Parents Will Love to Shop for Their Kids through Mini Exchange

Wael Nabbout, Apr 03 2014

Mini Exchange is an online marketplace for new and used kid’s clothing and accessories. The startup recently won third place at the Startup Demo competition during ArabNet's last Beirut event. Mini Exchange is the brainchild of Sarah Appleton, British born finance graduate who occupied a couple of positions at Deloitte in the UK and later in the UAE before she began her entrepreneurial journey. Being one of seven children growing up, it is safe to assume that Sarah has extensive first hand experience with hand me downs. There are a couple of ideas that shaped her project. First, “Children grow, but their clothes don't,” which leaves us with a substantial volume of children’s clothes that have been only worn a handful of times. Second, parents that want to procure fashionable clothing for their kids are often faced with steep prices for items that have a very short life span.

“I want to give parents a fun, easy and hassle-free way to clear out their kids’ wardrobes so that they can make space for all the new clothes to come.”

Initially, the site's selling channel was exclusive to individual users but the company has recently expanded its offering to include a growing number of brands and boutiques to its platform as well.

How does it work?

The service takes care of the entire buying and selling processes. Items are collected from sellers for free and quality-checked by the team. They are then professionally photographed, described and listed on the site.

All a seller needs to do is to create his or her account and list their items. After which they will be issued a reference number. They get a phone call the next day from Aramex to arrange for the collection. The goods get delivered to Mini Exchange along with the reference number, and soon after that the sellers receive an email that required them to approve the prices set by Mini Exchange. If they disagree with the valuation, they have the option to either have the items sent back. Alternatively, they could chose to gift them to any of the organizations supported by the company - more on that later.

When a sale is made, they’ll get notified by email and Mini Exchange automatically deposits the profits, which amount to 50% of the sale price, directly into their account. Profits can be spent on the site, transferred using a PayPal, sent in a cheque - provided the amount exceeds 1000 AEDs, or gifted to a charity organisation. Meanwhile, the freshly laundered goods are delivered to the buyer.

Giving back to the community

Mini Exchange also gives users the opportunity to support some causes across the Middle East. The company has tied up with three reputable organisations – START, Little Wings and Action Care – all of which work in different ways to help and support children across the region. Sellers can make a difference to their community by listing clothes and gifting the profits directly to one of these good causes.

And if you happen to have a cause or a particular charitable organization that is close to you heart, the website also gives both individuals and organizations the opportunity to support causes by creating a “Mini Group”. Users can invite friends, family and colleagues to clear out their kids’ wardrobes by listing items on the site, and when the items sell the profits can be contributed to any cause, be it supporting victims of a natural disaster or trekking the Himalayas for a personal charity.

Brands, Boutiques, Price Drops & Scope

Mini exchange accepts garments from designer labels and high street brands: items as low as GAP pajamas, all the way up to luxury Dior dresses. Anything lower and margins stop making sense.

At launch, the service's sales channel was exclusive to individual users, namely parents. It managed to attract about 200 sellers within the first four months. Soon after however brands and boutiques wanted to join in, something that the team did not conceive of during the early stages of the business. It represents a simple and efficient way get rid of their unsold stock or last season’s items. The company has since successfully partnered with more than half a dozen leading international brands and also multi brand boutiques locally. By the latest count, nine weeks since launch, visitors can expect to find over 4000 items listed on the site.

An upcoming feature will see the price of items drops every eight weeks by 25% whereby users will be notified of the drop of items of interest by email when it occurs. This feature is embedded in the system but is currently inactive. It will be enabled in the future however. Users can follow sellers and see when new items are added by them. Mini Exchange ships worldwide, but its marketing efforts have so far been focused on the UAE. In about a year and a half’s time, marketing will be expanded to target the whole of the GCC.

In addition to its popular appeal, Mini Exchange has received critical acclaim as well, having won third place at the ArabNet Beirut StartUp Demo Competition and the prestigious PITME Labs Middle East Impact & Ingenuity Award earlier this month.

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