At 22, Laura Johns held her first large scale consignment sale on Green Street in Conyers with 18 people putting their wares up for purchase. A disappointed Johns earned only $100 from the sale but vowed to make it a more profitable event next time.
Three years and several consignment sales later, Johns is close to achieving her goal of running the largest consignment sale in Georgia. Beginning Sept. 26, the Tykes, Tots and Teens 2009 Fall Consignment Sale will offer thousands of items from as many as 700 consignors at the Georgia International Horse Park.
"When I do something, I go all out," said Johns, who's been known to pull all-nighters and eat only bananas and granola bars during the sales.
This year's Tykes, Tots and Teens Fall Consignment Sale, which takes place from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 26 through Oct. 3 at the 30,000-square-foot Horse Park Exhibition Center, offers infant, child, teen and maternity clothing; shoes; indoor and outdoor play equipment such as play houses, bikes, sandboxes and swings; children's furniture including cribs, gliders, dressers, bookcases and desks; DVDs, CDs and books; youth bedding; toys and baby equipment.
"The most rewarding part is being able to help thousands of families buy the things they need at below bargain prices," said Johns, a Covington resident.
As a child, Johns would accompany her mother to a large consignment sale in Gwinnett County, selling Johns' outgrown clothes and buying items for the upcoming season.
"I remember waking up in the morning about 4 or 5 and waiting in line and rushing to grab all the clothes and try them on. Those were our bargain hunting days," Johns said.
Johns said when she got married and had a daughter of her own, Eris, now 4, she wanted to find a way to "build a future" for herself. While working at Conyers Jewelers and then in the tooling department at Delta, Johns began the consignment sales on the side, teaching herself Web page design, marketing her sales through the site, fliers and word of mouth, and moving her sale from place to place as it grew.
"My learning curve went down with every sale," said Johns, who earned an associate degree in business.
Johns now holds two sales annually, a fall and spring, and earns enough income so that she doesn't need a second job. She also has involved her mother, Joan Coppinger, who contributes merchandise knowledge; her father, Richard Coppinger, who maintains the racks; and husband and business partner Clabion Johns, who has sales experience from running his own business as a bass fishing tournament organizer.
Between her family and about 100 volunteers, who donate their time in exchange for pre-sale shopping time and better deals on items, Johns doesn't employ anyone.
"If I had to hire employees, I couldn't put these sales on," Johns said.
According to Johns, consignors and shoppers get better deals at consignment sales versus consignment shops. Tykes, Tots and Teens consignors keep 70 percent of their sales, volunteers 75 percent. Items that don't sell may either be picked up by the consignors at the end of the sale or donated to charity. About three weeks after the sale, consignors get their checks in the mail.
Last spring's sale, which featured 500 consignors, drew close to 6,000 people, estimates Johns, and this year she expects an increase in attendance because her sale is being held during the same time as the Rockdale Fair at the Horse Park.
Johns said those interested in consigning have until Sept. 23 to sign up on the Web site and make an appointment to drop off their items, which must meet guidelines listed on the site.
So, where does Johns go from here with her massive consignment business?
"My goal is to reach 1,000 consignors and possibly franchise in Georgia and nationwide," Johns said.
To learn more about the sale or to become a consignor, visit www.tykestotsteens.com or call Johns at 678-984-2909.
SideBar: If you go
· What: Tykes, Tots and Teens Fall 2009 Consignment Sale
· When: Sept. 26 through Oct. 3 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
· Where: Georgia International Horse Park's Exhibition Center, 1996 Centennial Olympic Parkway in Conyers
· Cost: Admission is free. Visit www.tykestotsteens.com.