While your parents were taking you to the park or the zoo, sisters Morgan Breakey and Mariah Cope spent much of their childhood at estate sales. This month, the owners of the Durham/Chapel Hill Blue Moon Estate Sales franchise share how they turned a longtime fascination into a successful business.
Growing up on a farm, Morgan Breakey and Mariah Cope were taught from a young age to be thrifty. When equipment would need to be replaced, their parents wouldn’t run out to get the latest model. They would find just what they needed at a thrift shop, garage sale, or estate sale. Most times, Morgan and Mariah were right there with them. “We loved it,” said Morgan. “We were fascinated by the different collectibles and treasures you could find.”
As they grew up and got places of their own, the two continued to scour estate sales to design their homes on a budget. “You get these pieces of furniture at Walmart or Target and they fall apart in no time,” said Mariah. “But at an estate sale you might find solid wood furniture, barely used, for maybe $100. Not only that, the pieces are unique. They are conversation starters.”
Time to Take the Leap
Fast forward a few years and Mariah is a stay-at-home mom of 4, and Morgan is graduating from Meredith College. At her new corporate job, Morgan was already getting the feeling it wasn’t the place for her. “I was put in a cubicle, told what to do, when to do it, and how it should be done. I was miserable,” said Morgan.
As fate would have it, Mariah came to Morgan with an idea. Blue Moon Estate Sales, a company the sisters had shopped with for years, was looking for franchisees. After just a few weeks in her cubicle, Morgan put in her notice and hasn’t looked back since. “We’re doing something different every day and that really appeals to us,” said Morgan.
Helping Others One Sale at a Time
Families reach out to Blue Moon when they need to liquidate the contents of a home, often because of a death, divorce, or for downsizing. Typically, over the course of two days, Mariah and Morgan empty, sort, and price the contents of an entire home. They then hold one or two sales every week where the public comes to buy the items. “It really is a great thing because families are able to get cash they need, buyers get quality items at a good bargain, and everything gets to be reused and stay out of a landfill,” said Mariah.
In over two years in business, Morgan and Mariah have conducted more than 100 estate sales and doubled their sales numbers year over year. It was an accomplishment that literally took a lot of sweat. “We move a lot of furniture,” laughed Morgan. “Every week someone sees Mariah and I moving a couch and they say, ‘Wow! I can’t believe you girls are so strong!’”
“We have been underestimated a lot,” said Mariah. “Whether because we are women or younger. The world of antiques is dominated by older men and we have had to prove ourselves.” The pair says they believe what sets them apart is the compassion they have for the families they work with. “We often work with adult children whose parents have passed away. It’s impossible for them to keep everything in the house. But it can be very difficult for them to let go of things they have such fond memories of,” said Mariah. “We really sympathize and work hard to earn their trust.”
Hard Work Doesn’t Go Unnoticed
Their hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed. The majority of their new business comes from old-fashioned word-of-mouth advertising. Recently, Morgan and Mariah were recognized among the 15 operators in the Blue Moon system for holding the largest grossing estate sale in franchise history. Out of more than 1,000 estate sales conducted, this single sale was about 10 times as large as the average. “The client spoke to other companies. And it’s a big decision to hand over the keys to something like that,” said Mariah. “They chose us because we clicked, and they knew they could trust us.”
Morgan and Mariah also attribute much of their success to being part of the franchise system. “When we bought in, they told us it would take about 5 years off the typical learning curve for this business,” said Morgan. “That’s 100% true.” By choosing to join a franchise, rather than starting from scratch, the two have been able to take advantage of a well-recognized, established brand. “We had sales ready to go on day one,” said Mariah. “They also are there to handle things like promotional materials, website maintenance, and marketing.”
More than just business materials, the franchise is also able to provide a community of support. They take advantage of an online group of owners, a yearly conference, and many times will call up other franchisees. “We’ve gotten to be friends with the other owners. We talk about anything from staffing questions, to pricing items and just support each other,” said Mariah. “Having a support system is so important for any business owner, whether it’s fellow business owners, a partner, or your family.”
Padgett’s 3 Wise Questions:
- If you could bake a success pie, what would the ingredients be? “Open, honest communication between your clients, customers, and staff; and a good support system.”
- If you had one more hour in each day, how would you spend it? “We would both say with our kids. We’re lucky they get to come with us to work a lot, and when they can’t, they play with each other.”
- If you could have lunch with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why? “Mike and Frank from the American Pickers TV show. We’ve thought about what it would be like to have a reality show in the future. That would be kind of fun!”
To contact Morgan and Mariah or find out where the next sale is, visit their website at www.bluemoonestatesales.com/chapelhill/ or call (919) 906-5657.