1st Selections.com changes the norm of e-commerce exeperience for fashion lovers.
The secondhand clothing industry has for decades been a booming multi-billion dollar business in Africa. Majority of people heavily rely on this industry for their apparel needs, an alternative to quality but expensive boutique clothings. To acquire slightly used clothings you normally would have to go down to the market and go through the arduous task of selecting items, time wasting bargaining process and all the discomfort that come with purchasing at such places.
Thanks to this new company, you no longer need to go source to look fashionable in top of branded slightly used clothings. By the click of a button you can now make your first selection of slightly used clothings at the comfort of your home over the computer or mobile devices.
This is really a business for smart people. Enoch Appiah and his business partner Godwin Hottor are both graduates from the University for Development Studies (UDS) in Ghana, who hail from Kumasi and Accra respectively. They both have degrees in Computer science and Applied Biology. After successfully establishing the first internet hub on campus for colleague students, they found passion in bringing low cost and easy acquisition of branded clothes to fashion lovers.
The exciting startup co-founder spared some moment to share with us what their business is about. This is the man you need for your next set of clothings.
Enoch, what does 1st Selections.com offer and when did you come into the market?
1st Selections.com delivers hand picked and carefully inspected second hand clothing to the doorsteps of fashion lovers. Our key focus is on quality, affordability and accessibility. Each and every item listed on offer via our website is carefully inspected, to make sure the quality is great and there are no defects anywhere. You wont buy from us and complain about the quality because each and every item goes through a rigorous selection process.
We started by selling solely via social media, this allowed us to test our idea and also to build a community since December 2014. In April 2015, we launched our website 1stselections.com in order to allow us serve fashion lovers better. With our website we are able to provide better information about the clothes listed and a continuously expanding catalogue. We always say “If we can’t wear it ourselves, it’s not good enough”. We believe the second hand fashion market is ripe for technological disruption and this is what we want to do.
What added advantage do you think your type of business brings to consumers in Africa?
Our business allows fashion lovers to have access to quality and beautiful clothing at a great bargain. We believe this allows consumers in Africa enjoy fashion from top brands worldwide. With steadily increasing e-commerce growth we help clients avoid the hustle of shopping for great brands via their PCs and mobile phones.
Are potential customers guaranteed odorless secondhand clothings and how do you ensure that?
We are very keen on ensuring the quality of our clothes because that is the way to our growth since we need to earn the trust of customers.
We ensure our clothes are stored well to prevent them from having odors. Odors mostly come by the way clothes are stored.
In the event buyers have issues with particular products purchased, what happens?
We have a free 7 day return policy. This means that anyone who buys from us and is not okay with it can return the clothe for a full refund of the item cost. Most returns come from the size not fitting. We list our items with enough information to minimize these occurrences.
Can you highlight some structures you are putting in place which will allow 1st Selections stand the test of time?
We understand that building a company requires you to have a strong foundation. We have a strong management team comprising of experts who understand the world of fashion, getting current dress styles for our customers has a huge impact on sales. Administratively, we all contribute to the successful running of the company. Communication among us is solely via the internet and finances too. We update on sales via a shared Google Docs, in a bit to cut cost.
Which category of people do you hope to attract with 1st Selections?
We want to attract all fashion lovers. Lovers of top world class brands. Students who are busy with books to go and hustle for clothes. And most importantly, those like us, who one way or the other can’t buy clothes from expensive shops.
What are the backgrounds of the team you work with and how do you market your products?
Our team is made up of experienced social media marketers and strategists. As well as skilled developers who ensure that our clients get the best quality of service. Interestingly, most members of the team have developed the skills they possess by self-learning, practice and experience. This has allowed us to be open to new ideas and adapt quickly.
Our products are marketed mainly via social media. We are thinking of venturing into traditional market though. Most of our sales have come from well-planned and executed social media campaigns by our in-house social media strategists.
How did you raise initial capital for your startup and are you seeking further investments?
We started from our own personal funds and have been bootstrapping the business ever since. We believe bootstrapping allowed us to learn since this is a journey and not a destination.
We are seeking further investments and partnerships. We think new investments would allow us scale greatly and allow us expand into new areas of operation.
Do you have mentors? How have they influenced you and your startup?
