickly realized her passion for entrepreneurship. Now, as a graduating senior at UCLA, she is majoring in psychology with a minor in entrepreneurship. Since starting Kao’s Closet, Kaitlin has grossed about $31,000 in sales and has no plans of slowing down. As a rising young entrepreneur to watch, Kaitlin is quickly growing Kao’s Closet to the next level.
Read on for our Q&A discussion to learn more about Kaitlin’s business journey.
Q: What ignited your entrepreneurial spirit at such a young age?
A: I’ve always admired how my dad, a Chinese immigrant, came to the U.S. and chased the American Dream. He started with nothing, but worked tenaciously to build his own business and start a family. His success showed me that anything is possible and I too could start my own business with discipline and hard work, even if I was only a teenager. I’ve also always wanted to give back to the community and do something that would inspire others.
Q: What do you wish you knew when you were just starting out as an entrepreneur that you now tell other aspiring entrepreneurs?
A: My best advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs is to be patient. I personally consider myself an impatient person, because I get so passionate and excited when I have my mind set on a goal. I’ve definitely improved and have learned to enjoy the process and the journey overtime, but initially it would frustrate me that I was not making hundreds of dollars every day and sending out mass orders daily. It took me a while to understand that my success is not reliant on anyone else, and comparing my progress to someone else’s wouldn’t benefit me. So instead, I decided to work hard, try to be the best I can be and see where it takes me. And I truly wish that others would understand this as well, because everyone’s success is different.
Q: How have you taken some of the challenges of the pandemic and turned them into positives for you and your business?
A: During the challenging times of the pandemic, I heavily focused on branding and scaling my business. My sales actually increased! I think this is because when COVID closed in-store shopping, a lot of people transitioned to shopping online, which I used to my advantage. Also, during quarantine, the app TikTok blew up, and a lot of users were making thrifting and vintage clothing outfits a trend, which encouraged other users to buy used clothing and shop on sites like Poshmark to support sustainable fashion.
Q: In the spirit of dreaming big, what do you want the future to look like for you and your business?
A: Ideally, I picture myself running my own type of secondhand retail business that benefits the community and the fashion industry. I’d love to be able to hire some employees to help me achieve my mission, and continue reducing the amount of clothes at the landfill. Perhaps I would even develop a consignment store, where I could sell others’ clothes that they no longer want.
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