Online fashion entrepreneur wants to pay it forward

With the start of the New Year, some of us are looking forward to a fresh start by getting rid of some of the clutter and excess baggage in our lives. Be it pounds, exes, work, debt, or emotional baggage, we all want to lighten the load and start 2012 with a clean slate. While some resolutions are harder to maintain than others, I wish my readers the best as they find ways to make life infinitely easier and better this year.

However, if it’s designer baggage you are looking to do away with, I know one entrepreneur who can help you successfully get rid of the old, make room for the new, and make a little profit to boot.

Founded by Francine Ballar, is fashion’s first marketplace for previously owned designer goods that connects buyers and sellers in a social media setting for a full service experience. Buyers can peruse the gently used, designer products that are sold at a discounted price, and sellers can either create their own listings for the goods they are selling or send the products directly to the company, where the pieces will also be displayed in its new Magazine Street showroom. DesignerSoclal then makes a commission on each transaction made.

The fashion friendly marketplace was launched three years ago when Francine realized, shortly after moving to the city, that there was an untapped potential in the secondary selling market. Having worked for national fashion magazines in New York, she used her knowledge in high fashion and designer products to grow her first business out of her guest bedroom. Three years later, Francine has moved DesignerSocial into a beautiful retail/office space that she shares with Victoria’s boutique on Magazine Street.

“I wanted to create a platform that would allow women to sell the things they no longer needed or wanted, and buy the things that they wanted for less than full retail,” says the entrepreneur on what influenced her to create the e-commerce company out of New Orleans. “Being an entrepreneur has stretched me in ways I never imagined. I have been fortunate enough to have had a successful career before this, but I’ve really learned to tap in to areas of my intellect and creativity that were previously under-utilized.”

With the opening of her new retail space in November and the busy holiday season that typically generates about 30 percent of her annual sales, Francine has been busy with a business that is quickly moving forward. However, when she first launched and managed the site by herself, she realized that executing her ideas and accomplishing certain goals were very difficult when doing it alone, even with the well-honed skills that she had acquired from her career in fashion.

This year, she joined Idea Village’s 2012 entrepreneur class and has been able to expand her business with their support.

“I never took full advantage of what this city has to offer. Now, I’m more plugged-in to the business community and it has changed my perspective on things. There is so much potential here, and it’s exciting to be a part of what I see as a progressive movement to innovate.”

With her recent growth, she hopes to one day give back to the young entrepreneurs of New Orleans the same way she has been supported, whether it’s through funding, contributing resources, or hands on support and guidance.  She adds, “I’ve witnessed how much of an impact it can make.”

That is, in fact, what the future of the city’s growing industries are depending on – a network of successful business owners who will one day give back to their community and continue supporting entrepreneurial success. With more of today’s entrepreneurs committing to the concept of eventually paying it forward in the future, we can continue to break down barriers and help New Orleans gain the business credibility of Silicon Valley or New York City quicker than we could imagine.

Adriana Lopez writes about the entrepreneurial community for NolaVie and Silicon Bayou News. She also showcases local start-ups such as the one profiled here through her non-profit organization GenNOLA. For more information on NolaVie, visit