Categorized | Shoestring Startup

Swapping Kids Clothing – Catching up with James Reinhart, Chief Knitwit at thredUP

Name of your company?

thredUP Inc.

Date started?

April 2010.

What is your product or service?

thredUP is a new swapping platform for kids clothing. We help parents across America exchange clothes their kids no longer wear, for clothes that fit. thredUP couples the simplicity of “hand-me-downs,” with a massive network of swappers online – connecting like-minded parents and facilitating seamless exchanges.

Our key differentiator is convenience. Parents swap in bulk with flat rate boxes, making it easy to exchange a child’s entire outgrown wardrobe. Even better, swaps require zero trips to the post office, as thredUP has plugged into the US Postal Service’s home pick-up and delivery option.

On thredUP moms get access to thousands of boxes of clothes organized by size, season and gender. Picking a box of clothes costs only $5 plus shipping, and moms can also send gently used kids’ stuff to another parent who needs it.

Why did you start your company?

James Reinhart

I conceived the idea for thredUP after staring in my closet and realizing I didn’t want to wear one thing in it. I simply wanted to find another guy – same size, same style – and swap all my clothes for his clothes. With a baby on the way, this interest in swapping got me thinking about inefficiencies in the kids second-hand market. Parents had no easy way to trade kids’ outgrown clothes, for clothes that fit – clothes don’t grow, kids do!

After a brief pilot program (a men’s and women’s shirt swapping site), co-founders Oliver Lubin, Chris Homer and I launched thredUP – where busy parents swap kids clothing online. My daughter, Evelyn Reinhart was born in July. She’s the best-dressed baby in town and saves me $100 a month in clothing costs!

Who’s your audience?

thredUP is a solution for busy parents, looking to save time, money and the environment. Buying or selling used clothing isn’t a new concept. Neither is trading. However, previous options – craigslist, garage sales, consignment, swap parties – require lots of work if you really want bang for your buck. Swappers love thredUP because it’s so easy, not to mention fun…

How was it financed?

In July 2010, we raised a Series A round of funding bringing total committed capital to $1.7M. Trinity Ventures led the round with Founder Collective, High Line Ventures and Next View Ventures participating.

What is involved with developing this product and making it work right?
thredUP is built around three key principles – affordability, convenience and sustainability. We conducted significant market research prior to launch & spoke with thousands of parents. As it turns out we were dead-on with our impression of the second-hand kids clothing market (craigslist, eBay, consignment) – they are great in theory, but just incredibly time consuming. Parents refuse to spend hours itemizing, uploading photos, setting bidding, negotiating with a buyer, dealing with shipping – for stuff they don’t even want anymore. However, parents love two particular aspects of the second-hand clothing market – the price and the ‘green’ factor.

Thus, we baked these principles into the foundation of thredUP, in a mission to build the most convenient solution for second-hand kids clothing. Parents now recycle outgrown clothes for the next size-up, swap in bulk (15+ items per box), pay only $5 + shipping, and never have to leave the house.

What is the one thing that you did right?

We have listened to our customers from day one. Most companies claim that they are in tune with their customer base – but I really mean it. When three men decide to launch a kids clothing swap platform, it begs the question “how could they possibly know what moms want?!” We have been sensitive to that from day one. Our team has stayed close to our customers over social media, leveraging their insight and creativity to build our product roadmap. We consistently throw out “new feature brainstorms” on facebook – anything from an updated user-interface to the thredUP tag line. We also survey and poll our members consistently to make sure their opinions are heard and taken into consideration. We even encourage some of our “super swappers” to help out with customer service – showing new members the ropes. Many of our swappers feel like they are part of the team as we work together to build something truly innovative. It’s a strategy that’s worked from day one.

What was the biggest transition you had to make (i.e. new skill set, habits, abilities, focus)?

Start-up employees typically wear 10 to 20 hats…everyday. Each member of our team has acquired unique skills he or she did not have prior to working at thredUP. For example, I recently learned coding fundamentals and our customer service specialist is also thredUP’s office manager.

We recently began carving out professional development “sprints” – two-week cycles used to improve employee professional skill sets. Whether that’s learning animation, HTML or Ruby on Rails, I look at setting aside time for professional development is an investment in our team. While these sprints often result in a short-term productivity dip, I’m more interested in the long-term benefits.

What are some future plans for the company?
We are the number one kids clothing swap destination for parents on the web. With that title, the possibilities around “what to do next” seem just endless. Company brainstorms are always fun, with in depth discussions about anything from how to launch maternity clothing swaps to video game trades. In the meantime, our development team launches a new set of features or updates every two weeks. We’re constantly refining and evolving the product to make it easier than ever for parents to swap online.

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