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Community Highlights: Meet Felipe Valdovinos of Vintage Inspired

Today we’d like to introduce you to Felipe Valdovinos.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
Vintage Inspired is a company I started when I was 15 years old back in late 2015. I grew up in the Inland Empire and come from very humble beginnings, a son of two Mexican immigrants. My parents worked minimum wage warehouse jobs their entire lives. My parents raised me in a tiny 1 bedroom apartment so from a young age, I was conscious of our poor financial situation. During my sophomore year of high school, my mom had gotten laid off from her workplace of 25+ years and given that she only spoke Spanish, it was rather difficult for her to find a new job.

At the time I really enjoyed thrift shopping because it was still pretty lowkey and I was always finding cool pieces. At the time I was only 15 years old so I was not able to legally get a part-time job to help out with rent and bills around the house. So I decided to take matters into my own hands and decided I was going to sell some of my extra clothes directly to my friends from high school and I decided I was going to use Instagram to catalog all of the pieces together. So that was pretty much when @Vintage.Inspired was born. A lot of my friends supported by shopping and then I just dove head first thing into this new thing known as “e-commerce”. At the time, it was still in its early stages, most companies still were not leveraging social media to get in front of their customers. I read and watched a ton of YouTube videos revolving around digital marketing and I began the journey of growing Vintage Inspired to where it is today. We were one of the first vintage pages on Instagram so that really helped in terms of scaling. Fast forward to 2017 and I began to host pop-up shops with my cousin/partner Erik Guerrero at the infamous Melrose Trading Post in the Fairfax District. Consistently being there every weekend really helped us network in the Los Angeles area.

Now it is 2018 and I am getting ready to graduate high school and move on to college. After being accepted to UCLA, I decided I was going to attend. With moderate success in the business, I handed over more responsibility to my partner while I focused on my education. I lived in a classic triple dorm room my first two years in college so selling in high volume just wasn’t feasible given the limited space. My partner continued to elevate the business by doing pop-up shops every weekend at various markets or conventions. Then in 2020, when the pandemic happened school went remote. I moved to an off-campus apartment and this finally gave me the flexibility to easier balance school and the business. I had my partner move in with me where we shared a room and began to be more active on our website. We would store and fulfill all orders from our bedroom. After some success on Tiktok, we decided it was time to get a creative studio so we leased our first small 1000 square foot warehouse in Downtown Los Angeles. We finally had a space dedicated for the business. At the same time, during my summers I was doing an internship at legacy marketplace eBay in Digital Marketing. This opportunity really gave me perspective on what it takes to run a large-scale business. I returned to UCLA for my senior year in the Fall of 2021. An opportunity came up to open our shop in Westwood Village right next to In N Out and I ran with it.

Today we have our brick and mortar shop at 950 Gayley Avenue Westwood Village, Los Angeles and we also upgraded to a 1700 square foot creative studio/warehouse in Downtown Los Angeles. We have plans to keep expanding so more on that later.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Because I am only 22 years old and a recent college graduate, most people assume I am a snobby kid who had rich parents to fund my business. However, most people don’t realize I have been working for this the last seven years. I created Vintage Inspired when I was 15 out of desperation and I am blessed enough now to be able to call it my own.

I remember back in high school during my junior year, we hosted the first pop-up shop at a local retro videogames store. I somehow managed to convince the owner to let me have a pop-up shop in her store, bribing her with foot traffic. She agreed to let me put a couple of racks in her store but with one catch, it had to be on a Wednesday. When it came down to the grand pop-up day, a whopping three people showed up. This was definitely discouraging but I refused to take it personal. Needless to say, she never let us do it again, haha.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Vintage Inspired is a boutique retailer for sustainable handpicked curated vintage apparel ranging from the 1970s to the mid-2000s. You can find anything from luxury to sportswear and everything in between. We pride ourselves on always having a great selection of goods, friendly customer service, and the best prices in the industry. I am proud of how far the brand has come despite it really coming from nothing.

One of the things that set us apart from most is our in-house Creative team that is always thinking about what to implement next. Aside from Vintage Inspired, I am also a co-founder of a web3 startup company known as Metaswap. We are essentially an in-house minting engine software currently leveraging Hedera Hashgraph technology to power our marketplace of non-fungible tokens. Metaswap will help advance Vintage Inspired by blending the worlds of fashion + technology. Vintage Inspired apparel will soon become tokenized and we are also building out a Virtual Reality e-commerce shopping experience.

Have you learned any interesting or important lessons due to the Covid-19 Crisis?
The pandemic only further accelerated e-commerce adoption. We saw some of our best sales months throughout the pandemic. This was probably because people were bored at home and saving money in the process by not being able to go outside. Thankfully we did not have our brick and mortar store throughout the pandemic so we never had to deal with the headache of paying rent for a business that isn’t generating revenue.

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Image Credits

Headshot: Instagram @grantwild_ White Background Product Shot: Instagram @explicitconfidence

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