Navigating the Resale Industry: Story Behind Whiskey Kiss Brands

Tracy Shafran, Founder of Whiskey Kiss Brands LLC, USA 

Tracy Shafran is a registered nurse turned CEO who fell in love with entrepreneurship and the resale industry. She has always loved fashion and wanted to find ways to express her creativity. This led her to create Whiskey Kiss Brands, home to Whiskey Kiss Boutique, The Luxury Therapist and The Community Closet.

Following the previous developers’ unsuccessful attempts to handle the Luxury Therapist project, the Cyfrania team eagerly embraced a new challenge and joined Tracy on her entrepreneurial journey, filled with both triumphs and setbacks.

During our interview with Tracy, we delved into the backstory of Whiskey Kiss Brands, gained insight into her experiences collaborating with the developers, and discovered her level of satisfaction with the outcomes attained.

Luxury Therapist

The Luxury Therapist by Whiskey Kiss is an e-commerce website specializing in the resale of authentic luxury goods and trendy boutique clothing, shoes, and accessories. The majority of the listings consist of brand-new items purchased directly from the brands or their authorized dealers, guaranteeing their authenticity. The pre-owned inventory undergoes a rigorous inspection and authentication process by a reputable third-party service.

How It All Started 

What’s the background story of Whiskey Kiss Brands?

I am a nurse. I did not go to school for business. This was something that just originated from me wanting to start something different during the pandemic. And so essentially, I started reselling clothing and shoes and accessories out of my own closet, which then snowballed into more of a business.

I started manually reselling from my home at the end of 2019. And from there it grew into niche goods, which brings me to fast forwarding through sort of figuring out all the trials and tribulations of how I wanted to set up the business where I was going to get inventory from.

I ended up collaborating with a business based out of Europe that specializes in luxury goods, which is where my interests lie. So this small little reselling operation that I had going on turned into more of a bigger business in collaboration with this supplier based out of Europe. In doing so and gaining access to such a vast inventory, I needed a way to manage that inventory. 

Initially you wanted to launch a bridal boutique. What inspired you to do that?

So my best friend got married. I was helping her pick out her wedding dress and go through the different vendors. And I was like, “This could be so much better. There could be much better options here than what we’ve been dealing with.” I was at home and wasn’t traveling, so I decided to start an online business and see how it goes. That’s really just how it started. My goal was to have this bridal boutique. But it didn’t pan out for me. 

I got a rude awakening of how difficult it is to start an e-commerce business, especially if you have no experience with advertising and setting up a website. And so that kind of deflated very quickly. I also like a challenge, and I’m very quick to ask if something’s not working, and what’s the next thing that we can do or try. So that’s how I launched from that. 

I then discovered the Poshmark marketplace and realized I could resell pre-owned clothing and that there was a huge opportunity in the market for that. I realized pretty quickly after starting doing that, “Hey, this could be a real business!” And so that’s where the resale aspect and the sustainability aspect came in. And from there I just continued researching and finding what was desirable in the marketplace and where I could purchase from and what vendors were out there, which brought me to the luxury goods and developing what we’re doing now.

How It Is Going 

You have several websites now. How do you cope with managing them?

The Whiskey Kiss business is what I started with. Now I also have the Luxury Therapist, which is really what my focus is on. 

So as far as managing that, I’m kind of in survival mode, to be honest with you. It’s a lot of work. So I’m just doing the best that I can to manage it all. But I’m learning as I go that sometimes less is more. And I’ve really focused on luxury goods. And I think that’s probably where the business is going to grow from at this point. The Whiskey Kiss Brand is great. I’m continuing. I have our in-person pre-owned inventory that we’re still managing and listing. But as far as the biggest opportunity for growth, it’s going to be in our luxury goods business.

How many items do you have?

It depends if you’re looking at individual separate listings; we’re looking at anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000. But then when you start to talk about variants and quantities, it gets into 40,000 to 100,000 different products. So there’s no way to do that manually. 

In gaining access to this inventory, it opened up some opportunities with marketplaces, initially a marketplace called Tradesy, which unfortunately no longer exists. But that was my first enterprise collaboration with a marketplace. And when I did that, I needed a way to integrate with them through an API. And so that’s when I hired my first developer. 

In Search of the Right Developers 

How did you choose your first developer?

It was a burning process. I searched for some developers through Upwork, through Fiverr. Part of the struggle for me, in being a small business, still working a full time job in addition to trying to grow a business, has been finding developers and companies to work with that were within my budget. So that was probably one of the biggest challenges for me. I didn’t have $50,000 of a budget to invest into, like some widespread software that they were going to build for me. 

