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When she’s not busy studying for her electrical & electronics engineering course, Wei Ean is running her own startup, Kita, that’s tackling a serious issue: fashion waste.

The student has always been entrepreneurial, though, having run an ecommerce store since she was 13.

It was through this experience that she noticed how detrimental fast fashion and hyperconsumerism can be.

“All the waste produced, and the clutter of stuff that we thought we needed,” she pointed out. “I wanted to contribute impactfully in the opposite sector, in sustainability.”

One way of promoting sustainability in fashion is by thrifting. This helps extend the lifetime of clothes while often being more affordable than buying new items.

Image Credit: Kita

Wei Ean particularly got into thrifting during the pandemic, when curated thrifts found their way to Instagram storefronts.

One day, she came across an online thrift store with clothes she liked. However, almost everything was labelled “sold out” in the caption.

In that moment, she wished there was a platform like Zalora for secondhand fashion, housing thrifts, reworks, and other sustainable fashion pieces. That way, shoppers wouldn’t have to go on a hunt on Instagram just to find that pieces that are sold out. 

That was when Wei Ean wondered whether others also felt the same.

A resourceful person, she decided to create a Google Form to pick the minds of others. Within a week, she got about 76 responses back.

They were mostly positive, with respondents saying they’ve been “dreaming of an app like that” and that the concept is something “the Malaysian thrifting scene needs”.  

Wei Ean said, “I think secondhand fashion should be as accessible as fast fashion. I think this community deserves a special, tailored platform for them.”

With that, Kita was born.

Creating a circular economy

Essentially, Kita is a marketplace for all things circular fashion, carrying thrifted, secondhand, bundle, vintage, or upcycled clothes.

“Thrift stores across Instagram are all scattered, and everything is still very manual; sellers do not have the right ecommerce tools to run their business,” she said.

Kita fills that gap by providing relevant tools for the vendors, from order management and payment gateaways to auto-generated shipping labels and storefront customisation.

Image Credit: Kita

Streamlining these backend processes also makes it easier for buyers to shop, as it makes thrifted items more accessible.

It differs from platforms like Carousell, which has everything from cars to even property. Meanwhile, Kita is very centred on fashion.  

“Kita is made for the community that is here to celebrate the love of fashion and sustainability,” Wei Ean elaborated.

She pointed out that similar platforms do exist in the Western side of the world, such as Depop. However, these apps haven’t quite taken off in Malaysia and Southeast Asia. “Thrifting is picking up pace in Southeast Asia and Kita wants to fill this gap.”

Kita is free for anyone who wishes to thrift, or even to post their own preloved clothing. So, how is Wei Ean able to monetise it?

Image Credit: Kita

To that, she shared that vendors who want more features can subscribe to an “Atas” plan for around RM28 per month. This is for vendors who fully operate as a thrift store, and thus need tools to be competitive.

The thift startup has also participated in accelerators and competitions (TechStar Startup Weekend Taylor’s Uni, and LaunchX Sunway iLabs) that helped with the initial capital to take off.

Finding the right fit

Building a startup comes with a multitude of challenges every single day, Wei Ean admits.

“It can be a tech bug not working as we want it to be, the anxiety before meeting very important people, designing operations, pricing decisions…” she listed. “It’s an avalanche of new challenges every single moment.”

However, she believes that all these can be overcome through effort and perseverance.  

Image Credit: Kita

“I think the real challenge lies in uncertainty,” she said instead. “Uncertainty in our market, in our decisions, uncertainty in uncertainties. It puts me in this icky feeling that I can only give my best bet and march on.”

The young entrepreneur has been operating her business solo for some time now, believing that she had to lay groundwork before getting more people on the boat.

Now that the product and tech are solid, she wants to invite more people on this journey and be part of Kita.

“It hasn’t been the easiest finding the right fits,” she opened up. “I have many interested applicants but I am extremely picky too.”

Image Credit: Kita

But in any case, growing the team is necessary to grow the business as a whole, whether that’s in regards to the customer base, online acquisition, or with offline events.

“Fashion is a huge industry, in the long term, so much can be done,” Wei Ean said about the potential of Kita. “Our north star is to make what we wear more circular.”

The future is bright

Balancing being an engineering student and running a startup is not easy. Wei Ean herself shared that it feels very “Hannah Montana” sometimes. 

“While being busy with Kita, I still love what I do in engineering a lot, I make the effort to show up and be on top of things, as well as maintaining my CGPA of 3.9,” she assured.

Now in her final year of schooling, Wei Ean knows that she has an important decision to make soon.  

“I think I have been dealing with the dilemma of my chosen degree path and my entrepreneurial one for the longest time ever, until I accepted it as something I want to embrace of this mosaic of choices I put in my life,” she said,

In making this decision, her considerations involve the opportunity cost of not building her career early on and missing out on a stable income.

Image Credit: Kita

Yet, she’s also extremely drawn to the mission Kita is on, to make online thrifting more accessible, to save the world, one thrift at a time.

At the end of the day, she shared that she thinks she’s greedy enough to want to love and pursue both things.

“But I think being super young gives me an edge to take risks, and these years spent will not be for nothing: I gain hands-on experience of starting something from scratch, learn to wear many hats, and have a pocket full of stories to tell,” she expressed.

“Even if I fail, I think it will be a valuable experience nevertheless. I like to experience life as a journey, and not a destination, and I think this is a worthwhile journey.”

  • Learn more about Kita here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Kita

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(UEN 201431998C.)

Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)