Tired of college and Atlanta and working as a night auditor at a four-star hotel, Charles Roberts returned to his hometown of Detroit about two years ago with an entrepreneurial spirit and very little money.
He worked at an $8 hour janitorial job in Southfield and finally figured a way to raise capital for a vintage online clothing and accessories shop. He knew he wouldn't likely qualify for a bank loan. So he says he sold his cool retro sneaker collection -- 36 pairs -- on eBay for more than $7,000. His Air Jordan 11 shoes fetched the highest price of all the shoes: $420.
This past month, Roberts, 23, launched his ecommerce business, Perennial Merchants Clothing, which sells clothing fashion from the 1980s and 1990s. He uses a warehouse in Southfield at Telegraph and 8 Mile Road to store his goods.
Roberts, who now lives in Farmington Hills, had been attending Martin Luther King High School in Detroit in 2006, at age 16,when he and his mother moved down to Atlanta.
He graduated high school in Atlanta and attended George State University where he studied marketing. While in college, he worked as a night auditor for the Georgian Terrace Hotel in Atlanta.
But he felt the pull of Detroit and returned before he finished college.
At first, when he launched his online business here, his website didn't get much traffic
"The first day, six people came to my site," he said. That pattern went on for a little bit. And there were no sales.
Then he says he turned to social networks, Twitter and Instagram. And he also went on online forums that talked about retro sneakers and hip hop and pumped up his business.
The first day he did the forums, he said, he got 1,236 visits on his website and 15 sales.
"Oh man, that was one of the best days of my life," he recalled. " I thought 'I can actually eat.' I put everything I had in this company."
Today, with the help of online forums and social media, he averages about 600 to 700 visits daily on his site and has sales of about 100 pieces of clothing a week.
His website describes the business this way:
Perennial Merchants is an e-commerce vintage retail clothing company that appreciates and cherishes fashion from the past and incorporates those same esthetics into our company today. Our goal is to provide people with the ability to stand out and express their selves tailoring away from the norms of everyday life. The pieces we present are one of a kind items that have been tucked away for 20 + years just for the opportunity for you to wear it with a new meaning and demeanor.
He recently made a video to promote his new business. Click here to see the website.