The story of Silvia Vanni, her company ShareMyBag, and how each one of us can make a difference
Sometimes simple ideas have the power to change the world. And sometimes “scratching and solving your own problem” leads to a path to discover a higher vision, a sense of purpose for yourself that becomes the essence of a company.
This is what happened to Silvia Vanni, founder of ShareMyBag, the “Airbnb of Fashion”, a digital platform in which users can share their wardrobe and borrow items from other users at the same time.
In a sector largely dominated by fast fashion giants brands, where 15 mil tons of clothes get thrown away just in the US and only 1% can be recycled, today fashion is one of the key contributors to global pollution.
And this is only taking into consideration what we discard. But what about what we keep in our wardrobe and never wear because “we already wore it once”?
Silvia has done her math: she calculated the average value of those unused items par wardrobe (hers included) is around 1000$.
Here is a story of how a personal problem, a business opportunity and the individual contribution of a community can potentially help to save our planet.
Q: How did you come up with the idea of ShareMyBag?
A: I was living and working in New York in 2016, working for a media agency and running from one meeting to the next every day. I always thought that the way I present myself and the outfit I choose have an impact, both on the message I am trying to convey and on my confidence as well.
This is why I wanted to be able to change outfit often, to give the impression I had something new to bring every day.
I had a problem though: New York apartments are really small and closets are even more so. Mine was literally bursting with clothes I only wore once or twice, because once I was seen in them, I would refuse to wear them again. To use the words of my then-boyfriend and now-husband, “If you buy one more item for your wardrobe, there will be literally no room for us in this apartment!”.
But I still had the necessity to wear something new, even though I didn’t have any space left for more clothes.
That got me thinking. When I was a kid and didn’t have my own money to spend, but still wanted something new to wear, I used to regularly visit the closets of my friends and borrow from them. Now I wasn’t a kid anymore and I was living in New York, far away from my friend’s wardrobes, and I didn’t know many people in the City.
This is how it all started: I had a problem that I needed to solve for myself, no one to turn to and I thought that other people could relate to it.
That was the genesis for ShareMyBag.
Q: What was the initial vision behind ShareMyBag?
A: The initial vision was rather straightforward for me: I wanted to be able to wear new clothes whenever I wanted, without having to buy and add new ones to my already bursting wardrobe every time. On top of that, I thought it would have been very handy to make some extra money by renting out all those outfits I bought and barely even wore.
That quickly morphed into something even more compelling: I wanted to build the “Airbnb for Fashion”, a platform in which you could list up the items in your wardrobe for renting and where you could find something unique to borrow at the same time, like that special designer bag you always wanted but could never afford to buy. With ShareMyBag now you can.
Q: Let’s talk about the message behind ShareMyBag and how it went from personal necessity to a call to give a concrete contribution to the community. How has this vision changed over time? How did it happen exactly?
A: As I started working on ShareMyBag and went from idea to MVP, to actual Product things kept evolving and so did my vision for my company. I realized that, through encouraging people to rent out their wardrobe and borrowing from one of the others, I was actively promoting a key topic for our generation: sustainability through sharing economy. This realization and the knowledge of the concrete impact I could have not only in promoting awareness but in actually contributing and making a difference, completely shifted my perspective.
Today I am redesigning my website to accommodate this new vision I have for ShareMyBag, that of a protagonist in the sustainability of Fashion, and shifting my business model from a peer-to-peer platform to include also the B2C side, by allowing shops to rent their unsold stock.
Looking back, I realize that my vision has changed by testing my initial idea with both customers and with other players in the fashion industry like magazines, as well as market trends. It was a gradual process due to several different stimuli that made me realize I could look at the same topic with a complete different point of view and narrative.
I started reaching out more and more to events and people moving in this environment and suddenly I found the natural market fit for the Product, while creating synergies with other realities in fashion sustainability.
Q: Since you just touched the topic: tell us more about your message and Social Media strategy?
A: Same as my vision, also my Social Media strategy has changed over time and is a key part of ShareMyBag. I opened the Instagram account 6 months before the actual launch of the platform and initially, it was all about publishing fashion content.
After launching I decided to adopt a mixed content strategy, alternating between fashion related topics and explaining how the platform works, for example for sign up or listing items for rent. I also slowly started to appear in the Instagram stories, to put a face behind ShareMyBag and talk directly with the Community.
I quickly found out that not only those stories and posts had the highest engagement, but also that I was getting a lot of support and suggestions from my followers, which as a solo entrepreneur I found immensely valuable and comforting. It is through the engagement with the Community on the Social Network that I realized that my message was getting bigger and that I could have a higher impact with ShareMyBag.
I started posting and talking about sustainability, and my conviction as well as my audience increased.
Q: What’s the secret behind creating an engaging and loyal Community without spending tons of money on marketing?
A: I quickly discovered that people want to relate and connect with you if you have a compelling story or product, and they want to believe in something bigger than themselves, something that is worth committing to if you give them enough incentives as to why they should care.
This is why I try to create a spirit of Community by involving other people behind ShareMyBag, by doing interviews under the hashtag #givenewlifetofashion, with Influencers who share with me part of their life and projects, as well as by organizing events.
During the event, I normally organize a panel with several Influencers and ask the participants to bring any item to list on ShareMyBag, which we create all together, and of course, there are plenty of opportunities to network afterward. I know that people that have met during my events for the first time are now professionally collaborating together, and that gives me a huge sense of satisfaction, as well as allowing me to create a highly engaged community. I am currently organizing more events, you can check out ShareMyBag to find out where the next ones will be.
I love engaging with my audience, I have a very aware and highly self-educated target, which is attentive to both Fashion and the Environment and I guess people can tell if you love what you do.
Q: Based on your experience and what you have shared with us so far, what are the secrete steps you took in order to build a completely bootstrapped Startup?
A: Start with yourself, why you are doing what you are doing, that’s the number one advice. Once you have that clear, then take your idea and challenge it, as uncomfortable as it might be. Test it and make a plan. It doesn’t need to be complicated, but it has to clearly state your goal, how much it will cost, your timeline and what are your success metrics.
Also be strategic: study your competition, what are they doing, how are you different. Be specific and find your niche do not try to capture too much or too many people.
One more thing: research projects/financial aids as soon as possible so that you can plan to have the necessary resources right from the start.
Q: Thanks Silvia. What’s next for ShareMyBag?
A: Where to begin? In 2020 I will release a new version of the Website, get more involved with the community and sustainability in fashion, as well as add brands and stores that will open accounts in ShareMyBag.
I am also launching my first Crowdfunding campaign to finance the creation of a mobile app and a marketing campaign to go with it.
We wish Silvia best of luck with it. If you are inspired by her story and would like to give your contribution to improve the condition of the environment (and make some money while you are at it), then check out ShareMyBag and leave a comment below.