Karma Trade - a personalized clothing swap service

Users swap in clothes for points and receive up to 20 secondhand items under a $15-30 monthly subscription.

Photo of Mona Fang
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Written by

Additional categories (optional)

  • Technology
  • Environment

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

www.karmatrade.shop IG: @karma.trade (Personal IG which I use to promote Karma Trade: @mona.fang)

Date You Started Your Project Started

01/15/2019 Began event marketing and MVP development 08/15/2019 Incorporated as LLC

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry. Consumers are purchasing high volumes of clothing at low costs, which creates a hefty carbon footprint from clothing production and textile waste. We need better channels for used clothing. 90% of clothes in popular clothing donation centers end up in landfill. We need an affordable and sustainable alternative to fast fashion to break our linear pattern of consume then dispose.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

A customer takes a picture of all the clothes they don't wear in a single picture and uploads it to our platform. A stylist on our team rewards customer with points based on quality and quantity of items. Using those pints, the customer chooses secondhand items on our platform. For $15, they have access to choosing generic items and then filling out a style profile. For $30, they can directly message a stylist who will find items to their liking. Customers receive our clothing in the mail first. Then using the same 12x12 shipping box, they package their old clothes with a prepaid shipping label and ship it to us. In the backend, Karma Trade takes in all the clothes that users send in. We wash, clean and sort it out. Then ship it to other customers. We make fashion more circular, ensuring every scrap of fabric is reused/reworn as a circular fashion initiative. If we receive clothing that does not match what the user sends in, then we charge an extra $15. If customers only want to receive clothing, it will be an extra $15 on top of any subscription/one time service fee.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

Sitting in a Barnes and Nobles coffee shop, my friend and I were complaining about how much we hated selling our old clothes online. I bought an item for $13 that I no longer wear. I try to sell for $6 to make some money back for other clothes. But shipping on top of the $6 makes my used shirt $13 to buyers. Nobody would buy my shirt. I wanted a solution to be able to get clothes back for the clothes I didn't wear. Thrifting takes too long and I can't find things I like. So we talked about a model to swap clothing that can help save the environment from the fashion industry. It would be Stitchfix and Thredup combined. We noted Thredup's main flaw - that selling items aren't valuable to customers. So we wanted to steer away from a model where we would pay customers in money. Instead, we pay them in clothing as long as they join our club!

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

I have worked extensively with graphics designers, photographers, models and mentors. I build a lot of those relationships by a mutual vision of sustainable fashion. As someone who just started college, I am looking for potential teammates on marketing and tech. In the future, I would like to create a culture where creativity is highly valued. My team and I should all be working towards a similar mission that sustainable fashion habits should be accessible and affordable. Let's bring up a hypothetical example: creating a marketing campaign on IG. I want the people working with me to give me as many or more design ideas than I am bringing to the table. We split up the work of putting photoshoots, graphics and ad targeting. I believe in fair equity splits between anybody who wants to be with Karma Trade long term.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Customers have higher return value than simply selling their clothes for cash. It is also saves people time on thrifting/selling clothes. It's cheaper than any thrift store and fast fashion retailer (as long as you are willing to give up some clothes you don't wear). The key differentiating point I have noted from people who have heard about my idea is that it is sustainable fashion offered at affordable rates. Also, the fashion marketing I have so far makes the clothing more appealing than any other types. The points criteria will make my secondhand clothing higher quality.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

To build my clothing stock of 300+ items, I hosted three clothing swap events with North Central College Enactus, Balodana and GMI Models. I had event participants donate clothing and receive 1-2 items back for free. The best thing I learned was that young women have serious pain points in having too many clothes they don't wear. The typical donation was four bags of clothing. I made a difference by preventing these items to be donated to popular donation centers and ending up in landfill. Having a long term partnership with Balodana and a new upcoming alliance with DeLitter (an Enactus startup), I believe that we can increase the longevity of the clothes in people's closet. Clothing items can take upwards to a century to decay and it is a serious problem in third world countries where textile waste litters sidewalks and irrigation systems (my friends at Enactus have seen this).

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

I just moved into [Co][Lab], Urbana, IL ! It's my new storage/workspace that is being paid for by a $3000 grant I received via pitch competition in my high school. I am actively scouting out potential teammates to build the web software I am envisioning and marketing members to brand Karma Trade. I have mild programming experience, so another possibility is that I create the platform myself. I am about to launch an MVP on my website without code to start selling secondhand clothing and offer people discounted rates by donating their clothes. In a month or so, I will launch another photoshoot. I am talking to Cube Consulting (student consulting group) to create a sales funnel. I am also setting up an event partnership with DeLitter.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Marketing Strategy

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Sales
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations between $1k-$5k

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 0%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 66.7%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 0%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 33.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 66.7%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 100%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 66.7%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 33.3%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Carson McBain

The fashion industry needs to be a lot more sustainable, and your efforts here are definitely influencing a shift! You clearly have a good sense of business development and marketing, with research into how it's unique from ThredUp and Stitchfix. My questions are - once this takes off, are you exploring ways to offset the carbon emissions from the shipping? When I think of subscription services, the first thing that always comes to mind is the fuel used to transport the item to my doorstep, so that could be another way to advance sustainability, if the customer opted to pay a little extra. Personally I would pay an extra $2 if it meant I'd be carbon-neutral. Another idea - you have connections in the fashion industry; have you approached them about the idea of holding a fashion show to promote your clothing? It could reframe used clothing as high fashion and help change the way people see it. Subscription services are trending now so I think you will easily have a lot of people interested in this, especially once you reach a critical tipping point. Best of luck to you!

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