Baz Brothers Unlimited works with some of the largest fashion companies in the world and uses the C2FO platform to ensure there’s working capital on hand to grow.
Art Bazerkanian and his brother Rafi founded Baz Brothers Unlimited, a wholesale vintage clothing company, in 1997 with just $500. Now, the entrepreneurs run a successful business with two large warehouses — one in Los Angeles and the other in Fresno, California — filled with hundreds of thousands of vintage denim, t-shirts, leather and military items.
“We’ve always been entrepreneurs,” Art Bazerkanian, co-founder and president of Baz Brothers, said. “I used to do people’s homework for money or cookies. We would sell Blow Pops and candy bars at school. You name it, we’ve always had some sort of way of making money out of nothing.”
The brothers’ innate ingenuity and resourcefulness spawned a business that supplies some of the biggest names in fashion, retail and lifestyle companies. The company has grown as consumers turn to second-hand clothing and home goods for more individual and eclectic looks.
Increased demand, extended payment terms
When the effects of COVID-19 hit retail in the early spring of 2020, Baz Brothers faced a problem that not many other businesses were fortunate to have. They were able to keep one of their manufacturing facilities operational by dedicating part of the business to making personal protective equipment (PPE).
Not only did Baz Brothers keep all of its 25 contracted sewers employed by creating masks and gowns from excess fabric it had, but the company could also continue manufacturing and filling purchase orders for two high-demand categories: home goods and mail-order retail.
COVID-19 actually boosted online furniture and home decor sales as many work-from-home consumers adapted to changes in discretionary income, increased leisure time, and emphasized home improvement and decorating projects.
Although demand for product was high, Bazerkanian found himself in a situation familiar to other small businesses at the time: customers that had been paying invoices early or on time were forced to extend their payment terms to 60 or 90 days.
As brands restructured their invoicing to safeguard their own cash during the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus, Bazerkanian realized it was time to choose a solution that would protect his business from unexpected cash flow gaps.
He turned to C2FO to free up cash in the company’s accounts receivable.
“I’m hooked. It takes a lot of the stress away and allows for more productive use of my time,” Bazerkanian said of C2FO’s Early Payment solution. “You’re not waiting and asking yourself, ‘When are they going to send (payment)? Is it going to be 45 days or 60 days?’ Now I know and can plan ahead.”
Born in Lebanon, the Bazerkanian brothers moved to Fresno in 1976. In high school — around 1986— the brothers started their first business together buying and selling baseball cards.
As serial entrepreneurs, the Bazerkanian brothers have always had a knack for turning odd jobs into money-making ventures.
Their now successful wholesale vintage clothing company began as a side hustle to earn extra money while Art worked his way through chiropractic school and Rafi finished earning his degree at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Art Bazerkanian realized an opportunity to make some extra cash when he visited the Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena, California, where he was trying to sell some of his leftover baseball cards and household items. He saw a large crowd fighting over what he perceived as just “used Levi’s jeans and Nike shoes.” However, these vintage items had real value.
After talking to several people at the flea market, Bazerkanian had a plan. Instead of searching for his own items from yard sales and thrift stores, he’d buy direct from Goodwill’s distribution center. He called every center in California until one finally told him he could visit. He bought four bins of Nike shoes priced at $125 per bin.
When the flea market came back to town three weeks later, Bazerkanian took his bins and waited. Within one hour, he had $4,000 in his pocket and more than 80% of his inventory still in stock.
Eventually, what began as a small hobby out of Rafi’s Mitsubishi Montero grew into a moderate business in a garage and finally, a warehouse in Los Angeles in 2001.
In the two decades since the business started to really take off, Baz Brothers expanded its inventory, combining repurposed materials to create custom items. The company has also expanded its customer base from mostly Japanese companies to large, well-known retailers and hundreds of small boutiques in the United States.
Since 2001, Baz Brothers has been firmly committed to making all of its products in the United States.
The future of vintage
The world of fashion is divided into two seasons: spring and winter. As the months turn colder, Bazerkanian said purchase orders have picked up again as retailers transition from selling t-shirts and shorts to sweatshirts and parkas.
“Right now, all of the transition and holiday purchase orders are coming through — lots of flannel, custom-reworked denim and military items,” Bazerkanian said. “Winter items are usually bigger, more expensive items and you have a higher outlay cost. Sometimes it takes 60 to 90 days to recoup your selling materials and everything else you put into it.”
With C2FO, Bazerkanian can accelerate payment to create more inventory to meet demand.
“That’s where C2FO has been so wonderful,” Bazerkanian said. “Today, it took me less than 35 seconds — I counted — to go on the platform, approve and accept my invoices.”
As Baz Brothers continues to grow, it will need capital beyond what is available in their customer invoices. Through C2FO’s Receivables Finance, Baz Brothers can unlock the capital within its invoices from customers that are not on the C2FO platform.
“In the past, we’ve had to turn down business because we don’t have the funding to get another 20 people to sew on different things. But we’ve been looking into C2FO’s Capital Finance (solutions). And that’s really amazing because it seems foolish to turn away business.”
As Baz Brothers continues to bring vintage and repurposed items to the masses, Bazerkanian said he will continue to use C2FO to get paid early.
“When I saw how low C2FO’s rates were, it was a no-brainer,” Bazerkanian said.
For more about Baz Brothers, listen to Creative Director Bridget Marowski’s podcast, My Best Vintage Life.
To learn how C2FO can help your company bridge cash gaps and accelerate payment, visit https://c2fo.com/vendors/.