If your closet is full of clothes you hardly ever wear, you’re not alone. Janet Wu, Founder of SilkRoll, wants to change this phenomenon by applying the core tenets of a sharing economy to the fashion world. SilkRoll is a peer-to-peer online exchange that presents a sustainable approach to shopping. Need to refresh your wardrobe? Simply turn in unwanted clothes and accessories and receive points to ‘buy’ items listed on SilkRoll’s platform.
What is your business, and what problem you are solving?
SilkRoll’s story began with my own closet. Throughout my ten years as an investment banker, the demand to “look good” was high. At the end of a long day of work, I ended many late nights in front the computer, shopping online for the latest designer fashions. As a result, I ended up with way too many items that no longer fit my lifestyle.
My admittedly overflowing closet inspired me to pursue a different approach to shopping. SilkRoll was born out of that vision. We let you trade, shop, and discover high-end designer fashion without breaking the bank. By using a points-based system to facilitate transactions, we encourage people to share resources in a way that doesn't detract from the monetary and emotional value we attach to our possessions.
Starting with a single of rack of my own clothes, our community of women organically grew from two people to over two thousand. Today, several months after the official release of our new website, we have paying customers spanning the U.S. from Orange County to Brooklyn, from Montana to New Mexico.
What inspired you to start your company?
After moving to San Francisco, I found myself constantly searching for answers to two questions. First, how could I retain the value of the things I no longer want and give them to someone who'd love them as much as I did? Second, I began wondering about the lifecycle of unused clothing. Where do they end up and what are the untapped opportunities in the space? My research into the subject drew me to the idea of a peer-to-peer online exchange built specifically for high-end fashion.
What is your mission?
A market only performs at its best when there are many players in it. I want SilkRoll to become a highly sought after market player that facilitates market demand and determines the true value of tradable resources.
While our current focus is on high-end women’s clothing, I would like to eventually expand our operations to include men's and children's clothing, accessories, sports gear, and more!
Who is in your core team? How did your team come together?
We are a small but enthusiastic team. Together, we bring all of our brains and hearts to the table to serve our customers at the highest possible standards. My Co-Founder, Erin Wold, spent four years running operations at RedCap, a high-growth startup. I am so grateful for her invaluable expertise in scaling operations.
Gavin Farrington is our Head of Technical Operations. A renowned photographer, Gavin is featured on San Francisco’s Best of the Best. His tech background, professional edge, and passion for automation perfectly showcase SilkRoll’s products. Our latest team addition is our technical advisor, Anusheel Bhushan. A software engineer by training with over five years of experience in founding and scaling his company, Anusheel brings extensive knowledge to take SilkRoll’s technology to the next level.
Please explain your edge (or differentiation) over your competition?
We've introduced the first points-based trading system to the fashion industry. We also have a membership-option (like AmazonPrime), which is new to the secondhand marketplace and fits perfectly into our business model.
New places and experiences inspire me to create my next passion project.
If you never had to work another day in your life, what would you do? Why?
While I am pretty sure I will always work, there is something magical about traveling. New places and experiences inspire me to create my next passion project. A dream of mine is to design a trip that follows the ancient Silk Road trading route. Starting in Western China, I would journey west and eventually end in Europe.
Who inspires you?
Oprah Winfrey. She is a great inspiration for women, especially minority women. Her ideas, spirit, charisma, and authenticity have positively influenced and shaped so many communities around the world. At the same time, she is also a successful businesswoman. Her contributions to humanity inspire me daily. My dream is to meet her and be interviewed by her one day!
From sharing rides, cars, and homes, we have barely brushed the tip of the iceberg in terms of resource redistribution and reallocation.
If you were an investor, how would you look at SilkRoll as an opportunity?
The world is transitioning from resource abundance to resource scarcity. Simultaneously, the sharing economy is quickly evolving. From sharing rides, cars, and homes, we have barely brushed the tip of the iceberg in terms of resource redistribution and reallocation. The possibilities are endless. As humans become more aware and conscious of their own behaviors, innovation in the sharing economy space will be highly demanded.
In a similar vein, SilkRoll redefines closet sharing. For early investors, this is an opportunity to take part in something that will positively impact the way humans utilize resources.
What drew you to equity crowdfunding?
After speaking to our friends and network, we quickly learned that many of them wanted an opportunity to become involved with SilkRoll. Without equity crowdfunding, however, there wasn't an easy way to facilitate this as most of these people were not accredited investors or venture capitalists. Republic provides our supporters with the chance to invest, while also giving SilkRoll fantastic brand exposure!
Our data collection is centered on real transactional behaviors, rather than just browsing and clicking behaviors.
Any challenges you anticipate? How do you approach them?
Data accuracy to predict trends and behavior is still a growing area. Until it fully matures, companies will experience challenges in trying to accurately predict customer preferences. Conscious of this, our data collection is centered on real transactional behaviors, rather than just browsing and clicking behaviors. Most of our customers trade products on our platform on a monthly or weekly basis, which allows us to collect much more reliable data.
So why not a 9-5? Why choose uncertainty over comfort?
As a founder, you're the captain as well as the designer, architect, and builder of your own ship. Where that ship sails and how the journey ends is fully in your hands. You harness the ability to create your own dream, and the same ability to crush it. In that way, every minute of this journey is exciting and alive, and it is your responsibility to steer towards your destiny while anticipating the next storm.
What do you need the most help with?
We are currently focused on finding the best way to scale the business and get the word out there as fast as possible. Right now we’re on the lookout for experts in growth marketing!