This week’s HOT Chat is with Jessica Rae from Melbourne Op Shop Tours. I seem to be on a ‘green’ bent lately (check out previous HOT Chats with Eco Fashionista and 321 Water) and Melbourne Op Shop Tours is another Melbourne-based business which takes the approach that being green doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style and fashion.

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Can you tell me a bit more about the story behind Melbourne Op Shop Tours?

My business partners Jenny and Richmond and I have always been keen op shoppers and people would often ask us where the good op shops were, and how we found ‘wearable’ items. These questions led us to thinking that there was a need for a service that showed people where and how to op shop. However it wasn’t until we pitched this idea at an entrepreneur’s competition and won first prize, that we actually decided to do something about it. It took us about a year to develop our concept further, research and plan tour routes and design the website – we launched in September this year!

What can you expect on a typical day with Melbourne Op Shop Tours?

You will join your fellow op shoppers and your tour guide at a designated meeting point early (but not too early!) on a Saturday morning. This is the start of a whirlwind journey with your tour guide to discover 6 – 8 op shops along a carefully planned public transport route. Shop fast, with a plan of attack, as you will only have between 20 – 30 minutes in each store.Op-shop-Large-001

Your tour guide will double as your personal stylist – helping you to find items on your wish list and pointing out things that may look ordinary on the rack, but amazing on you! You’ll get the chance to show off your bargains at a lunch stop, where you can relax over a delicious meal and well-deserved coffee. This break will give you the energy you need to continue foraging for the rest of the day!

Popular items on our tours so far have been egg cups, records, books, cocktail shakers, teapots, leather shoes, bow ties, and of course, fabulous pieces of clothing.

What are your next plans for Melbourne Op Shop Tours?

We’re very excited to be expanding our tours to London, Sydney and Perth! We have ‘once-off’ tours planned in each of these cities for December 2009 and January 2010 and if the tours are received well, we’ll be looking to continue them on a regular basis.

Also, in response to customer feedback, we are introducing a new vintage tour option next year. This tour will visit some higher-end second hand stores, and include goodies like lunch and cupcakes along the way.

Why do you think people like shopping in op shops?

Personally, I’m a really indecisive person so I enjoy op shopping because things generally fall into the ‘amazing’ or ‘horrible’ category, which makes it much easier to decide what to buy! On top of this, I enjoy the excitement of never knowing what I will discover in an op shop, and that thrill you get when you spot something that looks divine. Op shopping sometimes requires a bit of creativity to work clothes into your wardrobe, but that’s all part of the fun. Of course, the feel good factor is an added bonus – you are shopping sustainably and your dollars are all going to a good cause.

What are you wearing at the moment?

High waisted tailored shorts, with a red silk Country Road top, belted by a thick black JAG belt. Teamed with black tights and pointy tan leather ankle boots. All op-shopped for under $30!

What advice would you give to others who are starting their own business?

Just go out and do it! We were slow getting off the ground because we were concerned with drawing up a business plan. But ultimately the most important thing is having a good team who are passionate about creating something of their own.

Finally, what are your tips for what’s HOT in Melbourne?

Thanks to Melbourne Op Shop Tours, I’ve been invited to visit the op shops of Williamstown to Footscray on their tour of the Inner West on Saturday 28 November.  Click here to read all about it.