Self-proclaimed fashionista Alexandra Shadrow was tired of getting ripped off by local consignment stores when she tried to sell her old clothes, and wanted to avoid listing her address on Craigslist. So three years ago, Shadrow (CGS’12, COM’15) decided to create the BUtiques Facebook page to sell his shirts, jeans and dresses exclusively to other BU students.
âWhen we first started on Facebook, we had 2,000 daughters in three months,â Shadrow says. âI thought, BOOM! I realized this was something a lot of girls needed. Now a third of the girls in BU use us.
Shadrow’s free online marketplace, now called UNITS, received a boost earlier this month, taking home first place and over $ 96,000 in cash and prizes at the New business competition. Sponsored by Questrom School of Business Buzz lab, the competition, now in its 15th year, helps young entrepreneurs turn their ideas into viable business plans, through presentation advice and coaching, as well as awarding funding.
Shadrow’s first place earned him $ 10,000 in cash, $ 20,000 in rent thanks to Properties of Cummings, $ 5,000 in legal services from WilmerHale, and $ 60,000 of Microsoft BizSpark cloud hosting. The victory also came with three months of space to Coalition, a local workspace for entrepreneurs and a fast track to the second round of the next MassChallenge Competition. Shadrow also won the People’s Appreciation Award at the competition, which brings in an additional $ 1,000 in cash.
âI made that weird silent cry when I won,â Shadrow says. âThe other teams were amazing, but I went last and demonstrated my website, reviewed our marketing strategy and talked about the events we have on campus. She plans to use the money to build a mobile app for her business and improve her credit card services. âIt keeps my dream alive,â she says.
Shadrow started growing his business from his Facebook debut after attending the 10-week Entrepreneurship program Boot Camp in 2013, where she gained office space at Buzz Lab. She quickly realized that she needed to hire a developer who could build the UNItiques site to her specifications. She wanted users to have a powerful search feature and the ability to post their own photos. Developing the website proved to be “by far the biggest challenge,” Shadrow says. She complains that she wasted a lot of “time and money” with a few developers who didn’t work until she found one who worked closely with her to create the current site.
Since then, his team has grown to 20 employees, who work across the country in partnership with other schools. One employee manages the metrics, another is specifically responsible for coding. The website currently has over 3,600 users and has expanded locally to Suffolk University, Berklee College of Music and Framingham State University, as well as Loyola Marymount University in California. . Plans are underway to expand to Harvard, Boston College and Emerson by next fall.
UNItiques is free to users, and Shadrow says the site makes money by partnering up and selling duds of local designers on the site. âWe sell brands under the radar, like Allston Mass clothing, to our users for at least 40% less, âshe said.
Want proof that UNItiques offers real added value to discerning buyers? Currently a J.Crew round-neck knit sweater is available for $ 5, while a Alexander McQueen cotton scarf sells for $ 65. Shadrow says 90 percent of UNItiques customers are women, but men can also find clothes (a Lacoste polo shirt is listed at $ 20). The site now also sells furniture, electronics, manuals, Halloween costumes and even various items: Hula-Hoop, anybody? From February 2014 to February 2015, sellers earned $ 11,400 for 1,980 items, according to Shadrow.
One of the judges for this year’s competition was Kathleen Healy, BU supervisor, member of Golden Seeds Boston and Launchpad corporate group, who called UNItiques a âbig conceptâ. Josh weiss (MET’82), an entrepreneur and Questrom School of Business lecturer in Organizational Behavior, who is also a member of the Launchpad Venture Group and another member of this year’s jury, said: âWe loved that UNItiques solved a real problem of consumption. This is useful and it also solves a real business need and creates a market where they could actually generate income.
The second prize in the competition went to Barron Roth (ENG’16) and Luke Sorenson (ENG’16) for their creation of an iOS and Android app called Break time, which allows users to match their schedules with friends and then make plans. The third prize went to Joanna Kimszal (CAS’15) and Mara Onita Lenco (CAS’15), the inventors of Sub-It, a peer-to-peer student housing market website used for subletting. short term.
Paula Sokolska (COM’15) contributed to the reporting of this story.
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