People On The Move - Ryan Stevens
After more than a decade of working as a veterinary technician, Ryan Stevens began dreaming of a better life for him and the countless animals he cared for over the years.
First, he envisioned owning an animal hospital, but it wasn’t feasible due to its massive start-up cost and the fact that he isn’t a licensed veterinarian. So then he imagined owning a high-class animal boarding and training facility, a dream that was more within his reach. Still, he needed to find a way to raise enough money to start the business.
Enter Unique NY Inc., a pre-owned designer handbag and accessory boutique in Annadale that Ryan opened in September.
Although the leap from the pet medical care industry to fashion sales might seem like an unorthodox career change, to Ryan it’s an opportunity to work toward his goal while being in another trade he’s passionate about. “The interest in fashion was always there for me. I haven’t always been a fashionable person, but I’ve been somewhat involved in it with jeans and sneakers,” the 28-year-old Arden Heights resident says.
After Ryan quit his job, he and his father Dan renovated the Unique NY storefront in just 45 days. “It was a grueling couple of weeks,” he says, but credits the fast turnaround of the storefront to the determination and the support he received from his friends and family.
When Unique NY opened on Sept. 17, Ryan’s work environment officially changed from administering emergency treatment to ailing animals to authenticating and selling pre-owned designer bags and accessories from brands like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, Celine, and others.
“I wouldn’t say I was skeptical of the career change,” Ryan says. “I had already quit my job, so it was make or break. When you have a passion for something, you learn pretty quickly.”
Ryan learned the business model, which he admits was foreign to him, from his longtime friend, Anthony Velez, who he says has similar fashion stores in other boroughs in the city.
“He inspired me,” Ryan says of his friend who he grew up with in Queens. “Seeing how successful he was, and that there’s really nothing like this in Staten Island, I thought it was a good idea. There are a lot of consignment shops, but there’s no other store that will buy an item cash in hand or that has accessibility to different designers like this.”
Ryan only buys or sells items after they are approved by a third-party authenticator, and he can order items for customers that aren’t on display in his store. He says he’s been pleased and grateful with the response from the community so far in the first few months of owning the business, and likes being his own boss.
“I love the freedom. There are different kinds of stress here. Instead of being in an emergency environment all the time, now it’s mainly the financial stress of owning your own business,” he says. “But it’s good to have different outlets, get out of your comfort zone and test your limits.”
But that’s not to say Ryan thinks he figured out the entire industry in a few short months.
“I’m still learning the business model,” he admits. “One of the biggest things I learned is everything can be negotiable. Every day is like Black Friday. I like to help everyone out as much as I can, and I like to see them walk out with something they are happy with.”
Ryan also reserves space in the store to display and sell artwork from local borough residents.
His ultimate goal of opening the pet care facility still remains. Ryan says he hasn’t set a hard deadline to begin exploring a location for it, and that he doesn’t view Unique NY as only a stepping stone to raise money for that or another venture. He thinks his entrepreneurial spirit will allow him to maintain the fashion store while he pursues his passions.
“I was always told nothing worth having comes easy,” he says. “I would like to keep this and expand if everything goes well. I would like to have this and other ventures for sure.”
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