What is your full name, title, and business name?
Jesse Johnson | Founder/Director | STORE 5a (www.STORE5a.com)
Give us a summary of your business in 200 words or less.
At STORE 5a we buy, sell and consign luxury jewelry, watches, and handbags. Each piece is carefully authenticated, fully refurbished, and appraised before being listed for sale. It’s a great way for people to find one-of-a-kind pieces and designer goods at up to 50% off original retail.
How did the idea for your business come about?
To be honest, I always thought I would be a musician. In college I was playing in a band and while we were in the process of recording a few tracks, the producer began to teach me about vintage guitars. I immediately fell in love with them, and started learning what makes each piece collectable. I am always passionate about vintage guitars and growing up as a part of the Diamond Cellar family, I was inspired to bring the same idea into the luxury jewelry industry. Many people have been searching for one of a kind piece, irreplaceable pieces to collect, and I was able to combine both of my passions into my business by giving all the beautiful pieces a second life at STORE 5a.
Since music doesn’t always pay the bills, I started buying and selling guitars online. To make a long story short, my family has always been in the jewelry industry and I started to see how vintage guitars and jewelry share a lot of commonalities.
What was the turning point for your business? Was there a moment you knew you had something special?
I’ll never forget one day when I was helping a customer and she told me that she had her alarm set for our New & Noteworthy product drop every week. I thought she was joking and laughed and she corrected me and explained that her and her friends had their alarms set for 5pm every Thursday. It turns out they made a ritual of pouring a glass of wine and shopping our website online. That was the first time I started to realize how much people truly enjoyed the thrill of constantly seeing new products and trying to be the first to get them.
What does it mean to you to be an entrepreneur and business owner?
This is an interesting question. As I mentioned, I never had an epiphany like “this is the business I need to get into!” It was this slow transition of me realizing that what I was doing with guitars could work for other products. Each step happened in a very organic manner. Because of this, when I look back, there are some moments where I got so excited over little wins. As I have learned more about the industry that we operate in and how other businesses grow, I realize that these were very small victories. But, being so naive, these felt like major victories and really kept me going. While I am happy with how we have grown and where we are today, I hope that as I continue to grow, 5 years from now I look back and have the same feeling.
I’m overseas in Spain right now getting my MBA and it’s interesting because a lot of the lessons I have learned in my own experiences match what the professors are teaching. In my opinion, anyone can be an entrepreneur. It’s not about being the smartest, it’s about listening to customers and being willing to pivot when you find a pain point that you or your business can address. There are huge ups and downs, but you just need to push through.
What does the city of Columbus mean to your business?
Columbus is incredible.
Again, I am overseas right now in Madrid, and I think it took me leaving Columbus to see how special it is. As a city it has so many things going for it. The size of the city, the vibe it has, the talent it is attracting; all this is making for a wonderful place to create and build a business. Most importantly, the people are top notch. From meeting with other business leaders to customers who are willing to support a new store/concept, this city has been instrumental to growth of both me and my business.
Are you from Columbus? If not, please explain what brought you to here and ultimately what made you stay.
Proud to say that I was born and raised here!
What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to anyone wanting to start a business?
Anyone who wants to accomplish anything whether it be professional or personal, needs to find/build a community. It takes work to find and maintain those relationships, but it’s so important. There have been so many points in my life where I don’t know what to do, or even what the right question is. But I was fortunate enough to meet some really incredible business leaders. I can think of a few people that I now consider mentors of mine and they have really helped shape who I am and in some ways become a North Star.
What do you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before starting your business?
Hahaha, as I mentioned earlier, there is a lot that I am glad I did not know.
But, hindsight, there are always a million things you wish you knew. If I had to pick something, I wish I knew how much easier it was to have tough conversations early. Problems don’t disappear naturally and usually only get more complex. Lol, I’ve heard it’s best to address things as quickly as possible. As you can tell, this is still something I am working on.
What’s the most challenging part of your business (i.e, what keeps you up at night)?
The company is at an interesting point in time. As we are looking to expand into other cities, we are realizing some operational challenges that will arise due to the distance. Because each piece we buy has to be authenticated, refurbished, appraised and photographed, it’s been a challenge to figure out how to do this at scale. In the end, I believe it’s gonna require a blend of changes to our inventory process and the adaptation of new technologies.
What is something you’re working on now that you’re very excited about?
As a Columbus business, We have gained a large number of loyal local customers and we really appreciate their support throughout the years. We are very excited to explore new marketing opportunities by creating a loyalty program to further attract, engage and reward customers. The circular economy is a driver of the luxury resale, and as more and more people care for sustainability, we are very excited to create a community where customers can shop, sell, consign and trade with us for a lifetime.
With our remarkable growth over the last 6 years, we are also expanding our presence to various locations in the U.S. We are very excited to announce that we are opening a new store in Nashville, Tennessee this summer. We invite you to celebrate with us and can’t wait to welcome our clients from Nashville!
What form of marketing is the most valuable for you?
We believe that word of mouth is the most organic and valuable form of marketing. As a brand that delivers an authentic luxury experience to all of our clients, we prioritize our customers’ experience and word of mouth is the form of marketing that people trust the most compared to all others marketing channels.
We really cherish the fact that each one of our customers reward themselves or celebrate important moments of their lives with our one of a kind piece, so we really would like to capture those valuable moments. My team and I are currently planning to leverage influencer marketing, as well as word of mouth marketing tools on Shopify to engage an online community where we reward and delight our current followers and inspire new followers.
Who is your best Columbus resource (accountant, lawyer, marketer, etc.)? Please provide name and business name so we can give them credit!
I joined EO a few years back and have really got a lot out of it. It’s not necessarily a Columbus thing, but the Columbus chapter has been amazing. Again, I think anyone who wants to build a business or even just continue to push themselves professionally needs to surround themselves with a strong community of leaders and mentors.
Where do you see your business in the next 10 years?
As our business is rapidly growing, STORE 5a will continue to grow as a top destination for pre-owned luxury where our customers find the best and one of a kind pieces that they will not find elsewhere. STORE 5a will continue to grow its client base where customers find a sense of belonging by celebrating the piece they love – whether is finding their pre-loved pieces a new home, or to purchase their favorite designer brand watches, jewelry, or handbags all in one place.
We will continue building a community that embraces sustainable luxury and positive impacts and invite more people to join STORE 5a’s selling and buying “circle” and to celebrate the positive impact we make together.
What’s one component of entrepreneurship that’s much different than what most people think?
I think a lot of people have this perception that entrepreneurship is something very black or white. Either you are dropping out of college, leaving your job, or refinancing your home to start a project, or you are destined to work a corporate role. From my experience, this just hasn’t been the case. I see it as more of a mindset. As such, I have seen people who have corporate roles who are very entrepreneurial in their thinking and approach. On the flip side, I’ve also seen a lot of people who are starting their own companies who are still maintaining their 9-5 in the interim.
If you had to tell a visitor one thing to do/see/eat in Columbus, what would it be?
If they like to be out and about, the perfect day consists of running or biking the Scioto trail, then heading to the climbing wall at the Audubon and finishing the day with a Thai burrito and chocolate chip cookie at North Star.