Entrepreneurs Who Found Online Business Success in Secondhand Clothing
These entrepreneurs took the thrift store concept to social media and e-commerce platforms—where they give used clothing a second chance and a new home.
Ukay-ukay or thrift stores have been around for as long as we can remember, and numbers show that secondhand clothing is one lucrative business. In fact, the secondhand apparel market value worldwide is projected to reach $141 billion (approximately PHP 7.73 trillion) this year. By 2026, the market value is projected to reach an even higher $216 billion (approximately PHP 11.84 trillion)!
Given the rise of online shops and e-commerce platforms, it is no surprise that secondhand clothing stores have found their way online, and many have found online business success through them. After all, online platforms make secondhand clothing more accessible to potential customers anywhere. And despite being secondhand, the clothes are still in good condition and are more affordable—which is right up the alley of the budgeteers who are keeping a close eye on their expenses.
Moreover, online thrift stores also make it a point to curate the pieces that they offer to ensure that customers still get stylish clothes on a budget. To learn more about running a successful online business focused on secondhand clothing, we talked to the owners of three online stores.
Erica Dee, Ged Poe, and Nica Siy, Owners of Nirvana
Launched just last year, Nirvana’s cause is deeply rooted in making secondhand the way of life by making it mainstream and easy. Putting it into practice, its three owners, Erica, Ged, and Nica, created a seamless platform for both their buyers and sellers.
“For interested buyers, they can purchase through our website and filter based on their mood, theme, size and style,” they explain. “For our sellers who we call our brand contributors, they may also fill up a consignment form on our website. We handle end-to-end from pick up to fulfillment to eliminate any hassle from their end.”
The three young entrepreneurs acknowledge that sizing and lack of familiarity when it comes to certain brands have challenged them when it comes to running an online thrift store. Despite this, they are driven by the amount of clothes being thrown in landfills due to overconsumption.
“We realized that there was a way for people in the community to share and embrace circularity rather than just throw away their old clothing,” they share. “So many factors can cause a piece not to be worn: change in style, lifestyle, body but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be meant for somebody else. Not to mention, there’s just something more special and unique about finding that one piece that feels like it was meant for you.”
Isaiah Ursolino, Owner of Haia
Even before starting her own online thrift store, Isaiah was already interested in fashion and has already considered herself part of the online customer base for slow fashion—defined as “an awareness and approach to fashion that carefully considers the processes and resources required to make clothing.” As the opposite of fast fashion, its advocacy lies in buying better-quality, long-lasting garments.
“It was an exciting form of retail therapy for me since most thrift shops sell mainly unique items which I can’t find just anywhere else,” she explains. “It was also still during the height of the pandemic so it’s not practical to go out and shop for clothes at retail shops or ukay-ukays so that was convenient for me back then.”
The 27-year-old then launched Haia online in September 2020 after realizing she didn’t need to invest a very large capital—which she regarded as a bonus. “Running an online thrift shop is a good startup since there’s already a surprisingly big market who’s invested in slow fashion, especially as people become more environmentally conscious,” Isaiah says. “I was actually surprised at how many online thrift shops were already existing when I first came to know about this concept and market.”
For her inventory, she refrains from buying thrifted clothes in bulk. Instead, she visits trusted brick-and-mortar thrift stores to actually pick out the clothes herself. Isaiah likewise models the clothes herself and does her best to be flexible with sizes so that she can cater to a bigger market.
Moreover, she makes it a point to invest in advertising—which is advice she wants to share with aspiring entrepreneurs. “I think this is one of the main factors why my online thrift shop gets by despite the big competition,” Isaiah points out.
“I make sure that my photos look good, I create videos or reels to entice my potential buyers, and I spend money to boost those kinds of content so they can be seen by my target market. It’s all about hyping up your products and ultimately your shop,” she adds.
Jenny Vista, Owner of Decluttering Thrifts
22-year-old Jenny started Decluttering Thrifts during the pandemic, but she says her love for thrift stores started even back when she was in high school. “I’ve been going to thrift stores a lot since high school because they’re affordable, and you can find pieces that are rare and have good quality,” she says.
Her need for extra income pushed her to start her business and she eventually decided on an online thrift store “since people were restricted to go outside.”
“This way, I can earn at home, and I can help people shop with convenience without breaking the bank,” she adds.
While bogus buyers and some customers’ lack of experience in online payments have caused her challenges, Jenny is proud of the community that she was able to build because of the women’s clothing she sells in her shop. Jenny makes it a point to choose curated pieces that reflect her style and personality, which she believes sets her business apart.
“Miners or buyers always go to stores they can resonate with on a personal level,” Jenny explains. “That is why I poured my personality into Decluttering Thrifts, hoping that people would like my style.”