When Sonya Nix walked into a consignment store while on vacation with her husband in Tennessee 25 years ago she could never have imagined how it would change her life’s trajectory. She had already loved the community-based business model in which friends and neighbors are both your suppliers and your customers and quickly pursued her new passion.
She found a small space for rent in her hometown of Cullman, Alabama, and left behind her nursing career to open Better Than Before Consignments.
However, she didn’t leave behind her inherent love of caring as she dishes out the same nurse-giving tender loving care to her customers. Now, instead of bandages and medication, through her stores, she is providing mega-doses of high-quality fashion for the entire family.
When you walk into the two spacious Better Than Before consignment stores (located in Cullman and Decatur, Alabama), you can immediately see that customer service is a priority; which with so many stores nationwide currently running with reduced staff, has become a rare commodity.
Regardless of any difficulties or roadblocks that come their way, TLC is at the top of every staff member’s “To-Do List” taking precedence before in-take, pricing, website photos, and Facebook Live selling inventory prep.
The devoted wife of 38 years to Glenn, supportive mother of two, and Glamma (a glamorous grandma) of seven grandchildren ages two to 12, Nix pursues every aspect of her life with energy, vitality, and a passion for helping others feel good about themselves.
Nix wants everyone that she and her staff cross paths with to feel loved and cared for whether it’s through the kindness of a compliment or the gentle words of, “I’ll keep you in my prayers.”
She draws on her deeply seated faith, which she openly shares with customers, consignors, fans, and followers to further create strong connections and relationships with her shopping audience.
With Nix’s natural compassion, she easily brought that to her online game. Creating a meaningful connection with every online customer has been one of the secrets to success.
She is considered such a leader that many of the 20,000 United States consignment store owners — that clearly reflect the obviously growing trend toward resale — look to her for advice and inspiration, especially on how she confidently grew her online presence.
It is clear that Nix also inspires her staff to take the time to create long-term relationships.
Amanda Rice a Facebook Live Video Host for Better Than Before says that her employment there is much more than a job for her and her 18-year-old daughter, Josie, who also enjoys working there.
“I talk to people on the Facebook Live Videos and as we get to know one another it feels like one big extended family,” Rice explains. “Sonya is great to work for and she has truly created this special atmosphere for all of us. I enjoy tuning into the show even when I am not working. We have the best customers!”
Here is a look at Sonya Nix and how her nurturing attitude, genuine care, and concern for others have turned Better Than Before into an extended family.
Sonya, what is your personal and business philosophy?
Sonya Nix: They are the same. Help people. Find them what they need. Solve problems at home and work — this is my mindset.
Why do you feel that you are so well-suited to this business?
Sonya Nix: In a nutshell, I love to talk to people. Our whole philosophy is about serving people and helping them get what they want. My kids always tell me — ‘You never tell anyone no; you always want to fix other people’s problems.’ They want me to start saying no. But that drive in me to solve problems spills over into helping each woman who comes to the stores or shops online to feel pretty, beautiful, and comfortable in her own skin.
What have you learned about yourself from being a business owner?
Sonya Nix: I have learned to delegate more and empower my capable staff; they are bright and intelligent women and just because I think a certain way, it doesn’t mean that a lot of things can’t be done differently. I’ve learned you have to step back and devote time to things other than work. I love to work, and it is hard for me to pull back, but I know each of us needs balance in our lives. We have to make time for ourselves and our loved ones.
Tell me about your popular Facebook Live shopping videos that are held several times a day.
Sonya Nix: We have a loyal following that has been shopping in the stores for years. As social media became more of a thing, we took our in-store relationship-building to Facebook and then Instagram. We had been casually doing Facebook Live Selling shows which are real-time, in-person shopping. When the Pandemic was in full force and our stores weren’t open, we were able to offer multiple shows per day, and once our stores did open our online audience kept the demand for the shows going.
Now, we feel like we know them, even if we’ve never met them face-to-face. The videos are a kind of addiction and a social outlet. Many of our Facebook Live customers have become friends and have conversations through the comments during our shopping shows. People look forward to the shows, talking to one another and seeing their favorite video hosts.
What makes a good video host for your daily shopping shows?
Sonya Nix: It’s somebody who is willing to be raw and human. It’s not about having your make-up on perfectly or being a certain size or shape. It’s about the human connection and sharing part of yourself and your life with your audience.
I tell the viewers that I am a pear shape and I can’t wear cropped tops. A third of my audience can relate to that. A third of my audience are grandparents and they can relate to the fact that I just came from one of my grandkids’ ball games. We have raw emotional conversations. We have gotten teary-eyed. We know a little bit about each other’s lives. People need to be touched, reached, and encouraged. Our Facebook Live Shopping shows have turned into a nurturing place to do that.
How did your business change when the pandemic required restrictions?
Sonya Nix: When COVID-19 hit we had to close our doors for two months. I remember thinking that I couldn’t sit by and not do anything. My consignors left their clothing and accessories with me and I had to sell them. We re-opened the stores on May 6, but we never really had to shut down because of the Facebook Live videos. During the last few months, we’ve started a specific schedule three times a day on weekdays, two on Saturday and one on Sunday night.
What makes Better Than Before unique?
Sonya Nix: We offer southern hospitality and charm. We want the experience to be friendly, fun, personal, and approachable. I want my customers to relax. We set the 8 p.m. time for the videos on purpose because our customers are done with dinner, homework, and the kids’ baths and are in sit-down mode. Either most of the important stuff is done or you are too tired to do them. People can stop to take a breather and enjoy themselves. I want to become a habit in the lives of my customers. Someone will say, ‘I couldn’t make it to the 2 p.m. video; what did I miss?’
What do you look for when buying new and used items for the store?
Sonya Nix: Quality, demand, and salability. I can have something come into the store that is a nice brand but is very old and outdated and I know it won’t sell well, so I will turn it away. On the other hand, I can get an average everyday top from The Gap or Lane Bryant and if it’s the current style, I will take that all day long. It doesn’t have to be new with tags. For example, I was offered several pairs of Judy Blue jeans with a slight flaw, and I took them because I knew that they would sell. So, it’s really about knowing your market.
What advice do you have for those struggling with their business ventures?
Sonya Nix: When I was younger, I was a bit territorial about business. I knew I had scratched my way to where I am and everyone could do the same. But with age, experience, and success I have learned a different way. So, I reach out to others in consignment businesses to lend a hand and help them through the rough patches. My advice to struggling business owners is to never be afraid to ask for help and be open to learning new things.
Do you have any other words of wisdom for new business owners?
Sonya Nix: Be prepared to work very, very hard. I had no clue how hard I was going to be working. Be prepared to put the other person before yourself. The customer is always right — that has to be true!
Tell me about the community aspect of the customers who join your live videos.
Sonya Nix: Many of our live video customers have become friends. They welcome each other when they see someone join that they know. They will give up items sometimes if someone else really wants them. They console and encourage one another if someone is having a hard day or is sick.
During the videos, we hold up the garment, you get to see how it moves and how it will move on your body. Sometimes we try it on. The treasure hunt aspect gives it a sense of urgency. You see how many viewers are watching the video and there are bound to be more than one who wants the item along with you.
Please tell me more about this.
Sonya Nix: They are like members of my family. It has always been my intent to establish a positive and encouraging environment. Even if you are broke and can’t afford to buy anything, it’s okay. There’s always next time. Everyone doesn’t always buy; I just love getting on there and enjoying the conversation and interaction. It’s entertaining and funny. They enjoy the comedy. It’s not always about making money; it’s about connection.
For more about Better Than Before Consignments check out:
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