Woman becomes ‘accidental entrepreneur' with recycled mannequin business

Posted at 5:32 PM, Oct 04, 2018

On their fiberglass surface, it might seem there’s not much to it: you’ve seen one mannequin, you’ve seen them all. Well, not to Judi Townsend, owner of Mannequin Madness, a recycled mannequin store.

“See the difference here, in terms of the face,” says Townsend. “More detail; even things like she has a clavicle. But the way the clothes hang makes a big difference.”

Townsend refers to herself as an “accidental entrepreneur” after stumbling upon an opportunity to rent out mannequins about 20 years ago. She said she was looking for Tina Turner concert tickets on Craigslist, when she saw an advertisement for a mannequin. She contacted the seller to purchase the mannequin for a project she was working on.

Townsend said she later learned the seller was the only mannequin rental business in the Bay Area and they were also leaving the state, so she decided to buy his entire inventory of 50 mannequins. That’s when she started Mannequin Madness.

Townsend can now tell you more than you’ve ever wanted to know, and then some.  

“I was gonna do what I call a side hustle, it never was gonna be a full-time gig,” she says.

However, it did.

“I was driven by the need to save something that needed to be recycled,” Townsend says.

What makes Mannequin Madness unique is Townsend’s showroom is all used mannequins. With more and more retailers closing locations or moving to online-only retail, her collection of 50 mannequins quickly grew to the hundreds.  

“I’ve had to move into a larger warehouse,” she says.

Townsend’s customers have also changed. Instead of retailers, she now sees more local designers and do-it-yourself creators seeking mannequins.

“Somebody selling something online for Etsy, they just need one mannequin they can use in their home for multi purposes,” she explains.