By Cassie Kuhn
Styling an outfit that is both put-together and unique can be challenging. Developing a personal sense of style is difficult, and shopping your way through the expanses of your local Forever 21 or thrift store can be overwhelming.
That’s where Rags to Roses comes in. Rags to Roses is an Instagram-based business that focuses on “giving old clothes new life,” offering unique and often vintage articles of clothing that have been hand-picked from secondhand stores. Many pieces are distressed, cut or bleached before they make their way to the Rags to Roses Instagram page.
Kristian Judah and Tyler Coleman started working on Rags at the end of 2017, and the store opened its virtual doors toward the end of January 2018. Judah attended The University of Alabama for a year before leaving for circumstances beyond her control. The transition from student to entrepreneur presented Judah with challenges, but the end result was a company she and Coleman built from scratch.
“I was living on my own, paying bills, and working two to three jobs. I realized, not only did I not like school, I also didn’t like working for other people,” Judah said. “My struggle was the inspiration for this page. I quit my jobs and chose myself and chose to work on this business.”
Coleman, Judah’s boyfriend, is a co-founder of Rags. The pair agreed that working together has made the process of starting and running a business easier.
“Working with Kristian really helps take some weight off of my shoulders,” Coleman said.
The Process: From thrift stores to front porches
The process of turning clothes from rags into roses begins at the thrift store.
“I pick whatever catches my eye,” Judah said. “I also look at every single thing because you never know what you will find. I visit thrift stores all over Alabama and Georgia. America’s Thrift Store is my absolute favorite. It never disappoints.”
The two then go through the items and decide which they want to distress, bleach, or turn into shorts. Once the clothes are ready, Judah puts outfits together from inventory and models them.
The final destination for a piece of Rags to Roses clothing is the shop’s Instagram page, but it doesn’t stay there long. Judah said items sell in anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes, depending on what time of day the items are posted.
Rags to Roses makes sales nationwide but primarily ships to New Jersey and New York. Rags even has one loyal customer from Canada. Their customer-base is steadily growing.
In a typical month, the company makes as many as 70 sales – up from 25 sales a month when the company first started.
“My favorite part [of running Rags to Roses] is actually going out to find clothes for our page and envisioning the outfit I’ll put together,” Judah said. “I love giving people the opportunity to look like a million bucks for a good price. With every item I pick, I can easily think of at least five people who would be interested.
Judah and Coleman are proof that college-aged people can be successful entrepreneurs.
“As a college student and a young entrepreneur, it can be very difficult handling all the stresses of running a business, attending school, and working a part time job,” said Coleman, a business major at The University of Alabama. “I’ve found myself pulling my hair out numerous times. There really are not enough hours in the day, but we try to stick to a schedule.”
Despite the challenges of balancing entrepreneurship with life’s other demands, Judah encourages women who want to start their own business to be patient and work hard.
“There will be times where you feel discouraged,” Judah said. “…Remain patient and you’ll see growth as long as you stay persistent…If things aren’t going the way you planned, don’t quit. You have to adjust, make changes, and figure out what works for you and keep finding ways to improve.”
Judah’s love for fashion began shortly before she began high school. Before then, Judah described herself as an insecure girl who wore a ton of makeup, skinny jeans, and her brother’s old clothes.
“I’m so intrigued by fashion because it’s more than just the clothes and the brands,” Judah said. “…When you put an outfit on, you’re letting people know a little about you…I love seeing people wear the clothes they purchase from us. It’s like we are contributing to their story.”
To the women who want to develop their sense of style, Judah recommends using Pinterest and reading fashion blogs. She said to wear what you want and own it.
“At the end of the day, what sets apart a unique and well put together look from a not so put together look, is the person,” Judah said. “It truly is all about owning who you are and exuding confidence. Carry yourself with love and that will make any outfit.”
Coleman is proud of what the two have accomplished so far.
“To me, it’s incredible that in just 10 months, we’ve been able to maintain a reliable source of income from our small business,” Coleman said. “We’ve also been growing steadily, with a little less than 800 people viewing our page daily. I have to give all of the credit to Kristian. I’ve tried doing social media business time and time again and each time I’ve failed. I’m thankful she let me be a part of something so great.”
Moving forward, Judah said customers can expect more versatile items, better presentation of products, and the possibility of a loyalty program.
To shop and read customer testimonials and reviews, head to Rags to Roses’ Instagram page at ragstoroses_.