Side hustle helps OUWB Class of 2022 grad earn $117K during med school – News at OU

When OUWB’s Class of 2022 graduates this Friday, one of the new doctors will have a financial head start thanks to a side hustle that helped her earn $117,000 during medical school.

Since 2019, Olivia Hillier has earned the money selling more than 4,700 items via Poshmark — an online-based marketplace for new and secondhand style for women, men, kids, pets, home, and more.

Hillier says selling on Poshmark has made it so she didn’t have to take out loans for living expenses. She’s also been able to buy a house near University of Kansas School of Medicine, where she will soon begin residency in family medicine. Further, Hillier — inducted in 2021 into the Delta chapter of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society — already started paying off the student loans she did need to take out.

“Selling on Poshmark has helped me tremendously,” says Hillier. “I am no longer worried about my financial situation, which is a really nice perk of my business.”

Amber McCasland, vice president of Global Brand and Communications for Poshmark, says Hillier’s story should serve as inspiration for others.

“Our vibrant seller community is truly what sets Poshmark apart, and Olivia is the ultimate reflection of that,” says McCasland. “Olivia’s journey is the epitome of the modern-day entrepreneur and we’re honored to have her as a key member of the community.”

Saving clothing from landfills

Hillier earned her undergraduate degree from University of Iowa and began attending OUWB in 2018.

In 2019, Hillier says she was chatting with friends about a minor interest she had in selling some of her clothes online to make money. Upon suggestion, Hillier says she “hesitantly” downloaded the Poshmark app and listed a few items from her personal closet.

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Hillier arranges inventory that is listed for sale on Poshmark. 

Then, she says, some of those items started to actually sell. Hillier was hooked.

“It was nice to see the items that I didn’t wear anymore sent to their new homes to be enjoyed,” she says. “I also loved getting some extra money as a medical student, especially when money was tight and I was living off of government loans.”

In August 2020, during her dedicated Step 1 study time, Hillier says she wanted to find an activity that would offer her an occasional break from studying. Having enjoyed selling items of her own online, she decided to source clothes from outside her own closet.

She turned to local thrift stores and began buying a few items. Whenever she would do something like buy a shirt for $5 and resell it for $20, Hillier would reinvest her profits to build inventory. 

“My grandma owned a boutique in New York where celebrities shopped so I am convinced that I got those clothing genes from her,” says Hillier. “I love the idea of saving clothing from landfills and making my cool finds accessible (via the online marketplace).”

Hillier says she had a slow start, but it didn’t take her too long to learn what brands and styles sell best. (Vintage clothes tend to be her best-selling items.)  She’s also expanded her inventory sources, even selling items on consignment for others from time-to-time.

“It’s kind of like medicine – it takes time and practice, but through time you start to learn how to master it,” she says. “You’re constantly learning.”

Navigating med school while running a business

Successfully selling 4,700 items via Poshmark requires more than a desire to make money. There are the factors of cost, space, and time.

With regard to cost, Poshmark takes a cut of every sale ($2.95 for every sale under $15; 20% of every sale over $15, per its website). Hillier notes the $117,000 she earned is after Poshmark fees.

Maintaining steady sales also requires a big inventory, which requires space. Hillier says she has kept inventory in her basement and a guest room in her house.

There’s also the issue of time. Specifically, how did Hillier successfully navigate medical school while running her business?

“I list and find items when I can, and then I ship them out every other day,” says Hillier.

“Selling on Poshmark is also great because I can run this business from anywhere, even at the hospital on my lunch break.”

On occasion — like when she had a big test or “just needed to focus on medicine” — Hillier says she would simply use Poshmark’s “Vacation Hold” feature, which allows sellers to set items to “Not for Sale” during specified dates.

“Selling (online) works really well for medical students or anyone who has a lot going on because of the flexibility,” says Hillier. “It’s nice to be self-employed — I get to choose when to work and not feel overwhelmed.”

A ‘better medical student’

Hillier’s so-called “side hustle” has yielded myriad benefits.

One of the biggest, and perhaps most surprising, has been the positive mental effects.

“Selling…makes me feel reenergized to see patients,” she says. “After all, med school is long and it’s great to have hobbies outside school.”

Hillier says it’s made her a “better medical student and a better person in general.”

“Even though reselling is all online, you still connect with new people and personalities,” she says. “You’re able to learn how to work with customers and negotiate to make everyone happy, which is similar to what a clinician does. It’s also never a bad idea to learn how to diversify your income and run a business, especially if you have an interest in starting your own private practice someday.”

Perhaps the biggest question, however, is what happens with her business as she heads into residency?

The answer, in short, is Hillier plans to stay at it. Her new house has a “massive room” dedicated to her Poshmark business. She will be moving her inventory of 1,100+ items with her from Michigan to Kansas.

“I see my Poshmark closet as an investment, which is worth potentially more than $100,000,” says Hillier. “Even if I don’t have a ton of time to work on the business, I can tag-team with my husband to send out sales.”

As she did in medical school, Hillier will go thrifting and list items in her free time.  

“I am doing a family medicine residency that focuses on full-spectrum medicine, so my first year will definitely be busy but I should have increasing amounts of free time as the residency continues,” says Hillier.

For anyone considering selling on Poshmark, Hillier suggests potential sellers not be intimated by the process and that they “go for it!”

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at adietderich@oakland.edu.

To request an interview, visit the OUWB Communications & Marketing webpage.

NOTICE: Except where otherwise noted, all articles are published under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. You are free to copy, distribute, adapt, transmit, or make commercial use of this work as long as you attribute Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine as the original creator and include a link to this article.

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