SAINT JOHN – Kelly Lawson had a problem.
She found herself buying a bunch of awesome clothes and accessories, wearing them once, and then leaving them in the closet– lonely and unloved.
“[I made] a lot of investment in fashion items and then those items would then become obsolete to me really quickly. I wouldn’t be interested in them anymore and they still had lots of life left,” Lawson says.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, she wasn’t alone.
“I would speak among groups of my girlfriends and they would always indicate this was an issue in their households as well . . . If anything, it was something like an event gown or a cocktail dress they would wear one time then not wear it again.”
She wanted to create a way for people to make room in their closets and make some extra cash, while at the same time allowing them to score great style finds at a great price. Because who doesn’t like a deal?
*Ella is a phone app (only available for iPhone for right now) that’s simple to use. You can post an item to sell within about 30 seconds. For those looking to buy, you can browse different categories with details and sizing clearly marked as you scroll. You’re able to message the seller within the app to ask questions or arrange to purchase an item.
Though it’s a pretty basic and simple app right now, it won’t be for long. Since Lawson pitched the company at Propel ICT’s Demo Day as part of the Launch cohort last fall, *Ella has been accepted into the Fashion Zone incubator in downtown Toronto. Here they are working on user acquisition and feedback and developing new customizable tools for the app.
“We’re developing some customizable criteria IP (intellectual property) that will appeal to our consumers and also to the business market,” Lawson says. “What that includes is some photo identity tools, some auto tagging of items, utilizing user input that would recommend items that are in keeping with their desired price point, locations, sizes and brand preferences, even the colour palettes.”
Lawson says they are also looking at how to incorporate retailers into *Ella, something they’re currently experimenting with on the app with In Pursuit Boutique.
“At this early stage it’s really difficult to tell where that could land us, but we have lots of thoughts and ideas as to how this could add value to the individual consumer but also to businesses,” she says. “The ability to use some of the user input data to recommend additional purchases to users – that kind of thing.”
*Ella plans on rolling out these new features over the next 15 weeks. Lawson says the platform’s current users are playing a big role in the direction it’s taking.
“They have lots of recommendations for what they’d like to see developed next, so we have a really good, clear idea about where we’re heading in terms of the development road map. That comes from users,” Lawson says.
This spring *Ella will be returning Propel ICT as part of its Build cohort. Lawson says there they hope further develop *Ella’s technology.
Selling second-hand clothing online is nothing new. Platforms like Kijiji and Facebook groups have made the process relatively easy. What *Ella is differentiating itself by providing a new way to leverage local networks with fashion.
“We have our eye on how can we be disruptive and innovative and are doing something that is proprietary so we are excited,” Lawson says.