Client Story: Room on Fire VintageDecember 1, 2021
With backgrounds in fashion and sales – as well as a strong interest in vintage clothing – partners Stephanie Dimasi and Reuben Lane turned a part-time hobby into a thriving business.
A few years ago, the couple identified a gap in the booming vintage clothing market and started an Instagram store, which they first ran from their bedroom. Demand for their products grew rapidly and they opened an online store, initially renting a small studio warehouse to house their inventory, but they rapidly outgrew it.
Within a short time, they were both able to quit their day jobs to work full time in the business. After developing a significant online presence, they were able to realise their goal of opening their first brick-and-mortar store in Hindmarsh Square in October 2021.
Opening a retail store in Adelaide’s CBD – at a time when many business owners were abandoning physical storefronts and going online – aroused strong community interest in the brand, particularly by online magazines like Broadsheet, Glam Adelaide and City Mag.
“This exposure was a vital part of our early success in the store and assisted in our goal of putting Adelaide on the map for vintage clothing in Australia,” says Reuben.
“These two are very smart and savvy businesspeople, especially for such a young couple,” says Oreon’s Chanel Saleh. “They have a great balance of skills, thanks to Steph’s background in fashion and e-commerce paired with Reuben’s experience in sales.”
Key challenges along the way and during COVID
“One obstacle that we identified early on in running an e-commerce business was our inability to meet customers in person – and importantly, being unable to spark conversation about what products they want, or why they like or dislike the brand,” says Stephanie.
Due to this challenge, the pair decided to participate in various markets around Adelaide, including Gilles at the Grounds and The Tee Flea to gain feedback and interact directly with customers.
“By doing this, we were able to open dialogue with our customers about why they wanted to shop with us, as well as build rapport and receive exposure all at the same time,” says Reuben.
However, the business’ biggest challenges came about due to COVID-19. With their supply chain significantly affected, they had to remain agile and think forward to ensure they experienced the least possible impact.
“Prior to COVID-19, we’d fly overseas to hand pick all of our products – a process common for vintage buyers,” explains Stephanie. “With border closures occurring almost instantly in early 2020, we needed to create and form new processes to receive our stock. We were able to successfully build relationships with overseas vintage wholesalers online, resulting in our being able to order stock during what has become the busiest period for our business to date.”
“We were fortunate enough to grow significantly during COVID-19, as our product was relevant to consumers who were forced into lockdowns and adapting to working from home,” adds Reuben. “Investing in online marketing tools like Facebook Advertising and Instagram Shopping helped us grow our presence outside of Adelaide, with a big surge in traffic coming not only from other parts of Australia, but also New Zealand, Canada and Singapore.”
When asked about advice for other business owners, Stephanie says, “My biggest advice is to pause and acknowledge your business achievements regularly. You can get so caught up in looking forward and overwhelmed by the growth journey ahead that it’s easy lose sight of how much you’ve already done.”
Oreon Partners’ role in the business journey
The couple has been a client of the firm for about two years but were “old friends” of Oreon accountant Chanel Saleh. Stephanie and Reuben were seeking help from a young accountant who understood their brand and what they were all about, since vintage clothing has become a major trend among young people in the last few years.
As new business owners, the thought of managing finances and accounting was daunting to the couple. The Oreon team has been instrumental in helping them understand and meet tax and compliance obligations, get onto Xero and prepare cash flow forecasts so they had the financial confidence to open their retail store. As the business has grown, they’ve also started to explore different structures and tax minimisation strategies.
“Chanel has made every step stress free, provided us with the tools to manage our financial reporting, and allowed us to develop greater understanding and confidence,” says Reuben. “Our partnership with Oreon Partners is collaborative, which we truly appreciate.”
“Efficient communication and trust are core values for us, which we’ve experienced working with Chanel,” explains Stephanie. “She always provides sound advice and answers all our queries without judgment.”
Future of the business
Looking ahead, the couple plans to continue the business’ growth and develop an even larger online presence.
“Opening a retail store was a goal we’d been working on for over two years,” says Reuben, “so now that it’s open, we can begin to scale up our online business, which we’re excited about.”
Learn more about the couple and their business by visiting the Room on Fire website.