Babies and small children grow super fast, leaving cargoes of nearly-new clothes around Irish households at each monthly and yearly milestone. Voices contributor, Irene Halpin Long spoke to one mum who spotted a gap in the market.
Cork native, Lisa Verhees, realised this was something that might be really needed. She and her husband, Marc live in Dublin and she launched Flopsyshop.ie in November 2016. FlopsyShop.ie buys and sells pre-loved baby and children’s clothing.
“We saw the potential of the pre-loved baby clothes web shop based on popularity in other countries. Combined with being conscious of the waste that is generated in the clothing industry in general, we thought it would be a great way to combine a personal value with a business model”.
“We source items from parents whose kids have grown out of them. Often, we find items that are not worn and still have their tags on. We generally offer a fixed price per kilo, but for special items, we make an exception. We then check, wash, photograph the items and put them on our website.”
Lisa and Marc promote their online business via social media and attending markets. With an ethos on reducing waste, the business is attracting interest from like-minded parents and groups.
"We found a great response in the Zero Waste movement group, where people are trying to cut down on creating waste by being conscious of what and where they buy. FlopsyShop.ie fits nicely into that ethos as it passes on clothes that otherwise might have ended up in landfill and creates value for both sellers and buyers”.
The couple have a two-year-old daughter, Elise. Lisa and Marc run their pre-loved clothes business in the evenings and weekends.
“During her afternoon naps, we often work an hour on the business, prepping social media posts for the week and processing orders. Most of the other work on the shop happens when the little one is asleep in the evening. We also make sure that we try to stop working after 10pm to have some time for ourselves.”
“We sometimes attend events or do pick-up runs where Elise would come along, so that means we've had random pit-stop at playgrounds throughout Dublin. Recently, we came across a fabulous one in Glenageary where she had fun climbing and sliding and we could sip a coffee from the local coffee shop.”
Lisa loves watching other parents choose pre-loved garments for their babies.
“They really take their time and you can see them putting outfits together themselves, like a mini capsule wardrobe. It’s satisfying when we see lovely items find a new home and knowing that there was value for both seller as well as the buyer.”
Starting a web based enterprise has posed some challenges for the couple.
“The biggest challenges are time, shipping costs and quality website traffic.”
In promoting the business, Lisa has employed a variety of modern marketing techniques along with some “old fashioned” methods.
“It is really easy to launch a web shop, but without a plan to drive traffic to the site, it will soon lay idle. Spending money on online ads will get you page likes or quite a lot of visitors, but I also realised that it may not generate many sales. I started a much more personal approach by reaching out to bloggers and Facebook groups to share the site. Generating word of mouth in the digital world works mainly the same as in the old days. Delivering great service while nudging others to share your details.”
Before setting up FlopsyShop.ie, Lisa completed the Small Business Boot-Camp run by the Local Enterprise Board, in turn, the idea of her online store into a reality. She has some sound advice for other entrepreneurs.
“Check out the local enterprise office for training around areas you’re not familiar with such as accounting or an overview of available grants. Their courses are great value for money. Secondly, do your due diligence with market research and sizing. Thirdly, whatever you do, it is going to take more time than you thought”.
FlopsyShop.ie is still in its infancy but Lisa and Marc have aspirations for the future.
“We’d like to grow our webshop by providing a larger variety of items and, with it, generate more traffic and sales. For the long term, we are contemplating how we can connect parents who have surplus clothes or other items. This could be via mobile phone apps or via an actual shop/events and meet-ups. We are also contemplating ways on how to reach customers outside of Ireland. As nice as the Irish audience is, it is rather small and enterprises need to look outside of their own border to grow. We already had interest coming from Poland where children’s clothes are in the high tax bracket”.