We always appreciate the chance to poke around in the past, present and futures of our inspiring startups, and today we’re talking to Kal Di Paola, CEO of BuyMyWardrobe. When her first business seemed to be slowing down, she took the initiative to look at the fashion industry from an entirely new angle – and now her collaborative style brand is booming. So how does one go about becoming the eBay of the pre-loved fashion world? We wanted to find out…
BuyMyWardrobe began life as an event back in 2008, for fashion-loving women to sell on loved items of their designer wardrobe. Fast-forward 7 years, and – along with some Angel investment – BuyMyWardrobe is a thriving site with thousands of enthusiastic members all looking to buy and sell from like-minded style gurus…
Where did the idea come from for BuyMyWardrobe?
It was 2008, I had been running my own fashion label for the past 11 years. The country was in recession, the over consumption of the past decade was being highlighted in the media and I like many people I had started to reign in my spending. Faced with a wardrobe that would barely close, I realised I needed to change my shopping habits and the first step was to clear my wardrobe of years of hoarding.
My options to do that were limited. Ebay wasn’t the right place for niche labels and dress agencies were too picky- I wanted somewhere I could set up shop for the day and nobody provided that- so I decided to host my own event and asked myself who would buy my wardrobe?
BuyMyWardrobe as an event was born in Feb 2008 and later (August 2012) evolved into an online marketplace.
What was the impetus to take the plunge and start this business?
I don’t think I thought about it much – it started with a desire to set up a brilliant event for like-minded people. My thinking was that I had nothing to lose; the worst case scenario was that the event would be a flop and I wouldn’t continue with them. Fortunately, it seemed that I had hit on an idea that resonated with a lot of people — it was clear there was an audience for luxury recycling and the audience were hungry! It was also clear that there was no shortage of ladies with wardrobes bursting at the seams, desperate to find a fun way to re-house their loved and cherished but no longer worn fashion pieces- at the very first event we had 17 different girls all ready and willing to sell their wardrobes alongside me!
What was the biggest challenge you faced when starting out?
TIME! I already had a fashion business, and at first thought that these events I was organising would be a great side project – I had no idea that they would take off in the way that they did. Trying to decide what to prioritise – between focussing on the business I’d spent so much time on, versus a new idea that seems to be flying high – it made life very hectic!
You deal with a luxury industry – did you find being a start-up help or hinder with that?
I was already in the fashion industry and it was definitely an advantage. One of the most important things about being a young company is growing a network of people who trust and champion you. For me, already having established those contacts in my previous ventures, that was a massive help.
What excites you about the future of your company?
We are move towards a more collaborative economy- I’m excited that by making selling your wardrobe as exciting as buying it BuyMyWardrobe can change the way we consume forever!
What do you look for in members of your team?
Passion, enthusiasm and an ability to get things done (and if they can read my mind it’s a bonus).
If someone was to apply to you for a job, what would really impress you?
A really personalised application – a covering letter that shows they’ve really studied what we’re about, read our blog, taken time to sign up and know what our offering is.
It’s amazing how many people don’t do their homework.. I would really only want people to apply for a job if they really really wanted it! If that didn’t come across I wouldn’t hire them no matter how good they might be academically.
Any words of wisdom for those thinking of starting a venture of their own?
If you belief in something don’t take no for an answer but equally don’t start a business blindly. You need to make a start and test your market by learning, adapting, changing, failing and continuing to nail down your value proposition BEFORE you scale. Then find mentors, ask questions, listen learn and continue to face every challenge as a manifestor.
If you see an opportunity act on it, if something needs doing, do it, if something needs changing, change it, and if you don’t know something, learn it.
Interview by Natasha Hodgson, Community Manager at Enternships