This is part of a series of profiles showcasing the talented entrepreneurs of ShopHER, a pop-up incubator for women-owned small businesses in the DC Metro Region. This week we talked to Ebony McMillian, owner of Bermuda Triangle Vintage Clothes, a vintage clothing and accessories brand.
What is the name of your business and what kind of products do you sell?
The name of my brand is Bermuda Triangle Vintage Clothes. I sell women’s vintage clothing and accessories.
What inspired you to start your business?
I started my business during my senior year of college, and it grew from my collection of vintage clothes. I realized that I had an eye for fashion, and I was good at sourcing unique pieces; and I saw that people like vintage clothes, and I wanted to share my love for vintage with others.
What is it about vintage clothing that you like the most?
I am also a scientist, so I like the idea of sustainability and being able to recycle and reuse clothing. I like that it’s environmentally friendly. I’m a part of the sustainable fashion world which is really big now because it helps the environment. I really like the idea that you can give these pieces a new life. Instead of throwing them away, selling vintage clothing allows them to go to a new home. It’s like walking in another person’s shoes, and you can continue the life of a piece.
Is there anyone you look up to as inspiration or motivation?
I’m inspired by Dapper Dan. He would take pieces and reinvent them into new outfits for stars and hip-hop artists. His career has continued to grow, so I think he’s a good inspiration in breaking down walls and barriers to make a name for himself in the fashion industry. I’m also really inspired by art. Growing up, I always took art classes and went to art camps, so designing things, drawing, and painting were part of me. Now, seeing that come full circle and being able to incorporate my artistic side into my brand and business is amazing. One of the things that makes Bermuda Triangle a unique vintage brand is that I not only offer vintage clothes, but I paint, upcycle and rework vintage pieces to give them more style and uniqueness. I always say that Bermuda Triangle is the intersection of creativity, design, and vintage.
How has ShopHER helped your business?
ShopHER has been a blessing. The opportunity to participate in ShopHER was perfect timing. I usually join in pop-ups, and the pandemic shuts all of that down. When a friend told me about it, I jumped at the idea. My business has been going strong since about 2011. Each year my business has continued to grow so that I can do more events and pop-ups. I feel like I’m becoming a household name for vintage clothes in DC. ShopHER is another stepping stone for me because it gave me the experience of having my own retail space. It provides me with a home store. Pop-ups are fun, but having a store has been such a great experience. Being a part of ShopHER has also provided me with business classes and opportunities to build my business as a whole. Especially during the pandemic, there weren’t many avenues to sell products, and ShopHER provided a space where I didn’t have to pay rent. You don’t come across opportunities like that, especially in DC. ShopHER has built my business and all of the vendors at the store. It has allowed us to broaden our customer base and reach a customer base that we wouldn’t have been able to outside of ShopHER. It gave us a lot of exposure.
How did you start your business?
My business started from my collection of vintage clothing and thrifting. My dad has always been an avid thrifter and collector, so it started there. I had a friend build my website, and another friend was my model. Then I started selling at Eastern Market, and everything took off from there. I researched how to get a business license and get an LLC. I knew that I had great products, and people loved my variety. I try to select fun vintage items that can be incorporated into your everyday style.
What advice would you give any other women who want to start their own business?
Find something that you are passionate about, something that you love, keeping you motivated. That way, you can enjoy putting time and energy into it because you will have to put a lot of effort into it. If you don’t love what you do, it will be taxing and not enjoyable. There are many opportunities to build a business and many free resources like grants and services to help you get your foot off the ground. So, go for it if you have an idea. It doesn’t matter how small or insignificant you might think it is. There’s someone who will love your product. You have to find your market or your niche.
Any advice for women of color starting a business?
Do it and jump out there! The world needs our businesses. Now is a great time because our contributions are being recognized more and getting more spotlight. We also need more representation out there. We need to be at the forefront of every industry. We have the talent, and we just haven’t had the opportunity. I say grind. Get out there and grind every day. Even if you’re a small business, there’s a lane for everyone.
Where do you want to be in 5-10 years?
I want to be the black Martha Stewart. I say that because she has many products and her hand in many different things. I want to do the same, to have my hand in various areas and have it all come together to make sense for my brand. I’m really into art and fashion, which can take me to the next level. I would love to create a collection for big brands like Nike or create my line of hand-painted vintage purses. I want to be a household name for vintage clothing so that everyone knows to go to Bermuda Triangle for their vintage needs. My ultimate goal for Bermuda Triangle is to be the top vintage brand in the prop industry for stylists, films, and TV production to get all things vintage!
Briana Shelton, MPE Intern at NCRC
Photo courtesy of Ebony McMillian