This article previously appeared in and appears courtesy of She's Fit to Lead.
What if you could sell the clothes in your closet (the ones you loved two weeks ago, but suddenly can't look at any more), and then use the money to totally update your wardrobe? What if you could do that in a completely safe and secure environment where you knew you were dealing exclusively with other college students? Well, thanks to Alex Shadrow and UNItiques now you can!
Meet Alex Shadrow, the founder and CEO of UNItiques.com: the online marketplace where college students buy & sell both nearby and nationwide.
Starting college, Alex quickly recognized that her tastes and her desire to constantly have a new look were well beyond what her budget allowed. Strapped for cash, she tried to sell her clothes at one of the traditional "second hand" consignment stores. She felt totally ripped off, and in fact, when offered $10 for her virtually new J. Brands she knew that it wasn't just her imagination.
Next she tried Craigslist and eBay, and things went from bad to worse. She found eBay confusing and hard to navigate, and getting her items to stand out was challenging. Worse, because buyers on Craigslist wanted to see and try the merchandise. She found herself in what could have been a really bad situation when a creepy guy from Craigslist came over to her apartment to supposedly look at some of the items she was selling and then wouldn't leave. It was then and there that Alex knew there had to be a better way!
Alex started a small online marketplace just for herself and fellow BU students. With the comfort and security of knowing that they were dealing with friends, or friends of friends, or at least other students that someone in their friend group knew, Alex's webpage quickly grew. When 2,000 girls and guys from BU signed up to buy and sell things, she knew she had given birth to a business and UNItiques was born!
Today, UNItiques has grown to over 11,000 members, and Alex is looking to expand across the nation. Even with the growth, Alex has stayed true to her original concept. UNItiques is still the only marketplace that is just for college students. This September, Alex is expanding her concept, by launching "UNItiques Online," which will make UNItiques the only marketplace to offer both local sales (like Craigslist) as well as online sales (like eBay). Students will be able to purchase items with their credit cards. UNItiques protects their purchases and handles the shipping, sending sellers pre-paid, pre-addressed shipping labels! While anyone, guest or student, will be able to purchase items via UNItiques, only college members can see one another's contact information keeping the site safe and secure for students.
Alex has built her business keeping her customer, the college student, in mind. With that, she's made a concerted effort not to be a "greedy middleman," and to make sure that sellers feel like they are being treated well and compensated fairly. Her 10% commission on sales is an industry low, as compared to Poshmark's 20% commission or a consignment stores typical 50% commission.
So how does it all work? Students join the UNItiques website, create stores, and upload items to sell locally on campuses nearby or they can sell on campuses nationwide! They can find incredible deals on furniture, fashion, electronics, and more - as students typically offer prices from 50-75% off of retail. UNItiques also hosts on-campus events for students to attend, like pop ups and fashion shows, and offers internships where students can also join the team!
Alex emphasizes that establishing trust is one of the keys to success in the sharing economy - meaning peer-to-peer commerce. That is why every single member's .edu email is verified to ensure that only college students can see one another's information.
And why is UNItiques so important in today's economy? It's because it reflects the realities of today's young consumer. The online fashion resale industry is rapidly growing. The reality is that the average young woman only actively utilizes about 10% of her wardrobe. 51% of her closet consists of clothing that is new or barely worn, adding up to a whopping $50.4 billion in unworn or barely worn clothing that is ripe for resale. Moreover, resale reflects the new realities of the sharing economy, with peer to peer business and collaborative consumption. With 22 million college students spending $29.5 billion annually on apparel and home furnishings, the opportunity for a business like UNItiques is huge.
So what's next on the horizon for UNItiques? As Alex describes it, with UNItiques Online, she's on the path to transition from a mini start-up to a bigger business. She is currently raising capital to fuel UNItiques' growth. She is in her seed round of capital raising which will enable her to take the next step in her vision, and she continues to look for more investors interested in joining her journey in this emerging, high opportunity industry.
Alex is also growing her team. She is looking for interns to assist her in marketing, advertising, social media and in producing pop ups and fashion shows.
Not only do we love Alex's vision and passion, but we also love her message about what it means to realize your dreams. As she tells it, launching UNItiques made Alex recognize her true potential and made her feel like she was finally unlocking something deep inside of her and realizing how capable she truly was.
We're so excited to see what the future holds for this amazing young woman and her
incredible company that has the potential to truly transform the way her generation shops!
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