At one end of Sallerupsvägen in Malmö, there is a 500 square meter space filled with tons of clothes, a small photo studio, and a machine learning prototype in the making. The prototype will learn the difference between a sock from a hat, and a jacket from a pair of pants. From here, Minikit sells second-hand clothes for children all over Sweden.
A PROBLEM & THE SOLUTION
It all started in late winter 2020. Josefin Runquist and Maja Vallinder met at a mutual friend's 30th birthday party. They found each other in a conversation about second-hand, fast fashion, and buying second-hand clothes for children. Josefin found it difficult and uninspiring to shop for clothes for her daughter, and Maja had the experience of only buying second-hand clothes for more than a year. Since both of them had experience in fast fashion, degrees from the Swedish School of Textiles in Borås, and a passion for sustainability, they decided to find a solution to the problem.
- We kind of thought we were totally crazy, starting a business at the beginning of a pandemic that no-one knew anything about, but at the same time, we wanted to test our idea in a proper way right from the start, says Josefine.
LAUNCH-DAY WITH 500KG OF CLOTHES
But it all checked out. In the first month, they collected 500kg of clothes, and after two months the website went live. On launch day, 1st of May 2020, Minikit received 20 orders. It became clear that 500kg wasn’t enough. After a year, the estimation was that Minikit had collected 10 tons of clothes.
100.000 SEK & MACHINE LEARNING SOFTWARE
And after working with Minikit for a year, Josefin and Maja applied to the Minc Innovation Challenge 2021 and ended up as one of the three winners. Their price was 100.000 SEK, a spot in the Incubator program, and a dedicated coach from the Minc Tech Lab.
With that large amount of clothes comes a lot of manual labor. Apart from carrying countless garbage bags of used clothes, it also includes separating, sorting, and registering sizes and quality. This is where the Minc Tech Lab came to the rescue. Minc Tech coach Sebastian Otarola Silva, helped Josefin and Maja to come up with ideas to make their daily work easier. In the end, they ended up with an idea of machine learning software. Josefine and Maja are now developing this AI. The software will recognize and sort out the type of clothes, color, and patterns automatically, before publishing the clothing kit onto the website. This is an important piece since presentation and accessibility are a big part of Minikit’s business idea.
- We want it to be as inspiring as when shopping for new clothes online, but easier since we sell outfits instead of selling things separately. In this way, you can sort by the size you want, and the look you’re going for, Maja says.
A WIN-WIN-WIN SITUATION
The business idea is a win-win-win situation. Minikit buys the clothes in bulk from people. The clothes that don't fulfill the standards are either given to charity or sent to textile recycling, giving life to new textiles. Then, the team sorts and matches pieces by size and style - creating clothing kits. By selling clothes in kits, Minikit makes it easier for the buyer to find outfits that they’re looking for, and that in the end helps Minikit to sell larger quantities.
Apart from getting the AI up and running, they’re currently focusing on marketing. They’ve decided to use their prize money from the Minc Innovation Challenge to investigate and try out influencer marketing. The idea is to A-B test Swedish influencers, social media accounts, and campaigns focusing on sustainable lifestyles.
TOP 3 MINC EXPERIENCES
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Erik Modig is a researcher at the Center for Consumer Marketing at Stockholm School of Economics and is also the author of several books about communication and advertising. With his many years of experience in teaching advertising strategies and his appreciated Incubator workshops at Minc, we asked him about his best advice to reach customers online.Learn more
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