Husband and wife team R. Christopher & TaNisha Prater and their business partner Jessica Glen, all started out in different professions before their foray into entrepreneurship. Their backgrounds, ranging from healthcare to hospitality, led to feelings of discontentment as they were ready to embark on something new. Their joint venture THRIFT on the AVE solved that problem, providing them a new, exciting career and offering thrifty Detroiters a nontraditional, upscale resale experience.
Name: R. Christopher Prater, TaNisha Prater & Jessica Glen (Not pictured)
Venture: THRIFT On The AVE
Detroit Since: Native Detroiters (12 Years in Atlanta, Been home for 3 years)
How did you start out in your career?
I (Christopher) began my professional career in the hospitality field with a specialization in hotel restaurant management. I moved into the electronic payments industry where I owned my own merchant services company. TaNisha’s spent the last decade in the public health sector. Jessica graduated from U of M, and was a midwife that specialized in women and children’s health services.
Photography by Khaaliq Thomas
Tell us about your business venture.
THRIFT on the AVE is a unique model that blends traditional consignment, with the upscale curated resale.
How did you come up with the idea for your business?
We began as a pop up shop along Livernois Ave with Revolve Detroit back in September 2013. We wanted to offer the market an enhanced version of resale. The finest appointments, in a clean, well maintained environment that is in line with what you would expect from any high end retailer, except with affordable pricing. We moved from Livernois, which is the original “Ave” to Cass Ave in December 2013.
When did you first realize you wanted to become an entrepreneur?
We have always had the entrepreneur spirit. It comes from a feeling of discontentment with the status quo. Business is simple. Find a problem and solve it. We saw that thrift and resale stores weren’t always befitting and reflect the appointments that the new thrifter and resale shopper expect. Shopping resale is no longer a matter of economics. Our consumers shop resale because they recognize the virtues of a thrifty lifestyle and appreciate high quality and not because they can’t afford retail. Because the market serves essentially the same customer, we felt that our store should function no different that a traditional retailer. So in a sense we’re not entrepreneurs, we’re problem solvers.
What advice can you give to young people looking to open up retail business?
This may sound like a Nike commercial, but seriously Just Do It! Some many times we are our own dream killers. Nobody can tell us that we can’t like our own minds can. Yes, be sober, be calculated, be measured, well studied. Couple that up with some brevity and just do it. The worst thing that could happen is that you fail. Provided that you view that as a failure. The reality is that you are in a perpetual state of learning, so you never really fail.
What were your best resources when it came to opening up your business?
Our best resources were and still are our neighbors. Entrepreneurs that have been where we are going. They have steadied us when we were nervous, and gave us sound, relevant business advice based off of market knowledge and not something they read in a book. Know you neighbors. Know your market and the people that exist in your space. Be confident in your product and brand because in that there is no competition.
Why did you decide to open your business in Detroit?
Detroit is the place of our nativity. We could have taken this concept anywhere, but it was important for us to be apart of Detroit’s renaissance by being an active tax paying participant.
Which tools do you find most useful for your business today?
Social media is tantamount is getting our brand message out to the masses. It’s low cost and we can drill down and query so that we can reach our target customer directly. We get real time customer reaction good, bad or indifferent which allows us to be nimble in making corrections. We see the market move in real time and that’s priceless.
What is a typical workday like for you?
Planning, Plotting and Strategizing! It’s important to us to always remain at least a quarter ahead so that we can accurately chart our course. We divide the sourcing up between gender, so TaNisha handles sourcing pieces for our women’s department, lingerie, and eCommerce. I manage the sourcing for the men’s Store. Those items are to be assessed, inventoried, and floor/internet ready within 24 hours of us procuring it.
Best part of owning your own business so far?
It’s something new everyday literally. God has been completely amazing. I hope to never have just one single solitary moment. I want to continue to be surprised everyday, It keeps us motivated to see what a new dawn will bring.
Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?
I like to see us continue to grow as the City of Detroit grows. We have an expansion plan that involves new locations, and possibly a Mobile Thrift Truck, but we’re in no rush. We want to do it right. We’d rather have slow, measured and methodical growth. We want to be around for awhile!
What advice would you give your 20 year old self?
Speed Up, and slow Down! Life is all about balance. Maintaining that prefect temperature and temperament is critical to success. The speed in which you travel will be equal to the amount of life that you enjoy. Goo to fast you miss things, go too slow and the things you need to grab on to will pass you by.
Download Our Free eBook for even more entrepreneurial advice
The Young American Guide To Finding Your Entrepreneurial Passion Written especially for young, aspiring entrepreneurs who work day jobs, live with their ‘rents, or are just stuck in a rut. The 27-page easy-to-digest book is available for sharing, downloading, and printing. Inside you’ll learn hacks for discovering your passion-fueled business and how to research, plan and work on your idea while you balance adulthood. Get it here.