Legal Name: UNItiques LLC
Location: Los Angeles, California
Industry: Global Secondhand Apparel Market
Size: $24B in 2018 (Source: thredUP “2019 Fashion Resale Report”, conducted by GlobalData)
Projections: $51Bn in 2023 at a CAGR of 13.3% for 2018-2023 (Source: thredUP “2019 Fashion Resale Report”, conducted by GlobalData)
The global fashion industry has been dealing with concerns about its ecological footprint and the damage it is causing to the planet’s natural resources. Though we are a long way away from solving this issue, a Los Angeles-based startup Relovv provides a platform for sustainably buying & selling fashion. Its co-founders claim that Relovv is the ‘first marketplace to focus on the next-generation, and support their lower price point with the highest sell-through in the industry.’
Relovv is positioned as a dating app for buyers & sellers of used clothing. It uses machine learning to match buyers, with lower price point manufacturers, based on their unique style, size, and budget. Individual sellers, who have unwanted clothing items in their wardrobe, can also list on the portal. The sellers don’t need to pay any commission at all to get free access to this matchmaking facility in a fashion marketplace.
On the other hand, buyers get the best brands at 75% of retail price ($30 average price point), along with free shipping.
The startup makes its money by charging a matchmaking fee of 10% of the list price from the buyers.
Their USP is their patent-pending social selling feature. Even if users don’t wish to sell items, they can still make money by helping sell other peoples’ items. By clicking the “relovv” button on products that they appreciate or would like to recommend, it gets added to their profile. If their curated products sell, they earn money and points.
The startup has even launched an inclusive influencer program, which opens up user access to IRL events, Instagram engagement groups, and Relovv merchandise.
Origin and Founding Team
Alexandra Shadrow, a Boston University (BU) alum comes from a family of sustainable entrepreneurs. She channeled her passion for the environment into setting up her own business – Relovv. “It’s something I absolutely had to do,” she said in an interview on the Just Go Grind Podcast.
While still at university, Shadrow started BUtique to sell her own non-luxury clothes. Soon, other college mates started enlisting her help to sell their own clothing items. It became a website that allowed girls on campus to share the contents of their closets. Then, its reach grew to 600+ campuses and 30,000 members (as UNItiques.com), nurtured by BU’s BUzz Lab. And Shadrow even won BUzz Lab’s Best New Venture in 2015.
Eventually, in 2017, owing to lack of sufficient funds and technical issues with user experiences, it shut down.
“It was definitely a time to kind of switch gears and not give up on the mission,” Shadrow said to the Daily Free Press. “There’s a big problem that we are solving, and the solution that I built wasn’t the right one.”
But soon enough, she began drawing on her learnings with UNItiques.com and adding several new features to form a new product – Relovv. She started working on this new proposition in a bid to cater to customers beyond college campuses.
Technical co-founder Akshay Kolte, a machine learning expert and Babson College alumni, joined forces with Shadrow in June 2018. And Relovv officially launched in October 2018.
Performance and Trends
In the podcast interview, Shadrow mentioned that the Relovv portal had 50,000 members in June 2019 and that she plans to grow the count to 100,000 by the end of 2019.
But in its journey from a hobby-website to a privately-funded startup, the startup struggled to raise funding. Shadrow told a Boston University publication that securing funds was extra challenging for her, as a female founder in a low-margin tech-marketplace.
Finally, in July 2018, one of the world’s most competitive startup accelerators, Techstars offered them a $100,000 convertible note plus $20,000, to Relovv. The platform has also secured funding from the likes of Brilliant Ventures, Firebrand Ventures, and Realist Ventures.
Shadrow went on to say that she considers social commerce marketplace, Poshmark, as Relovv’s biggest competitor. But the latter is missing the sustainability angle, unique to Relovv. And she believes that owing to the growing relevance of the eco-friendly business’ mission to #ReduceReuseRelovv in today’s world, it is being actively accepted and promoted by customers.
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