Rags To Riches

Success In Store

Mary Jane Nesbitt, 51, opened her consignment clothing shop, Nine Lives, in Los Gatos, an upscale community in California's Silicon Valley, in February 1993. Before opening the shop, Nesbitt had worked for many years in the legal department of a commercial real estate brokerage. Her decision to leap from employee to entrepreneur came during a soul-searching walk with her husband, David Butcher.

"I was unhappy and frustrated," Nesbitt recalls. "We had talked about the possibility of my opening a consignment shop for maybe six months. We got to this end of town, and my husband pointed across the park and said, `Look, that space is for rent. This is it. You're doing it.' "

The storefront to which Butcher pointed is ideal for a consignment shop, Nesbitt says, because there's plenty of regular foot traffic. The next-door neighbors are a bakery and a dry cleaner. Down the block is a U.S. Post Office, and across the street is a park where community functions are held.

Nesbitt started the business by taking $17,000 out of her retirement plan to cover initial lease costs, racks, hangers, shelves, bags, printing costs, lighting and other necessities. Her husband, a Webmaster for a large networking company, wrote the shop's custom financial and inventory management software.

Nine Lives grossed $180,000 last year. More important, Nesbitt is doing something she loves: "My satisfaction in life is so much greater."

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This article was originally published in the May 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Rags To Riches.

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