If you've ever shopped secondhand, chances are you've run across gorgeous clothes that would look even better with some tailoring. Maybe you've even created a pile of these clothes that you'll "get to one day." Well, Josephine Philips wants to help reduce that pile with a new app, Sojo. Officially launching in a few weeks, Sojo connects shoppers with local seamstresses to promote the repair of existing clothes instead of buying new. Keep up to date on Sojo's launch and learn more about secondhand shopping at the Sojo website.
GBJ: Many people have ideas that would make the fashion industry more sustainable but don't know how to execute them. How did you go from idea to ready-to-launch app?
JP: I had the idea for Sojo at the beginning of my final year of University, and I think that was one of the best things that could've happened for the business. King's College London has an incredible award-winning entrepreneurship institute to facilitate the building of amazing businesses amongst its students and alumni. They host workshops, events, programmes, and competitions all the time. It was so great to have such a backing as I was getting my entrepreneurial footing. Equally, London is a sensational place to try and build a startup. I was probably going to three to four events every week from talks about social media marketing, to venture capitalist funding to female-founder panels and everything in between.. I have notebooks filled with all the insights, and every single talk took me a step closer to building something real.
GBJ: What was the most challenging part of the app making process?
JP: I'm a solo founder with no software engineering skills whatsoever, meaning the most challenging part of the app making process was definitely the technical side of things and finding someone to execute my vision of what the app would be. I spent eight months looking for the right female software engineer who could be my co-founder, but despite going to many events and being part of different networks and asking everyone I came across, I didn't manage to find one. I had many meetings with potential people but soon realised it's not just about someone who can physically do the development; it's about finding someone who can do it who I also get along with really well with, who also believes in sustainable fashion and who also has the time and financial means to be a part of a startup with very little money and with a long way to go to grow. I'd sold clothes on Depop in my first and second year of University and so had saved up a bit of money, meaning I then just decided to hire two recent software engineering graduates to work on it over summer in a freelance capacity, which has actually been a really wonderful experience.
GBJ: Sometimes, secondhand clothes are out-of-style, as well as ill-fitting. Do you expect that alterations like removing frill or changing the neckline could drive shoppers to use your app?
JP: 100%. You've got my vision in one. We hopefully won't just be about sizing. I so often find items that I like, but I say things like "Oh, if only it didn't have this thing here" or "If only it was cropped, it would be so much cuter." Sojo will provide a way for you to envision how your clothes could be the best versions of themselves.
GBJ: Do you have plans to add additional features to the app, such as recommending local secondhand shops?
JP: For now, I'm trying to stay tunnel-visioned in terms of getting the most basic version of the app out there and making sure the process works. All the fun, creative stuff of building out features comes later! Having said that, we do have a blog where we plan on doing lots of articles highlighting the best Depoppers, charity shops, car boot sales, vintage stores, etc. We also want to curate interesting content and articles that build more of a community around our brand instead of just being a service!
GBJ: What do you want Sojo to look like in five years?
JP: In five years, I'd really like it to be known as one of the top tech companies in the sustainable fashion space. I'd love for you to see our cyclists every time you go outside and that includes other countries — I really want it to be a success internationally. Most importantly, I'd like to have created a big company that still retains my values, particularly regarding who we hire and the company culture. There are many things I envision for the future, and sometimes I have to tell myself to stop because I won't get there if I'm not focusing on the business here and now.