All dressed up at easy prices in Dubai

The founders of My Ex Wardrobe - a platform for shoppers to buy and sell pre-loved clothes – are turning to crowd funding to expand their business.

From left: Sisters Becky Britton, Teagan Rowlands and Sian Rowlands founded  My Ex Wardrobe from an idea that cropped up after a shopping problem. Sarah Dea / The National
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From small beginnings come great things is an adage that certainly applies in the case of the start-up My Ex Wardrobe – a platform for shoppers to buy and sell pre-loved clothes in “pop-up” shops at various locations around Dubai.

Having started the business in 2011 on a shoestring budget, the founders and sisters Sian Rowlands, Teagan Rowlands and Bekky Britton tell how they are ready to expand and take the concept to the next level – a move that they are looking to fund through the crowdfunding website Eureeca.

Ms Rowlands explains how they were referred to Eureeca – the first crowdfunding marketplace in the UAE, which provides an online platform for small and medium enterprises to raise funding in exchange for equity – by business mentoring company Tandem. To date, they have had more than 3,500 people view the campaign online. “I have been a big fan of crowdfunding for several years and it’s something we started looking into early last year,” she adds.

“The team is really supportive and has given us a lot of sound advice. We are hoping to raise US$52,500 and so far we’ve raised 6 per cent of this. It’s a slower start than what we would have liked, however, that may have been due to the time of year [Christmas and new year]. We are currently talking with five to six interested parties who will be coming on board soon.

“We also still have 90 days to push and get the funding and raise as much awareness about our business,” Ms Rowlands says.

The My Ex Wardrobe concept is growing in popularity, with the number of events being hosted per month now increased from one to three. Ms Rowlands explains how the idea came out of her own shopping problem – after clearing out her wardrobe one weekend she realised she was getting rid of four boxes full of clothes that had barely been worn.

“My Ex Wardrobe is a platform for people to buy and sell pre-loved clothes, established to provide physical and online avenues for Dubai residents. The focus is on good condition high street and designer fashion pieces that have been worn only once or twice if at all.

“Our monthly pop-up shops were the first in the region, combining an exciting evening of pre-loved fashion and ladies’ night fun.”

From day one the idea was well received, and within six months of the first event, they won two awards – the Emirates Woman ADCB Ambition Award and the SME Advisor Stars of Business Incredibly Innovative Approach Award.

“This certainly gave us the confidence to keep going,” she says. Latest developments within the company include the launch of their website and the addition of their first member of staff last November.

From the start the founders agreed that they wanted the business to grow organically, developing as the demand and awareness grew. “Initially we funded the start-up with our own capital so this is really our first round of funding,” explains Ms Rowlands.

“We started on a shoestring, certainly a lot leaner than most start-ups in the region, and this was part of the reason our business model developed in the way that it did.”

The money raised through Eureeca will be used to kick-start a new key growth period for the company. Specifically it will be used for increasing and improving storage space, further developing the company’s website and the launch of a loyalty programme, expanding the team, as well as expanding into other GCC countries.

“Our shareholders not only get to be an integral part of our fashion community, but there is the chance of monetary return as well,” says Ms Rowlands, “for example, a percentage of any annual dividends we might use, plus different options on exit strategies down the road.

“As an investor, I love the idea of crowdfunding as it’s so accessible. ‘Investing’ doesn’t have to mean you need hundreds of thousands of dollars spare to throw at the stock market or something; you can start with as little as US $100.”

She recommends the crowdfunding route to other start-ups, as she believes it’s the best option for those who are looking to raise capital past their own initial investment. “You can raise a relatively small amount of capital.

“When you consider angel investors they are generally looking at investing large sums for an even bigger chunk of equity, so raising capital through a crowd means you only sell the equity for what it’s worth.”

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