Sustainable shopping: Saving the world, one t-shirt at a time

sustainable shopping
Aune Aunapuu, Founder and CEO of Yaga.

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With more consumers changing their consumption behaviour to support more sustainable shopping and a lifestyle, the market for selling and buying of preloved fashion is taking off, growing more than 20 times faster than the traditional fashion retail market, according to the Thred Up Resale Report 2020. This trend is supported by global players, such as Vinted and Depop, and local platform, Yaga.co.za.

Founder and CEO of Yaga, Aune Aunapuu has always been passionate about nature and environmental issues, with a master’s degree in environmental management and 8 years experience working as an environmental consultant. “Founding Yaga allowed me to apply my environmental knowledge and experience for good, to be an entrepreneur, and to contribute to caring for our planet,” she says.

Yaga has become the fastest-growing marketplace and mobile app for selling and buying preloved clothing online in South Africa, with more than 100 000 registered users and 20 000 daily visitors. It also attracted attention from investors, and recently raised R12 million to support its rapid growth.

“It is Yaga’s goal to keep South Africans ahead of the latest retail and fashion trends, whilst enabling them to make the greener choice. It also supports sustainable entrepreneurship by giving anyone the chance to open a ‘shop’ and to start selling online, empowering them with an entrepreneurship opportunity.”

We chat with Aunapuu about her journey in sustainable entrepreneurship.

Q. Why preloved clothes?
The fashion industry needs to become more sustainable. Fortunately, everyone who buys fashion has the power to contribute to this change by buying preloved instead of new fashion items to support sustainable consumption. While there are several fashion resale buy and sell platforms globally, there were none for Africa. I am humbled that the South African market accepted us with open arms from the day we launched.

Q. What advice can you share about your early days as a start-up?
It is important to realise that you cannot do everything alone. The key is building a team of people who share your vision and passion, and also inspire and challenge you. Carefully select a business partner who can share the responsibilities, and seek out experienced advisors and entrepreneurs who can help you avoid mistakes and provide validation for your ideas. If you are building a global business, then hire local talent who have an understanding of that local market.

Q. What are your top tips for a successful e-commerce business?
Get your business idea out and start talking to your customers to find out what value they are looking for in your business. Acting on customers’ feedback is a key aspect of building a successful business. We really listen to what our community is saying and work hard every day to build Yaga better.

In the e-com business, customers’ expectations of the user experience are high – it has to be intuitive, easy to understand and use, and it must create clear value. For example, Yaga’s top priority is safety – we provide a safe platform for person-to-person selling and buying, so our users don’t have to be afraid of getting scammed and losing their money. That’s the top reason South Africans prefer Yaga over other online marketplaces.

Q. What advice do you have for those wanting to enter sustainable entrepreneurship?
Think through your personal “why?” – what are your drivers and how do these relate to sustainability? Global sustainability trends are gaining momentum as more consumers, especially the younger generations, are changing their behaviour.

There are many more business opportunities that drive sustainability. Find the one that relates to your personal values and creates a solution to customers’ problems. When the business founder and the team believe in the same mission and values, it shows in the results achieved. Then, don’t overthink things – get started and learn by doing!

Q. What drives you?
I am inspired by doing something with a greater meaning: building a more sustainable future for fashion shopping, while contributing to caring for our planet. We genuinely believe in saving the world one t-shirt at a time!

I also love our mission-driven team with its co-creating energy. I thrive on the feedback from our Yaga user community, and I also am grateful to the people who supported me through this journey – they are my greatest motivators.

Q. What’s next for Yaga?
Our objective is to become the number one online selling and shopping platform for preloved fashion in Africa, with Kenya and Nigeria next on the map. Our next fundraising round to further fuel our growth is planned for mid-2022.

Q. Anything else you would like to share as a business owner?
I wish more people – especially women! – would consider becoming entrepreneurs. It’s a beautiful journey that teaches you about yourself, and introduces you to places and people you would never have known otherwise.

Becoming an entrepreneur enables you to impact society, starting with your local community, by bringing new solutions, adding value to people’s lives and creating opportunities and jobs for others.

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First published on: ForbesAfrica