ClozetSales’ Chikere Onyinyechi is enabling thrift shopping with tech to promote sustainable fashion

"Thrift is like an addiction"- Chikere Onyinyechi Breakthrough, founder of ClozetSales

I didn’t want to do Environmental management, I wanted to do Pharmacy so I was like if I am not doing what I wanted to do, I might as well find something to align it with so that I can know the reason why I am here. I think that was the thing that formed my entrepreneurship journey generally.

Chikere Onyinyechi Breakthrough, the founder of ClozetSales, was exposed to financial knowledge at a young age and this, among other things, gave rise to her entrepreneurial spirit.

She believes that while the Nigerian startup ecosystem faces numerous challenges, the issues of fashion waste management and a thriving thrift marketplace have been overlooked.

With a goal to mitigate the impact of fashion waste through technology, Chikere Onyinyechi Breakthrough aims to revolutionize the industry with ClozetSales.

Read Also: Meet some of the Amazing Women in the African Tech Ecosystem

The start of her entrepreneurial journey

While the conventional 9-5 job appealed to many, Onyinyechi found her calling in owning and managing her own business—a path she gradually embraced, thanks to her early exposure to financial knowledge during her formative years.

As a child, Onyinyechi received a “kolo,” the traditional piggy bank, which served a greater purpose beyond savings. It unraveled the importance of money management, a lesson she learned from her entrepreneurial parents and being the eldest of seven siblings.

I used to do what my father called ‘check’ with his boys so most of the time, I was the one recording the financial statements.

As Onyinyechi progressed to university, she continued her traditional saving habits which piqued the curiosity of her roommates. After sharing some saving ideas, she initiated a form of group savings known as Ajo. Acting as a personal savings account for her friends, she began gaining more customers. Soon enough, she had friends assisting her in collecting funds from various hostels.

The venture flourished, accumulating over 300 customers and partnering businesses who entrusted their savings to her team. On a monthly basis, Onyinyechi would save an impressive sum of up to 500,000 Naira on behalf of her customers.

However, despite the remarkable success of her business, securing investment proved to be a challenge due to the limitations imposed by the business’s location and this led to the business’s downfall.

I think if I was in Lagos it might have been a different conversation. Uyo was not that place where you pioneer some new projects. I was not in the right place… Also as a student, I saw the big picture but I probably didn’t position well.

The birth of ClozetSales

While juggling university responsibilities, Onyinyechi’s entrepreneurial spirit led her to consider new business opportunities. She was already selling clothes on the side. She travelled to Onitsha, to handpick stylish items from the markets to sell in her hostel.

With an initial investment of 30,000 Naira, Onyinyechi started her cloth-selling business. However, her exposure to the limitations of thrifting and the mounting fashion waste problem birthed the knowledge that she had to pivot but was unsure of when and how it would happen.

It was even a customer that came and said, oh she has nice stuff she wants to sell and do I do that? I said no, not yet but you can just add your stock to the normal stock of clothes.

This turning point came when the customer brought over 200 items for sale, and more than 150 of them sold out within a month. Not bad at all, and it could just be a viable business opportunity, Onyinyechi thought.

My father does not like the idea that I am doing business, he feels like it is not stable, like there are a lot of hiccups that come with doing business and it is not what I should be doing. I am supposed to be like his brilliant child.

Driven by a desire to educate the masses about unfamiliar topics and ideas like this, Onyinyechi pursued a certification course on sustainable fashion. Her ultimate goal was to establish a profitable business that not only raised awareness about the environmental impact of fashion choices but also provided valuable resources on the subject.

As an advocate for sustainable fashion, she had noticed a decline in thrifting quality due to fast fashion brands flooding the market with poor-quality inventories, ultimately leading to fashion waste dumping. In a bid to respond to that, she created a second marketplace for people to sell their used fashion items.

What is ClozetSales and how does it operate?

Clozetsales is a online marketplace that harnesses the power of technology and social interactions to combat fashion waste. With a mission to minimize the environmental impact of the fashion industry in Nigeria, Clozetsales takes a multifaceted approach to revolutionize the way we consume and dispose of fashion items.

At the core of their business model is the collection of secondhand fashion items, which are carefully curated and made available for resale. Then the distribution stage and the engagement in secular fashion conversations on the detrimental effects of fashion waste.

Through social media platforms, declutter kits and educational content, Onyinyechi Breakthrough is looking to use ClozetSales to foster a sense of responsibility and encourage people to reconsider their consumption patterns by redefining the narrative around secondhand fashion and promoting a circular economy.

We also want to push our declutter kit. I think it is the first in Africa and also the first in Nigeria. The kit comes with a guide on secular fashion, and then we have repair tools and declutter bags. it is just to be able to push more conversations.

ClozetSales streamlines the fashion-selling experience. After registration, interested parties receive a declutter kit and have their items collected. The team conducts a thorough sorting process, assessing quality, market value, and other important checks.

Customers are then provided with feedback to approve sales. For payments, this is on a monthly basis, but if items remain unsold after 8-12 weeks, customers are contacted for further action. In cases where customers request their clothing back. However, the business takes a commission of 25-30% on sold items.

Onyinyechi’s plan for ClozetSales

Onyinyechi explained that the platform made approximately 13 million in sales last year, thanks to effective advertising and a high retention rate. In response to salvaging unsold clothing, Onyinyechi and her team employ innovative techniques such as patchwork and upcycling. Through these methods, they transform rejected fashion items into fashionable rugs or other garments, breathing new life into what would otherwise be discarded.

Looking toward the future, ClozetSales is actively exploring additional ways to enhance its upcycling efforts. One such initiative is the concept of cloth shredding, which would facilitate the further transformation of unused garments into new and unique fashion pieces. Onyinyechi also recognizes the value of collaboration and is actively seeking partnerships with established fashion brands to offer resale services to their brand customers.

On the topic of fundraising and investments

Her parents have been her biggest financial supporters throughout her entrepreneurial journey. Onyinyechi, the founder of ClozetSales, reveals that her parents have made a substantial investment of over 1 million Naira into the business.

When discussing potential investors for ClozetSales, Onyinyechi acknowledges that the timing isn’t quite right at the moment but that they will soon be open to exploring such opportunities. Although, they recently got a 3 million grant funding from WeForGood, an organization.

This injection of capital will not only assist in propelling the business forward but also contribute to fostering meaningful conversations around secular fashion. Also, the funding will enable the expansion of the ClozetSales team, further strengthening their capacity to deliver their services.

Challenges faced as a business owner and woman in tech

Logistics has been a challenge. I thought money was our problem until these logistics issues.

The e-commerce industry, much like countless others, has encountered significant obstacles in its operations, primarily due to the complexities of logistics. No doubt but this crucial aspect of the business ecosystem also faces its unique set of challenges, which inevitably have a ripple effect on various other business operations.

As a woman in the startup tech ecosystem, Onyinyechi explained that while she has worked with some male bosses, female bosses top the chart for her in terms of their constant encouragement, and better understanding.

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