Building a multibillion second-hand clothing store as ubiquitous as ASOS is a challenge not for the faint-hearted. Add on giving away ⅓ of all sales to charity, and some might say any entrepreneur on this path is living in dreamland.
But with characteristic determination, this is what Joe Metcalfe, founder and CEO of Thrift+, is well on the way to creating.
After spending several years working long hours as a business consultant, Joe wanted to direct his energies towards the charity retail sector: “It seemed crazy that while e-commerce was booming, charity shops were years behind, with an experience that still required customers to walk to their local high-street, sift through rails of hit-and-miss items of clothing, and potentially still come away with nothing.”
Convinced that there must be a better way, Joe founded Charity Street, the first click & collect app for charity shops. This experience gave him important insights into the charity sector: busy store managers didn’t have the time to photograph and upload stock, and spent hours sorting through donations, many of which were not saleable. “Very few charities have their own shops, and I found out that only 19% of sales actually go to the cause itself,’ explains Metcalfe. Determined to give more charities the chance to raise more funds from second-hand clothing sales, he set about building Thrift+, an online second-hand clothes retailer that makes it as easy as possible to re-sell, so that people don’t discard their unwanted clothes.
Building a retail business is notoriously difficult. The first 2 years of Thrift+ were spent steadily growing a customer base, accumulating a supply of quality second-hand clothes, and creating technology and operations that could scale. Each item that arrives at Thrift+ is unique, and needs to be quality assessed, photographed, and logged, ready to be uploaded, sold, and shipped. At the beginning of 2019, things were going well, with 2 successful funding rounds from renowned investors like the Green Angel Syndicate and Fuel Ventures.
As well as diverting 300,000 items from landfill in a few short years, Thrift+ has recently hit the milestone of £1,000,000 raised for charity.
When he isn’t daydreaming about the future of the resale economy, Joe can be found enjoying long runs in his local area, or exploring his new home in Edinburgh, Scotland with his partner Katie.
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