#GirlBoss is a hot topic. In today’s day and age we are seeing so many people not only have a great idea, but take the risk, the chance and the adventure to actually make it happen. There are courageous women starting non-profits, building brands, empowering others, and redefining what it means to be a role model. And at Cool Gear, we are all about leaning in.
This week we are excited to highlight Alex Shadrow, CEO of UNItiques, an online marketplace where college girls buy & sell fashion and more – right on campus. With over 11,000 members, this social commerce platform offers a completely free opportunity for you to buy and sell in a safe, familiar online community. Dive in to her daily inspiration, challenges, and fashion do’s & don’ts!
What prompted UNItiques & when did you decide to take the leap to make it into a real business?
I never set out to start a business, I never thought to myself “what can I do to start a business today?” I never thought of that. Being the typical college girl, I had clothes that I didn’t want anymore and obviously the big problem was money. I tried all the other options: Facebook groups were difficult to navigate, then I tried Craigslist where I had a terrible experience, then second-hand stores which were ripping me off left & right, and then finally, eBay, which wasn’t local enough. After trying all these different options, I realized I just wanted to sell this to a girl in my class, that I knew or knew through a friend, through something that offered more of a social selling platform. And when I didn’t see anything like that, I created UNItiques, and that’s where it really began.
What does UNItiques represent to you?
I think that I’m enabling girls to be entrepreneurs; I’ve gotten so much out of becoming an entrepreneur, and by enabling these girls to turn their closets into online stores to make their own money is really cool; it’s promoting this cycle of entrepreneurship.
Also by promoting recycling, we are making campuses & wallets greener; recycling has been a huge part of my life and something I’m really passionate about. So by being able to do it in a way that’s really interesting to me through the idea of fashion is very rewarding.
What makes it different from other community-based commerce shops?
The main difference is that it’s all college students and it’s on campus; it differentiates us from any other platform; it’s hyperlocal, try before you buy. I think it’s really cool with the culture that’s going on through UNItiques; when you’re telling a girl, “let’s meet up on campus” you are using language that’s comfortable and familiar to you. It’s something that makes you feel more safe and more comfortable knowing you’re speaking the same language. You sign up through a college email and we send a link through the college email system; so they have to log into the college’s website to confirm the sign up.
What’s been the hardest challenge to overcome while starting a business?
The most challenging thing to overcome has been getting a team with very limited funds. I’ve been leveraging class credit to get interns, I’ve been leveraging equity to get a technical team. The fact that I’ve been able to leverage and cut corners has been a challenge, and at first I didn’t know that I could do that and I was spending a lot of money. But learning that this was a good way to incentivize people was motivating too.
What has been the most gratifying thing?
The most gratifying thing was winning the new venture competition at Boston university which had combined 150 teams from BU, Harvard, MIT; we made it through the 1st round where 100 teams were cut, then the 2nd where 25 teams were cut, and then the 3rd round and then finally competition with 8 other teams for the #1 spot. We ended up winning that as well as winning the Audience Appreciation Award for the day. So not only having the judges appreciate my work, but having the students agree as well that we deserved to win was an amazing feeling. Just winning the audience appreciation award would have been enough validation, but on top of the judges decision it was a great feeling.
What is the best lesson you’ve personally learned? And what’s the best piece of advice you’d offer to other people looking to start a business?
The best lesson I’ve learned is that you only get what you ask for, you really do need to put yourself out there and there’s nothing you can lose by just asking. By asking for things, I’ve been able to have people work for me free of charge, get an office free of charge, because I took the opportunity to not only ask one person, but to ask 50 people. And to keep asking, keep pushing on the doors that won’t open. People are going to continue to say no, but probability will inevitably tip on your side.
The best lesson I’ve learned is how to delegate. You obviously can’t do everything yourself, and by realizing that I’ve been able to let go of control. When I started, I didn’t even want anyone to tweet for me because I was worrying that what if they said something in a way that wasn’t UNItiques, or they missed an opportunity to engage or follow someone; but then I’m running around doing Instagram and Facebook, and Twitter gets pushed back. So learning to delegate has been essential in being able to grow.
What is your most iconic piece of clothing that you will never get rid of?
I have a denim vest that I got in Las Vegas when I was 7 years old from the Levi Factory; and I have cut the armpits to fit my arms over and over, and I will not get rid of it. It’s awesome because I can wear it with a long sleeve dress, then denim on denim came in – then back out – then back in; so I’ve looked at it like why should I get rid of this, because it’s awesome.
What trend do you wish you could forget?
The hair bandana trend was really awful for me. I look back on pictures where I was wearing a bandana and I’m like “why would I do that to myself?”
I hate the denim skirt – the abercrombie circle skirt – I don’t think these are cute nor ever will be. Denim pencil skirts, I’m on board, even button up skirts I’m on board – but denim mini skirts is a no.
What trend are you anticipating making a comeback this year?
I think that the bell bottom look is coming back in, and I think high waisted is here to stay; every girl loves a high waist. They are always a huge hit on the website.
What other trends are you seeing on UNItiques?
Dresses and heels always sell no matter what. Sports punk look, where it’s a trend rather than being athletic is a trend now. Wearing a crop top with track pants has been making a comeback.
And last but not least, who would you invite to your dream dinner party, and what would you eat?
Sophia Amoroso would definitely be at my table. I love her and would love for her to take me under her wing. We’d be eating pizza and sushi. All boss girls love pizza, and we’d also be eating sushi because we’re chic and cool.
Be on the lookout for our upcoming giveaway with Alex on the UNItiques Instagram, give her a follow! We want to hear your #girlboss stories of inspiration, hopes & dreams; tell us in the comments below!
Alex Shadrow is the 23 year old CEO and girl-boss of UNItiques. Once a shopaholic from Los Angeles, turned broke-from-college, turned thrift-a-holic on UNItiques. You can follow her shop on UNItiques, as well as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & LinkedIn!