Q+A: Jennifer Zuklie, The Swoondle Society
The Swoondle Society is a business founded by Jennifer Zuklie, a DUMBO mom who created a way for parents to swap their children's outgrown clothes when she couldn't find a way herself. We sat down with Jennifer to talk about how she got started, what makes it different from other clothes trading platforms, and how being in DUMBO has helped.
What made you decide to create the Swoondle Society clothes trading platform?
I had a daughter and bought a lot of adorable outfits for her, then I got pregnant and had a son. I dug through many bins of clothes to find clothes I could use for my new baby boy, and I realized how specific clothes tend to be for children. The reality was that there were so many clothes in these bins that my daughter had barely worn, and I thought, there must be someone in DUMBO who I could trade these clothes with, but how could I find this person? The Swoondle Society developed out of having an excess amount of children’s clothing that I felt still had a lot of value–and I just didn’t want to use any of the other options for buying and selling used clothes. On other consignment websites, you’re only making a fraction of what the clothing is actually worth, which I found very frustrating. I felt better making it a membership model where you pay a flat fee for a certain number of trades.
Being a member is super easy, you just put your clothes in a bag and send it in, we do all the sorting and cataloguing and photographing, and we give it a level, from 1-5 based on brand, quality, condition, and what it is. You can then go into the website and take back any pieces of clothes of that level, so it is truly fair; you give us a level 3, you take out a level 3. The fee is just a flat fee for the trades; you can make it pay for itself in a handful of trades.
Tell me about the business's growth.
First we started as a pilot company with a very basic website. We began the trading with neighborhood people and some friends and family while we tried to figure out the logistics of valuing and shipping the clothing. We started with about 50 people but realized that we needed some more people to have the supply of clothes necessary for the trading, so those people started telling their friends. We grew 100% by word of mouth. When we relaunched the website last fall, that’s when we realized that we were ready to start letting other people in on the game.
How can the Swoondle Society help families with young children?
The Swoondle Society is targeted for children 0-12, from birth through elementary school. It made sense to smart the business small, with smaller children’s sizes. Also, kids grow out of clothes so fast, and there’s so much of it. You want them to look good and you want to buy quality clothes but then once they grow out of it you think, what do I do with it now?
How do you feel it is different than other online clothes trading sites? What sets you apart?
There are no other real trading sites. People tend to buy and sell rather than trade–that’s because it’s hard to find the definition of fair, and hard to find a specific person to swap with where the swap will benefit both people. But with our company, you send everything in and we send it out, so you don’t have to deal with finding the one person who you want to swap with.
What is your favorite part about running this business?
I like the problem solving nature of it, trying to create a new concept that’s not out there and finding out the different ways to make it work. From an operational standpoint, as well as logistics and marketing, it’s good to keep learning about aspects of business that you had not previously considered. It’s a fun way to keep your brain working.
How has being based in DUMBO helped your business?
It’s the perfect target audience, since there’s lots of families. Everyone is very progressive and usually fairly successful and like dressing their families nicely, but they are also very practical and pragmatic about reusing clothing. The moms have been really supportive in this area, both Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO, and they have been very active traders on the Swoondle Society. I have had quite a few people who have been very helpful with networking, talking to the right people, and doing little projects to help me out.
What are your favorite spots in DUMBO?
We love the fact that there are lots of new restaurants coming in. We have two little kids, so we love the park and going in the Archway. During the summer we would order pizza or takeout and have it delivered to the Archway while enjoying the concert series there or having some beer at the Lighthouse. All of the interesting children’s classes makes it very fun, too. We have classes on anything and everything, at so many quality and professional places, which is a really special thing about this neighborhood. It’s such a great community; you can easily walk around and see your friends or people you know on a daily basis. The neighborhood is growing and there’s new stuff coming in all the time, but people continue to be supportive of the community while elevating it with the interesting things coming to fruition here.