This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the 12 student startups who are participating in our virtual Terp Startup summer accelerator. Participating student entrepreneurs received a stipend up to $5,000 that would enable them to work exclusively on their startups over eight weeks in the summer.
The Sustainable Socialite
Founder: Sarah Lader ’20, Family Science
DC: Tell us about your startup. What problem are you solving and for whom?
Lader: Vintage fashion isn’t affordable, thrift stores aren’t time efficient, and retail stores are not only poor quality, but harm the environment with every new item made. The Sustainable Socialite curates bold, quality, unique pre-loved pieces to sell at an affordable price so that you can stand out from the crowd while standing up to fight against fast fashion. Not only that, but we’ll be bringing the product directly to you to try and fall in love with! With a new mobile boutique, this innovative company will be a one of a kind shopping experience.
DC: How did you first come up with your idea?
Lader: While I was doing a work program in Israel, I happened upon this tiny run down vintage store called Golda Second Hand. I have always loved vintage but couldn’t afford it as a college student, yet I decided to take a look. I expected the clothing to be either wildly expensive or plain hand me down items. As soon as I walked in though, I saw the place bursting with colors, sequins, and shoulder pads. The manager, a college student who happened upon the shop similarly to me, offered to help me pick some things out. There were hundreds of beautiful quality pieces and the amazing part was that I could afford it! I then quit my photography job and was given the opportunity to help fix up the store. There were more pieces than hangers, the walls were lined with pre-loved clothing, each with a unique past and story. I felt like I was home, and I wanted to bring the joyful experience I had of finding unique sustainable affordable pieces to others who like me, had a desire to combine individuality with sustainability.
DC: What are some major milestones you’ve achieved so far?
Lader: While I started out with just an idea and an Instagram name, I have grown the brand into a fully formed LLC that is growing every day. That Instagram I started when this was only an idea has grown to now be an online shop with hundreds of followers.
We have created a website that we update regularly which I am especially proud of. Included on this site is not just our one of a kind pieces, but an appointment scheduler so that local customers can try before they buy! Of course with COVID-19 we have taken precautions to ensure each visit is as safe as possible, complete with masks, gloves, and quarantined pre-loved items. This in person experience also gives customers an opportunity to try things that may not have even been posted yet!
Lastly, we started an initiative to help people contribute to the rise of the second hand fashion revolution. Anyone in the DMV area can donate lightly used clothing to be sold by us at a super affordable price. Anything not used by us will be taken to donation centers or upcycled into a beautiful piece, and anything sold will result in 50% of the profits being donated to the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
DC: What drives you to keep going?
Lader: I started this out of personal desire. Simply because I wanted a store like this to exist as a consumer. However, the deeper I dove into it, the more I could see the difference shopping second hand really makes. I found out that 180 million tons of non-renewable resources are used per year creating new clothes for fast fashion retailers. Numbers don’t mean a lot so let me give you this other picture– one garbage truck full of textiles is either burned releasing harmful chemicals or thrown into landfills every second. That’s a lot of waste being created for no reason.
There are enough quality pieces in this world that I believe deserve to live another story. There are cocktail dresses that deserve one more dance, blazers that can help one more person land their dream job, glitter that still has enough shine to bring people joy. Women on average wear an item 5 times or less before throwing it out. I have hope that this will change through curated, beautiful pieces, such as the ones I have picked out especially for those who want bold and unique looks. With ⅓ Gen Z’ers having a desire to shop second hand, we can stop this trend and save the world one pre-loved item at a time, while looking fabulous.
DC: How do you feel about working in a cohort with fellow student entrepreneurs?
Lader: I absolutely love the opportunity to work with other student entrepreneurs. Everyone is so diverse in thinking styles and areas of expertise that I learn more from them than I ever could on my own. It’s also extremely motivating to see my peers working so hard and achieving such incredible things! It inspires me to put in the work every day that is necessary to make my business successful. I am honored to have this opportunity and I truly believe that this cohort of talented and special people is a huge reason that I haven’t given up on my dream of running my business full time. Anything seems possible at this point, and I have Terp Startup to thank for that.
DC: What are you hoping to achieve during Terp Startup this summer?
Lader: During Terp Startup, I am hoping to expand my customer base through new techniques such as email campaigns, online advertisements, and motivation for people to visit my new website such as discounts, deals and events. To expand my customer base I also need to know what they want, so I’m researching the needs of the most important part of my business: my customer’s desires. Those who follow my instagram often get the opportunity to give feedback, vote on what types of items they would like to see, and express their opinions on my business. I’m also using Terp Startup to start researching what is needed to start a mobile boutique so that I can provide my customers with the most accessible, personal, and unique experience possible!