A business of thrifted gems

In the midst of quarantine, Diamond Bar High School senior Frances Tong transformed her thrifting hobby into a business: Frans Studios.

At age six, Tong started to thrift because of her family’s financial situation. After finding unique products each visit, she started thrifting as a hobby instead of a necessity. Tong began selling her clothes on Depop to clear out her closet.

 However, after researching more about the negative impacts of the fast fashion industry, she decided to transition to Instagram in July with the intention of lessening the consumption of fast fashion and using her platform to offer sustainable and affordable clothing items.

 “I fell in love with what I was doing and I decided to invest in myself, leading to it becoming a business,” Tong said via Instagram.

In attempts to appeal to all sizes and gender, Tong sells clothing items on her Instagram account @frans.studios that range from lingerie to oversized crewnecks in order to cater to everyone’s sense of style. On the side, Tong also sells accessories such as necklaces and earrings that she has designed and created. 

On top of selling jewelry and secondhand clothes, Tong also handles commissions from other people who want to sell their items but don’t want to go through the listing process. She offers them 60 percent of the profit she makes off the items she sells.  

 Since July, Tong said she has sold over 300 items and earned over $5,000. On average, Tong said she sells more than 60 items each month. Over a span of five months, she has gained 2,680 followers and posted 181 photos on her account.  

“I plan on continuing my business in the future as well as hopefully turning my business into an international scale,” Tong said.

Since Tong manages her business, she can work on her own schedule and find balance between her schoolwork and her online consignment store. She sets aside time to solely focus on her business, taking care of tasks such as managing inventory and packing and shipping items. During her free time, she prepares all the packages, writes thank you notes and inserts extra gifts such as stickers and candy for each of her packages. 

“It does become overwhelming at times, however with all the support from my followers and customers that  I’ve gained in such a short amount, I am always able to find a way to continue doing what I love,” Tong said.

A usual business day starts by sourcing items from online second hand websites and local thrift stores such as Goodwill or Salvation Army. Once she obtains the clothes, she inspects each product to ensure the item is in good condition and then proceeds to wash them and take photos. In the listings, she includes pictures of the clothes on a model and the items laid out on a backdrop.photo and a layout photo to showcase her items. She also writes out a description for each of her items and posts them on Instagram. 

The time it takes for a product to sell varies. For example, a recent listing for athletic loungewear was purchased within an hour, but other items can take up to a couple of days or weeks to sell. On average, an item in Frans Studio is bought within a span of two to three days.

“The most rewarding part of my business is seeing the excitement and smiles on people’s faces when they receive their package as well as seeing how all my customers style their items,” Tong said. 

From the start of her business career, she donated 15 percent of her profit to various charities including the Trevor Project (a suicide hotline) and the American Cancer Society. Once her business started growing, she increased her donations to 30 percent and added more charities such as American Red Cross and Black Lives Matter affiliated organizations through GoFundMe. 

“It always puts a smile on my face when I’m able to donate a large part of my profit to different organizations,” Tong said.