March 4 2016

Introducing UNItiques­ The Online Clothing Swap for College Girls By Sarah Kaiser

What better way to #ConnectToConfidence than to literally trade out your old wardrobe for one that’s fresh and new and makes you feel great without breaking the bank.  UNItiques provides a unique opportunity to do just that.  Sarah Kaiser interviewed Alex Shadrow, UNItiques founder, and she has the inside scoop on this ground breaking new way to shop:

It’s hard to go to Boston University and not know what UNItiques is. It’s everywhere here, and largely because the creator, Alex Shadrow, founded it while a BU student. A college student herself just one year ago, she knows the struggle of “balling on a budget”, and brainstorming for a way to make a little more money, she founded UNItiques.

Alex Shadrow, Unitiques Founder

Alex Shadrow, Unitiques Founder

UNItiques is the online trendy marketplace where thousands of college girls buy and sell fashion – right on campus. It is 100% free. Think of it as a big online clothing swap for girls in college (with 20,000 members, including 2/3 Boston University girls)! It is unique because it “provides a free, safe, and local way for students to buy & sell on campus.” And, by promoting reuse and recycling, UNItiques makes campuses and wallets greener!

UNItiques’ mission is to enable all students to be entrepreneurs, by turning their closets and dorms into stores (like my store). One of the stand out points of UNItiques is that it is much safer than Craigslist – but more local than eBay so you can “try before you buy.”  You need a verified college email address to join, creating  a safe environment, because you know you’re doing business with a student just like you! Not only is shopping on UNItiques so much cheaper than in stores – with over 1,000 items for less than $15 – but by shopping on UNItiques you are supporting other college students!  Once you are a member on UNItiques, you are member for life!  

I sat down to interview the founder, Alex to get more insight on the business. Here is our interview!  

Screenshot 2016-03-04 11.20.55How did you start your business?

I didn’t set out to start a business; I had some clothes to get rid of, and went to multiple second­-hand stores which was a huge rip off!  I then then started to sell them through a group on Facebook that I started called BU­tique – just for girls at BU to trade clothes! Girls from other schools in wanted in, but Facebook rules would not allow them to join since they did not attend BU (Boston University). This lead me to create to create a website so everyone could participate. In 2014 we launched UNItiques for just BU, and had 3,000 students that earned $28,000 that year. In 2015 we launched nationwide, with the focus on the 33 colleges in the Boston area. In 2015 alone, we reached 8,000 members and put over $100,000 into their pockets!  

Screenshot 2016-03-04 11.25.57When you were​ an entrepreneur and a busy college student at a top university, how did you do it all?

I’ve always been someone that takes the experience and does whatever I want with it. I didn’t find a balance.  I created a balance. I became a part time student immediately. I took classes that were easier for me, because UNItiques was just about all I could handle. I learned you only get what you ask for, so I asked BU for independent study credit for UNItiques. There was no class for entrepreneurship, and it was created because I asked for it. If there aren’t any straight-­up solutions, you have to make your own.

Do you ever find that you aren’t taken seriously because you are such a young entrepreneur? If so, what do you do when that happens?

I get people saying,  “Your idea is really impressive for a girl. I never see girls do that”, and I just pay no mind to it, because I pity people who can’t see beyond this type of sexism. At first it really upset me, but I use it to my advantage. I can’t reason with irrational, so I just hold my head up and let my work speak for itself. I make an army of supporters and they are what matters.

What makes you feel confident?

UNItiques members that I don’t know reaching out to me! It’s the best thing possible. I send out information on UNItiques to students and they respond, “Thank you so much for sending this to me.  It’s really great,” and that makes me really happy.

What is the most challenging part of being a young entrepreneur?

The pressure of, “Is this going to work?” You think and you hope, and you say to yourself, “Am I delusional for thinking this will work?” or  “Am I crazy for putting all this money and energy into UNItiques?” I guess it’s the uncertainty of being a 23 year old and not knowing if it’s going to happen fully.

Screenshot 2016-03-04 11.31.29

What are your plans for your business? Are you growing?

We are expanding beyond Boston to Los Angeles (where I am from), and then to Providence, RI; Austin, TX; Florida, Arizona, Chicago, and Philly in the next five years.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs? Are there any classes that really helped you?

Entrepreneurship is never about never letting yourself get beaten down, because things will happen and will discourage you. If starting a business was easy, everyone would do it. I see my friends making money at their desk jobs, and it’s hard to see because I am living day to day.  I sell clothes on UNItiques to eat! But it’s worth it. You can’t let the fear of not it working out get you down.

If you could do one thing differently (business wise), what would you do?

In 2013 when I was making the website I hired an external web developer. I created an idea board of what I wanted out of it. The website they created didn’t end up being my vision, and they ended up being really expensive and debilitating. Things will go wrong, and you have to be able to fix them.  I found a new internal CTO, Ashkay, who helps me with the tech. Otherwise, I wouldn’t do anything differently then what I am doing.

What does She’s Fit to Lead mean to you? How does someone become “Fit to Lead”?

She’s Fit To Lead means to means to me that you are a leader, whether it is in your own life or a club, sorority, even a family or activity. It means being in charge of who you are and your own life, and not apologizing for “doing you” – respectfully of course… It’s really important to take initiative, and seize opportunities. It’s about saying yes to things you want to do, and no to things you don’t.


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