I started working with this first developer based out of England and the developer that he worked with. I worked with them for over a year. They kind of grew with me when we branched out into our second marketplace, which was Poshmark. They told me that they were capable of doing the work for that, that it would be much simpler than the first integration that we did because they were essentially just redoing the same work and just making it work for this other marketplace, while what was supposed to be a 30 to 60 day time frame ended up taking six months. And the finished product was still unreliable. 

Then you decided to look for other developers?

So that’s where I came to hire my second developer, which was US based. I found them on Upwork. But again, they bit off more than they could chew. They took on much more than they could handle. What’s been the issue is transitioning between developers, it’s very hard to find a company or a developer that’s willing to take on someone else’s work. And so that’s why I was so grateful to work with you guys, because they really just sort of picked up where the last developer left off and improved upon it.

Can you describe your experience with the Cyfrania team?

You guys are actually my third development company that I’m working with now. The first two developers that I worked with, and I had a good relationship with them, thought that they were able to handle or manage the project. But they did not have the skill set or ability to do so. We would run into issues. The work that was done just ended up not being reliable. And there was a lot of money spent, unfortunately, in developing solutions that ended up just giving me more problems than they fixed.

Do Cyfrania developers differ from previous specialists you’ve worked with?

Initially, I was really just trying to find someone to take over from my last developers that had gotten in over their head and couldn’t handle what my requests were. I noticed right off the bat that there was a difference: that your company was very professional in the way that they handled everything. They were very quick to communicate, and ask questions. They took a full assessment of the situation. That impressed me and gave me a little bit more confidence in working with the team right off the bat. It was something that was a big complaint that I had working with other developers and that I felt like I was always the one having to reach out and follow up to see where they were on a task. 

So working with you, I don’t have to worry about the team just suddenly disappearing and not answering me. And if there’s an issue, I know that they’ll address it. So right off the bat, I just felt a lot more at ease and knew that they would do their best to take on what they were managing. It’s been great. I know that anytime that there’s an issue, I can reach out, and they’ll really work to try to understand it and then fix it if possible, and give me their honest opinion as well about what the possibility is.

Are you satisfied with the work done by Cyfrania developers so far?

So far the problem that they solved with the price dropping has been working very, very well. So I’m very happy about that. That was a win. So now we just need to make sure that we can get all the inventory synced and working. I mean, essentially, once this is up and running, and I have a little bit of time to recoup the funds, obviously, as I mentioned, I have other platforms that I need integration with. I’m hoping to continue growing and have this work translated to the different marketplaces that we sell on. But it’s great.

In summary, Cyfrania has taken on a project that really no other developer or none that was in my budget would be willing to touch. And despite the multiple barriers, they were able to develop a quality solution for me.

I was very happy to land on working with this company. So far, everything that they’ve brought to me has been reliable, and they’ve been transparent as far as any barriers that we’ve had. And it’s been very helpful for me so far.

Challenges and Successes 

What challenges did you face while curating these pre-owned items?

I think there are multiple challenges. There are challenges within the supply, finding reliable suppliers and vendors. With pre-owned, there’s a much bigger margin for error because you’re dealing with flaws and items that are not quite what you thought they were going to be purchasing unmanifested inventory. So it’s sort of a mystery with what you’re going to get. 

The biggest logistics issue is just the manpower of having to go through and process that inventory, make sure it’s clean and that there are no flaws, and that if there are flaws that were describing them to the buyer. So I think the biggest constraint with that is really manpower and time. That’s why I was excited about the luxury, the newest tag luxury goods, that were selling because that inventory has already been processed for us. So as far as the logistics of having to house the inventory and list it, and process it, that’s all been done for us. And really what I can focus on with that is getting it up and getting it for sale on the various marketplaces. 

How do you ensure that the website provides an engaging and seamless shopping experience for your customers across these various marketplace platforms?

So the Whiskey Kiss website right now is a work in progress. We actually have not been using Shopify for the pre-owned luxury goods or the pre-owned goods at all. That website is more so, I had some graphic tee suppliers, and we were doing more like boutique inventory. For the most part, the way that we manage that inventory is through a software called Vendoo, where all the products are manually listed. The photos get uploaded and then that gets manually cross-posted across the different marketplaces. 

As far as where your company has really collaborated with us is more on the luxury goods side, which is the We have an integration with our vendor through Shopify that allows us to make sure that the inventory is up-to-date and listed for sale that way. But as far as what your company has helped me with is getting that inventory listed for sale and getting the API set up with the Grailed marketplace, which is one of the marketplaces that we sell on. 

How do you choose these marketplaces?

I already have a few marketplaces that I sell on, I’m established on that I’m really just looking to improve the process for. But other than that, you have access to a certain number of marketplaces that are within the country and some are better than others. And you don’t know until you try, until you list the products for sale to see how they’re going to do on the marketplace. So, I have a handful of marketplaces that I have those good relationships with that want my inventory and that are willing to provide us the API to sync with them. 

