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The Future of Thryfting

How can we make quality sustainable clothing enticing and accessible to young consumers? Thryft, an online platform that sells quality, second-hand products at affordable prices, does just that. It didn’t always start that way, though – according to founders Capri Wheaton and Samuel Yang.

The Beginning

Upon entering their first year as students at UC Berkeley, Capri and Sam sought out an opportunity to launch an innovative business, enrolling in an introductory Entrepreneurship class. In my interview with Capri, she described her original vision of Thryft as a website platform that solicited “sustainably-produced” clothing made by other large-scale brands. However, after they participated in the Berkeley Sky-Deck incubator and spoke with their advisors, Sam describes that their original vision filled more of a “want” than a “need.” Thus began their first pivot on their journey to discover how they could offer sustainable clothing at accessible prices.

Capri and Sam began learning from investors what types of issues they needed to address prior to raising capital. One of the most pressing issues was the need to create revenue. After discussing these issues with mentors from SkyDeck and their HUM120 (Introduction to Entrepreneurship) class, they realized the true value of their service was not solely the ease of transaction for customers, but also the value their platform offered second-hand retail stores.

Soon though, they realized the need to pivot again. Brick-and-mortar stores were only valuable partners when they were appropriately prepared to list their items online. They began reaching out to sellers on websites like Etsy and Shopify to be featured on the Thryft platform. This streamlined their processes, and allowed them to have more control over which items were featured on their site. By having control over our marketplace, they are able to vet the best sellers, eliminate drop-shipping, and have better control over prices. Curating trend-based collections, Thryft aims to help users quickly find items they love and feel good about, appealing to their money-conscious customer base, college students.

Market Demand

With the wave of COVID-19 storming America, the need for offering second-hand clothing via a centralized, online platform was stronger than ever. With an estimated 1.92 billion e-commerce consumers, online shopping constitutes 14.1% of retail purchases across the globe. One MarketWatch article predicted that in 2020 alone, online secondhand shopping was predicted to increase by 27%. One market sizing report cites that the second hand market will grow from $28B in 2020 to $64B in 2024.

What's Next

Sam and Capri are very cognizant of the obstacles they have had to overcome throughout this process, and warn others of how the media often glamorizes the start-up process.

“There’s a possibility that your business won’t work,” says Sam. “College is a great place to network, meet future customers and advisors...but you need to be very committed.” Capri nodded in agreement, “We have encountered a lot of past experiences that were very difficult to move forward from. It was really tricky at first when we were trying to get feedback from potential consumers and were left with very little to pivot from.”

The hard work paid off; both withdrew from school to pursue this venture full-time, and have since been offered mentorship and funding via the Y Combinator program – a new vision secured them a spot in the Winter 2021 cohort. That vision – to be the “safest platform to shop secondhand online” – is on its way. Their company is growing, including new additions to their team such as a Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion officer and a Marketing Lead. They are excited for the promising future that the e-commerce platform has to offer consumers, and for the opportunity to achieve a more accessible community for those interested in shopping sustainably.

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