Business Owner Profiles

The Grocery Lady DMV: Why Timica King’s Part-Time Personal Shopping Business is Turning Heads in the Washington DC Area

5 Mins read

If there’s one thing the past year has shown us, it’s that the gig economy isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, by 2023, analysts project the gross volume of the space to eclipse $455 billion. And there’s no shortage of individuals ready to participate. 

People join the gig economy for myriad reasons. Some just want to supplement their income and make ends meet. Others see the allure and flexibility that being your own boss brings. But there are a few traits that many gig workers share: an entrepreneurial spirit and the willingness to venture out on their own and make good things happen.

Timica King, aka The Grocery Lady DMV, loves to shop for her clients.

Those who know her would likely say Timica King has those attributes. Around 2014, Timica was content and making a  good living at her steady job. But when her son came into the world, Timica knew she had to alter her course.

“I was just working my full time job, and then I had a baby and financial needs changed,” she said. “The gig economy at that point was pretty new, so I went to work for Instacart, which was the main personal shopping platform at the time.”

Timica discovered that she was a perfect fit for personal shopping. She loved walking the aisles, picking out the best items for her customers, and focusing her attention on “the shop.” After a few years, she began to feel that spark of entrepreneurship kindling in the back of her mind. 

“Around year four, I said, ‘You know, I could probably just do this on my own,’” Timica told us. “But I asked myself, ‘How can little old me compete with Instacart?’”

Branching Out on Her Own and Starting a Business

Timica’s question was a valid one. Instacart is a giant personal shopping app with a national footprint. And she knew it would be difficult to procure clients without some kind of assistance. So she let the idea marinate for a bit longer. 

Until one day lightning struck.

“I’m part of some of the Instacart groups on Facebook, and I stumbled upon a post asking if people would be interested in doing this on their own,” Timica said. “That got a lot of people’s attention—me included.”

The Facebook message was written by the CEO of Dumpling, a novel application that was becoming attractive to many personal shoppers because of its flexibility and freedom. So Timica joined Dumpling’s beta program, but she still wasn’t convinced that she could quit Instacart.

“One day I got an order from a woman for five big cases of water,” Timica said. “And when I got to her house, she was like, ‘Oh, my God, I’m so glad I got a woman this time.’”

Choosing quality products and clear communication with clients make Timica a successful personal shopper.

Timica told us that the woman had a bad experience with her last Instacart shopper—a man who was very persistent about trying to enter the woman’s house. 

“I think that really scared her,” Timica said. “So I gave her my business card, and she became my first official client on Dumpling.” 

After that, Timica found that there were numerous people who preferred to have a true personal shopper instead of random people queued up by software to shop for them. She also discovered that competing with Instacart for clients wasn’t going to be as challenging as she thought, especially once the pandemic hit.

“It was super crazy,” Timica said. “In February 2020, I only had that one client. But people were looking for alternatives to Instacart and started finding Dumpling. And it really just blew up from there.”

Best Practices: The Secrets to Timica’s Success

But it wasn’t fate that made Timica’s new business “The Grocery Lady DMV” a success. A few ingredients she adds completes her special sauce.

“I just love to shop, you know? I do it in the evenings and weekends, which is fun. And I get to spend other people’s money and not feel any kind of shopper’s remorse,” Timica joked. 

In addition to her love for shopping, Timica says that communication is what really makes her clients happy. 

“I just love to shop…”

– Timica King

“Some other business owners I know do it differently,” she said. “I personally prefer to communicate after the shop is done but before I check out.” 

This way, Timica noted, the flow of the shop is maintained, and it goes faster. And, once all of the items are in the cart, communication is streamlined.

“Instead of waiting for them to respond, I can just type in a list as I’m going around the aisles,” she said. “And then at the end we can have a nice back-and-forth conversation. Communication is like the biggest thing.” 

Another thing Timica suggests shoppers do is be willing to visit stores that might be off the beaten path. One of her experiences with a customer for her really exemplifies this.

“There’s a store in our area that is growing in popularity called The Spice Suite,” she said. “It’s a little boutique spice store.”

Around Christmas time, one of Timica’s customers called her and asked to place an order at the store. The woman was in Florida at the time, so Timica agreed to go check it out for her. As another testament to Timica’s dedication to communication, the two arranged a video chat for the shop.

“That way, she could see everything that was in the store and pick out what she wanted,” Timica said. “She ended up spending about $350! The store’s owner travels overseas in search of spices and makes her own blends.” 

Timica told us that after that experience her client  referred her to other spice lovers, and she now gets quite a few out of town clients just for that specific store. 

“I’ve even tried a few things out for myself, and I now have some new favorite spices,” Timica said.

The Part-Time Work Has a Big Pay Off

While Timica has grown The Grocery Lady DMV into a thriving personal shopping business, it’s still just her part-time gig. She continues to work at her day job, which she enjoys. 

“It’s great for me to be able to do this on weekends, evenings, holidays, or days that I might take off from work,” she said. “It’s been a good supplement to my income, and I’ve actually been able to put money away for a house and have saved quite a bit.”

Looking toward the future, Timica sees a lot in the cards for The Grocery Lady DMV. Though some clients are returning to the stores themselves as the pandemic winds down, Timica sees her business remaining steady as new clients regularly stream in.  

“I am just looking forward to growing, continuing to grow,” she said. “If anybody’s looking for a personal shopper, The Grocery Lady is absolutely always happy to help.”

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