Yes we do. We have mentors who continuously advise us and help us in our business. Access to this circle of mentors and advisers has also allowed us build key business relationships and even acquire some of our early customers.
I think the internet affords us a great opportunity to get mentorship from different people who are successful in their various endeavors without physical access to them.
We have been influenced by Mensah Otabil, Steve Jobs and Jack Ma. They have influenced us to be limitless in what we think is possible and also acknowledge small blessings.
What lessons have you learnt since you started 1st Selections?
One of the key things I have learnt since starting is dealing with we call the boring stuff matters. Mostly one may pay little attention to thorough procedures like accounting but they do matter and doing so allows you to grow.
I have also learnt that the team you work with is key. A start–up may not have enough money and attraction to build a rock star team. This makes having dedicated people to work with very essential, people who won’t have to be forced to do their work but understand where you want to go and are willing to defer gratification for a time.
As a co-founder, can you share with us mistakes you’ve made in running this business so far?
One of the mistakes I made was not separating the finances of the business from personal finance. This cost us a lot and hampered our growth for sometime. It takes a lot of discipline to do this especially if you are bootstrapping the business. It is necessary to avoid this if you want the business to be bigger than you. We believe ours is a journey and we keep learning daily.
What difficulties have you faced since the launch of your startup and how are you handling them?
One constant challenge is coming by the quality clothes for our customers. We pride ourselves of providing them with quality, affordable and branded clothes so we have to live up to their expectations.
We are solving this, by dealing with the main producers themselves. We get the clothes bale, we do the sorting first and leave the rest for the market women.
And also, finances. I’ve already stated that we are bootstrapping. We are currently in talks with an investor. His cash-flow will push things forward.
What is your philosophy for doing business and what do wish you knew before starting this company?
I believe businesses that start in our part of the world must seek to create employment and opportunity for others and not be limited to creating wealth for the founders or shareholders only.
I also believe firmly that Africa needs home grown references of what is possible, this would go a long way to transform our continent. I believe business must be carried in integrity and must emphasize standards.
I wish I knew what I called the boring stuff i.e accounting mattered a lot. My background as a developer made me underestimate it’s role in growth.
Do you plan on going Africa?
Yes, we want to be a company with presence across the globe. We want to expand to Africa best and in Asia as well. This is because of the market available there for second hand fashion as well.
Why do you think potential investors should put money into your business?
We offer an opportunity to disrupt an existing industry using technology. The e-commerce space in Ghana and Africa as a whole has seen some significant interest in the few years and this offers investors a healthy place to put money.
Where will your company be in the next five years?
We want to be the first place that consumers visit for quality, affordable and fashionable clothing and style across Africa.
What is most rewarding about being a founder of a company?
The most rewarding thing about been a founder of a company is that, you have the opportunity to attempt something great and impact other people beyond yourself. This requires a lot of responsibility and dedication.
What should anyone entering this type of business expect?
Anyone attempting to enter this kind of business must be willing to learn from the businessmen and women on the street because they understand what they do very well. You would be surprise at their impressive understanding of style and fashion.
Our company culture is to go out, leave our PCs every weekend.To explore the market and learn from the market women themselves. We believe in bringing whatever offline, online. Thus, all our marketing strategies have offline basis from how we display our items on our social media pages and on the websites and how users interact with the website. 1st Selections is even the market name for 1st grade of secondhand clothes.
What will be your final message to aspiring entrepreneurs and your followers?
Without your customers you would be out of business so its necessary to pay attention to them. Patience is key. One should consider entrepreneurship as journey and not just a destination.
Thank you 1st Selections.
So you know where to get the best of secondhand clothings at really affordable prices today. It is inspiring how Africa can benefit from technology in every facet of life. The 1st Selections story has been a motivation. Take action today!
These are a few lessons we can pick from Enoch Appiah:
- Your idea needs not be out of this world
- Technology makes business possible even when partners are separated geographically
- You can still get mentorship without physical presence of mentors
- Bootstrapping of one’s business offers a learning process
- A startup company is more solid with a dedicated team ready to take less for their efforts
- Separate company account from personal account
If you want to share your experience as a startup founder on TSH to Africa, send a brief detail of your business to firstname.lastname@example.org
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