SPOTLIGHT — BY BROWNGIRLMAG ON JANUARY 16, 2012 AT 8:40 AM
Girls know it best, if you have a sister (or best girlfriend) all clothing, jewelry, purses, belts, whatever is open to sharing and occasional stealing. Dina Patel, Co-Founder of Didi’s Wardrobe, took that concept and turned it into a very unique online company.
Didi’s Wardrobe, Brown Girl’s most recent sponsor, is an online marketplace for a variety of pre-owned Indian and Pakistani clothing, accessories, and jewelry.
Dina, a fellow smart, hip, beautiful Brown Girl, sits down with us to talk about her inspiration and business.
What was your background and what inspired you to start your business?
After I graduated from the University of Michigan, I decided to join the world of investment banking in New York City. I initially planned on working in the industry for only two years. Instead, I ended up working in banking for 10 years with a break in between to complete my MBA at Kellogg. I definitely learned a lot from my banking years – especially how to work in a high stress environment where we were marketing our own business. After 10 years, I decided it was time to take those skills to the next level and start my own business. It wasn’t easy to step away from a secure job, but I realized that if I didn’t take the risk now, I probably will never do it later in life.
At the website we learned that this was a collaborative project with you and your co-founder. How long was this idea in motion before it came into being the website we see today?
Didi’s Wardrobe was an idea a friend and I had in 2001 when we lived in New York, but it was something we couldn’t take action on due to our demanding careers. However, in 2009 we decided to start researching different business ideas in Indian fashion. We initially decided to change our business plan to renting Indian clothes, but ended up coming back full circle to our original idea of the consignment concept. We realized that there was a plethora of inventory out there already, so why not provide a way for individuals to share those beautiful saris and lehengas with each other across the U.S. We began our process of building the website at the end of 2010 and launched on November 15, 2011.
The basic premise for Didi’s Wardrobe is to create an online marketplace that connects buyers and sellers of new and pre-owned Indian clothing, costume jewelry and accessories. For first timers, how does the site work?
That’s right, the site is developed for both individual buyers and sellers on the site. It’s really an ‘ebay’ for new and gently used South Asian wear.
Didi’s Wardrobe was created for people like you and me to sell our South Asian wear that we spent good money on and to find something new for that next event without breaking the bank. It’s a great way to “share or borrow” clothes from your desi friends across the country. Why spend $500 on a Lehenga that you will wear once. Instead, you can find something similar for $50-$100, wear it once and then resell it again on the site.
For buyers we created a very friendly user interface where you can search products by Women, Men, Children and Jewelry & Accessories. Each of those categories is broken down further such as Lehengas, Saris and Salwars. Buyers can then narrow down their search by size, price or condition rating. The site provides further detail with photos, descriptions, measurements and even reviews by other buyers of their products.
For sellers we are providing two methods to sell items. Sellers can either post their items through our easy Post a Sale process or ship a box of their items to us through our We Post for Your process. If sellers post on they own, they will upload their own photos, measurements and items details through our easy six-step process. Once an item sells, they will receive notification to ship the item. We understand that many people are swamped between work, family and friends and just may not have the time to post, so we are happy to sell their stuff for them. All they have to do is fill out our contract online and ship us their items. We take care of the rest.
Can you tell us about the quality of the products that are sold on your site and the ease of selling/buying?
The items on our site range from brand new to gently used. Any item that shows a five star rating is brand new and has never been worn. Many of us end up overbuying during trips back to India or Pakistan, so we have a number of sellers that have posted brand new items on the site. Most of the other items on the site are in fairly excellent condition because in most cases someone has worn something once or twice and doesn’t want to be seen in it again at the next wedding (since the photos are already posted on Facebook!).
The process to buy and sell on the site is quite easy. Buyers can see fairly extensive details on each item and even have the option of sending a message to the seller if they have questions on sizing or colors. Once a seller is ready to purchase, they are taken to our secure payment gateway, PayPal. The seller is then notified of the sale and will be asked to mail the item within two business days. Once the item has been delivered, Didi’s Wardrobe processes the payment. As I mentioned previously, the selling process is quite easy with our two different methods of Post A Sale or We Post for You.
What has been the biggest challenge for you and your co-founder? The best part?
Educating the consumer. It’s a new concept, so it takes time for people to fully realize all of the functionalities we have to offer.
The best part is the response we have gotten. I have heard time and time again that it’s a concept we needed. We’re very excited to help cater to the wedding season in the upcoming months as brides are looking for affordable and easy ways to dress their guests, family members and bridesmaids.
Any words of wisdom for young women hoping to start their own business in the future?
I was initially very hesitant to take the risk of starting my own business. I was scared of leaving that security, but many of my friends and family assured me that I created a strong foundation with my career if I ever need to go back to the corporate world. I think that probably rings true for many women that are looking to start their own business – self-motivators and hard working individuals will always be able to land another job. At the end of the day, employers view entrepreneurs as highly motivated individuals with a broad skill set. Follow that passion – if you don’t, somebody else will.