Meet Del Hylton, owner of http://www.myspace.com/setthetable of Orland, Florida.
Tell us a bit about your business, Set the Table.
Thank you for asking me about my business, Set The Table–Vintage Tableware and Linens. Selling vintage (and some antique) china, crystal, silver flatware and linens on the http://www.eBay.com site has proven to be a satisfying second career for me. Specifically, I sell to anyone interested in my particular collections. Personally, I am an Anglophile, that is, I prefer everything English, due to my family background. Professionally, I prefer whatever the customer prefers. Set The Table’s mission would be to “preserve the past” and to keep such household treasures circulating as long as possible. Quoting from The Fusionalists web site: “We are the keepers of things from the past…”
When did your interest in vintage tableware and linens start?
I was born into the love of “old stuff,” and am very proud of my southern heritage, being born and raised in historic Mobile, Alabama. My aunt valued the few pieces of cut lead crystal from my grandmother’s housewares, the only pieces saved from a storage shed. My mother, on the other hand, was a total 1950s devotee. So, in my 1950s childhood home, we had the pink flocked Christmas tree, and in my aunt’s home, she had furniture and china which reflected the “old days.” I should mention that my grandfather, an interpreter in China in the late 1880s, was originally from London, England. My grandmother, a Baptist missionary in China, was originally from Ft. Gaines, Georgia. They met and married while in China.
When did that interest transform into your own business and how did that come about?
In the late 70s, I wanted to start a bakery, selling my custom decorated cakes. My Italian mother-in-law just laughed at the idea, so I accepted that. In the early 90s I wanted to open a muffin/dessert/tea shop, and did a lot of research into the food side of the business. I consulted with a S.C.O.R.E. person, and he totally discouraged the idea. A month later, a muffin/dessert shop opened in the exact location I was considering. Set The Table was created in 2005, when I realized that my elderly mother’s home caregiver even had her own business. She was making/catering food for friends. I asked her as many questions as I could think of, not knowing anything about starting a business. I knew that I already had an incredible amount of family and purchased vintage tableware and linens. My score on eBay was 100%! To shorten this very long story, I leased one room in a neighborhood 1920s home-turned-professional building, from a lawyer and her psychologist husband. At the same time, I started the process of getting the rights to use “Set The Table–Vintage Tableware and Linens, LLC” as my business name. You can’t do anything without a business name first here in Florida.
I see that you sell from your home in Orlando, Florida. What are the benefits and disadvantages to working directly from home?
Selling from home far surpasses selling in a stand-alone shop, which I opened originally. One of my 3 bedrooms is devoted specifically to packing/shipping my “treasures.” My computer work area is set up so that I can conveniently communicate with buyers/shoppers, print shipping labels, and do research on items which I may possibly list for sale. At the same time, as I am working in my den, I can watch my favorite English BBCAmerica shows while I work at my listing and selling. My inventory is displayed/stored all over my living room, dining room, and sun room, although some is stored in my “shipping” room. This allows me to rotate items when needed, to photograph items in a home setting, and to enjoy looking at all the things I love. Honestly, sometimes I walk through my house, take an item off a shelf or wall, and list it for sale. I am just that random. There is much emotion in my choices.
There is no disadvantage to working directly from home, as I have a full-time career as a life-long professional educator and my children are grown. Living so close to a post office, and being able to have items picked up from home for shipping makes the process very easy for me.
What made you decide to start selling online and take your business one step further?
The cost of keeping a shop open was prohibitive for me, as I could only be open during the evenings and the weekends during the school year.
Where do you find your vintage treasures?
I find my vintage treasures from my extensive collections I have purchased or been given by relatives. I have had no need to look for more items as I have enough to last for many years.
What advice do you have for those interested in starting a business selling vintage items?
That is a hard question. I am not a yard sale person, so I do not go looking for more treasures. I would say that if you are going to start a business, start online first. You must, MUST, be willing to be a people person, if you are not one now. A space will be required for packing, shipping, photographing, and working online. OPEN YOUR OWN BUSINESS CHECKING ACCOUNT AT A NEARBY BANK. Don’t shut yourself away from your normal activities or family just to run your business. Be open to new knowledge and helpful comments from your customers. Do not listen to family/friends/busybodies who will discourage you or demand that you make a profit to justify what you are doing. If you are passionate and driven to do what you love, you will have a measure of success.
What is the most satisfying thing about your business?
Truly, the most satsifying thing about my business has to be the knowledge that someone else recognizes the value of saving our past. What qualities do you think you need in order to manage a home-run business successfully? I would say organization is required, but I am hardly organized. I did recognize the need, the requirement, of specific areas to complete one’s transactions from beginning to end. I have known some sellers who adore the selling but hate the shipping, so they put this part off, which in turn puts the customer off. Identify the whole process, and be sure you know what steps will be needed. Getting paid is but a tiny part of running your own home business, believe me. Being flexible and accommodating also helps in selling online. Keeping your business money separate from any household/family money with a separate business bank account, is essential.
Anything else you’d like to share with us about you and your business?
I have a goal of continuing Set The Table long into my retirement years, and I hope that you will contact me if you have questions and/or comments concerning my experiences. My thanks go to Marjorie Cunningham for asking me to participate in this interview. I’d also like to express my gratitude to www.myspace.com, which made it possible to navigate the web to specifically find others who had the same interests in vintage as I had.
You can find more info and photos of Del’s inventory at Set The Table – Vintage Tableware & Linens.