For instance, there’s a marketplace called Vestiaire, which acquired the Tradesy marketplace where I initially sold. And at that time, even though we had done all this work to launch with Tradesy, Vestiaire said that because my products were brand new, and they cater to pre-owned and vintage inventory, that they didn’t want to continue an integration with us. 

That was our first sort of roadblock. We had done all this work for the marketplace, and then they transitioned and didn’t want to work with large sellers. I mean, it’s really just a matter of what ones are available and have the capabilities of working with a business seller because a lot of the marketplaces are geared to more casual sellers. People that are just selling their own goods out of their home, which is how I started. 

Do you know your competitors in your field? 

I don’t look at them. Honestly, I don’t really look at them as competitors because I feel like there’s so much room for growth in this industry. And what I’ve found, particularly from the resale industry, is that it’s more of a community of people all trying to do the same thing with the same goals. And at the end of the day, with entrepreneurship and business, I think the goal is freedom from working a job that maybe they don’t love or just having that ability to be flexible with their time. 

So I’ve found that particularly on the resale side of things. And when I say resale, I mean overstock goods and goods that are not direct to retail, which is really what this industry is. Even though the luxury goods we sell are new with tags, they’re all coming from designers that are trying to unload their unsold inventory. So we’re still sustainable, and we’re still sort of recycling goods that otherwise will be destroyed. And so there’s a real community there with people that are in that industry. So I’m aware of our competition. I think there are some companies that are doing it really well that I look up to, and I aspire to sort of emulate what they’re doing. But I think there’s space for everyone to be able to do that and do that well. 

Plans for Future 

What will Whiskey Kiss Brands be like in ten years?

What I would like to do, and something that I’m actually working on behind the scenes is opening up the ability to offer the goods that we sell wholesale to other sellers within the US. So there’s a big opportunity for that. Being that we have a relationship with our European suppliers, I’d like to really grow that and be able to then offer that to sellers in the US and in addition to growing some relationships with some vendors overseas of pre-owned goods as well. So right now we are focusing on developing relationships with customers. But in the future, I’d like to open up a business-to-business model and really expand upon that.

Do you have this mark for yourself when you can say, “Okay, now I can quit my job, and I totally can immerse myself into Whiskey Kiss Brands?”

I’ve thought a lot about this. Because we’re now four years in, there’s been times when I’ve thought that would be possible. And then very quickly, whether it’s the economy or the way that I’m doing things, or other variables have changed where that’s quickly gotten deflated. So we’ve kind of built-up and sales have been great. And then unfortunately in this industry, it’s very much up and down, until you’re able to gain enough momentum where that’s not the case. 

So, I would have to see at least 2 to 3 years of gross sales somewhere in the $250,000 to $500,000 range. Our profit margin is much less than that. But I would need to replace my income in order to be able to confidently make that transition. But it’s possible. We’ll see. I’m working hard and, hopefully, that will be the reality one day. 

What are your future plans for the website? 

So right now we have a little bit of troubleshooting to do. There are some products that are missing from being published because of Grailed quirks, it’s really not anything against developer’s work. It’s on the marketplace’s side. Because of the limitations, there are some products that are missing from being published. So we’re troubleshooting that right now. Once that’s done and everything’s up and running, we’ll be able to hopefully say that the Grailed portion of the project is done. 

Are you planning to implement new features? 

There are a couple of features that the developer and I had discussed that I’d like to see implemented so that I have a little bit more control over how things are published, specifically brands and sizes. I have to translate the size that my vendor supplies to the size that the marketplace wants to see and make that as correct as possible, which it’s not always 100%, but make that as close as possible so that the European size reflects what US buyers would be looking for. 

Also, the brands are not always listed the same way. The spelling is usually the same, but sometimes, for instance, if you have Christian Louboutin brand, the marketplace might list that as Louboutin. I have to be able to translate that so that everything is published the correct way. What I would like to see is a feature where I’m able to do that easily within the app that they built. 

Once we have that up and running, the next step is to literally copy the same exact work but make it work for Poshmark, which is another marketplace that I’m working on. So once we can do that we can continue to grow from there. There are other marketplaces that I have the opportunity to work with, so all of the work that’s been done we just have to adjust and make it work for the other marketplaces with what their expectations are.

Do you have any pieces of advice for other businesses? 

I would just say not to get discouraged because there’s going to be a lot of different roadblocks, and you just have to keep the mindset that if you don’t understand how to do something now, it doesn’t mean that you can’t learn how to do it and be successful at it. So I think just being persistent and being willing to change if something is not working.

I’m really glad that our company can be a part of your journey, and we can help you. 

I appreciate that. The help is very much needed, obviously.

Read more details about the Luxury Therapist project in our portfolio.