#MyStartUpStory: Where That Idea Came From & Customer Validation


Photo: one of my muses from London Elisa rocking a vintage fur coat on a photoshoot.

I came up with my idea for TrendListr about a year ago, when I realised that as much as I loved clothing resale, it was difficult to scale up to a ‘full time income’ without trying to start up a bricks and mortar shop (which would tie me down too much to one place). I therefore started thinking about creating a selling platform of my own, but the thought of it was daunting and I never quite believed I would find the resources to go ahead with it at University.

Because the London College of Fashion, the University at which I did my Bachelors degree in Fashion Photography (it’s part of University of the Arts London) did nothing but destroy my confidence and make me feel useless and incapable, the idea of owning my own business fell buy the wayside as I looked at available jobs and thought ‘I’m going to end up a sandwich artist’ (which is actually what Subway call their employees, you can’t fault them on trying to boost employee morale !!)

However, Newcastle University has been invaluable in building up my confidence but also providing me with access to people, information and services that helped me to start viewing having my own business as not only realistic, but achievable. I cannot laud it enough.

So anyway, as ideas were forming in my head about TrendListr, I examined my own experience of online reselling and tried to distill why I ended up abandoning so many websites. I stopped selling on Etsy because the listing fee system was difficult to calculate and made selling vintage items costly with their ‘renewal’ system (It’s ideal if you’re selling digital products, or products you have more than one of, but for unique items those listing fees add up fast and cut deeply into profit margins). I left ebay for a long while because I was taken into hospital as an emergency while I had auctions going and sorting out refunds and placating sellers from my hospital bed was a whole load of stress. I left ASOS Marketplace because I wasn’t making enough sales on it for it to be worthwhile, I tried Vinted but I found the website layout clunky and the listing fees extortionate for low value items…

Photo: I always sell my cast offs online, but I realised there were so many problems with existing platforms and I decided there had to be a better way.

I stayed loyal to BuyMyWardrobe - they were kind enough to give me an internship and they’re a fantastic marketplace for high end items; I don’t intend to compete with them for that market with TrendListr, as it’s a market that is already well catered for (see Tradesy, Vestiaire Collective, Covetique etc.) and will probably sell on that platform until I stop selling!

I did realise that the main factor that put me off listing as a part time reseller, part time student was the idea of money up front for listings. I resented paying even a small fee for a listing on Etsy when I had no guarantee it would sell, having to factor in this, renewal fees, Etsy fees and paypal fees into my bottom line. I initially considered whether I could charge a flat 5% fee of commission for sellers, and allow them to keep the rest - but I did my research and realized that web development and hosting charges required a certain amount of capital per month, and I would have to be relying on a large volume of sales to cover that.

I went down to Windsor to stay with my boyfriend and his two friends, one of which already has two established tech start ups (The online nursery management solution, www.inursery.co.uk, and easy invoicing software, www.quikr.io) and mentioned the idea to them. The techie start up guy said ‘hey, why don’t you try it on a subscription basis?’ and everything clicked. 

Why were there no websites about that would let me pay a small fixed amount per month, then list to my heart’s content? Paying a fixed amount would firstly encourage me to list more, and secondly make calculating my profits easier by a substantial amount. You could subtract it from your profits and voila - you know exactly how much you’ve made, and it isn’t proportional to what you’ve sold. 

Therefore the more work you put in listing, the more money you make - rather than it going straight into the pockets of eBay and Paypal. This seemed a much fairer business model for resellers to me, and as long as I found a way to make sure the monthly fee was enough to keep the platform up and running, I knew it was achievable.

Photo: The landing page in it's first format... obviously we have been fiddling around with it for the past few months!

And so TrendListr in it’s current business model was born. At the moment I am still validating the idea, which means talking to potential customers and seeing if the proposed subscription service concept is viable and appealing to resellers - I realise that just because I thought it would suit my reselling, it doesn’t mean that it would appeal to everyone!

The steps that I am taking going forward are a little hindered by my University work, but include market research talking to resellers online (and also communicating via the UK resellers forum to meet new people and forge relationships), approaching bricks and mortar small vintage businesses in the area to go and speak to them ‘IRL’ about my idea (haven’t heard back from any yet but I have time!) and the website is being worked on, which is the most exciting thing right now. I can’t wait to see how it turns out, we’ve already chosen a bootstrap template we like that we are going to adjust to our specific requirements.

Stay tuned for more about #MyStartUpStory, hopefully next time I post I will be able to update you on some concrete facts that have come to fruition. I'm living by what innocent smoothies tell their employees: if you're 80% sure that something will work, go for it. There's no point in waiting to be 100% sure because these things are not linear processes: take the plunge, start acting, and the rest will follow... I hope!

You can follow me on Facebook here, and check out more of my photography here.

I also run an FREE online HQ photography resource for bloggers, which you can find here.

As always, thanks for reading and leave any comments you have below!

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