Founder of Online Kids' Shop on How to Succeed in Resale
Sharon Schneider started the online children’s’ consignment shop Moxie Jean to create an alternative to the too-often dingy, time-consuming process of finding quality used togs for little ones.
To win the busy, well-heeled customers underserved by the current used-clothes market, she cultivates a specific image for her company: clean, classy, accessible.
“The existing options were either grubby, like Goodwill, inconvenient, like a garage sale, or time consuming, like eBay,” she says. “We have to make it convenient and upscale to make moms comfortable with it.”
Schneider left her job as a consultant in private wealth management to start the company in December 2011 after she realized how many high-quality, unblemished clothes parents have sitting in their closets gathering dust. A well-managed, professional broker could help create a viable secondary market for these next-to-new, brand-name goods, she thought.
Schneider found that starting a resale business has its special challenges and requirements. Earning her clients’ and customers’ confidence had to be her first priority because the options that dominate the used-clothes market — thrift stores, auction sites, and yard sales — usually lack tight management and quality control. Showing that her business could reliably provide quality products was essential.
“You have to quickly establish credibility,” she says. “Trust and reputation management are the big issues.”
The strategy proved successful: The company has had more than 10,000 customers and amassed thousands of sellers since it launched. Moxie Jean now has three full-time and 15 part-time employees.
The venture is tapping into an enormous market for used children’s clothing. “Parents spend $56 billion each year on kids’ clothes, and six months later it’s obsolete, it’s outgrown,” Schneider says. “It’s an industry that’s ripe for disruption.”
The disruption she’s talking about is not only about providing alternatives to Goodwill and eBay, but also strengthening an alternative economy that focuses on sharing, recycling, and reducing waste in all ways.
Growing the cotton and other materials that go into new clothes requires hundreds of gallons of water, so even those parents who buy organic cotton clothes aren’t being as “green” as those shopping in second-hand markets. Schneider equates the work of building up such markets with encouraging “responsible parenting” that does right by the planet.
Schneider’s focus on social responsibility is central to her motivation as a business owner. Moxie Jean donates the clothing the company doesn’t choose to consign — some 40 percent of submissions — to a Chicago nonprofit called The Kids’ Pantry.
“We’re a community of moms helping moms,” she says.
And a big part of helping moms is delivering what parents want most.
“The greenness or the reuse is a thing that makes people feel good about it, but it’s probably not the thing driving their use decisions,” says Schneider. “For them, it’s convenience, access, value.”
Photo courtesy Amy Boyle Photography.
Katherine Gustafson is a freelance writer based in Seattle, Washington, who loves writing about small business and entrepreneurship. Her first book, Change Comes to Dinner, explores the way entrepreneurs and other visionaries—from greenhouse innovators to no-till wheat farmers—are changing the business of food.