Though her parents often squirmed with worry and her husband occasionally shook his head in disbelief, Jenn Ripley has proved with her Atlanta-based store, Luxe, that you can profit from doing what large retailers like Loehmann's do: sell clothing from such designers as Gucci, Marc Jacobs and Stella McCartney at a discount.
Ripley, 25, started her retail career as a precocious 6year-old, selling a 50¢ ring at a church fair for $1.50. From there, she peddled bric-a-brac to patient antique salesmen in London and flower arrangements at state fairs in her native Connecticut.
After dropping out of the Fashion Institute of Technology, Ripley decided to make a go of overstocked couture at a discount. She got her father to co-sign a 30-day, $30,000 note, which she used to buy 300 chic but so-last-season pieces. Then she resold them on eBay at a 225% profit.
A fledgling business was born in her Brooklyn loft, and by the time Vogue ran a short piece on her venture, Ripley was already receiving phone calls from designer houses eager to unload their wares. In early 2003, after moving to Atlanta with her Georgia-born husband, Ripley opened Luxe, a 5,000-sq.-ft. store in the Buckhead section's posh Miami Circle design district.
With six-figure revenues and a steady stream of customers--from ladies who lunch to college women who crave cheap chic--Ripley has developed her business by throwing special events and selling clothing from up-and-coming designers like Zac Posen, vintage couture from Miami's Sasparilla boutique and costume jewelry. To bolster her national exposure, Ripley is launching an e-commerce site in September.
Says Ken Harvey, Sasparilla's owner: "She has an amazing sense of humor, a lot of business savvy and can wear a really sexy Chloe dress really well. That works for me."