Posted on November 07 2018
Meet the founder behind Retykle, Sarah Garner
Sarah Garner started Retykle in 2016 to make it easier for busy parents to recycle their gently worn children’s clothes, earn money and make a positive environmental impact by keeping clothes in circulation for longer. Sarah lives in Hong Kong with her husband Luke, and their two children Henry (4) and Olympia (2).
You have worked in corporate luxury fashion your whole career, what inspired you to start your own business and why Retykle?
I founded Retykle in 2016, after many years of experience in luxury fashion. In Hong Kong, I worked for Lane Crawford as their Women’s Buyer for a few years, followed by Global Planning at DFS and then Head of Product Development, Visual Merchandising, Planning and Buying at Shanghai Tang. Over the years, I began to feel that my career choice was not fulfilling my sense of purpose. After having my first child, I witnessed first-hand how quickly kids grow out of their clothes leaving behind closets bursting with smaller sizes, most of the items barely worn.
The seeds for Retykle were born as I saw a perpetual problem of how to cycle through the piles and piles of outgrown high-quality clothes that still had lots of life to live and the parents who would be happy recipients.
I sat down and hatched out an idea that would create a sustainable fashion loop. I wanted to make a change and be on a side of fashion that was part of the solution rather than part of the problem. It took a lot of time from planning to realisation and now, almost two years on, we have grown from strength to strength, maintaining our passion for making a positive impact on the environment, the community and parents’ lives.
There are other ways to sell or donate second hand children’s clothes. What makes Retykle different?
Absolutely, there are many ways people may sell, pass on or donate children’s clothes. With Retykle, however, we enable parents to do so without any hassle, with the ability to select their desired style with the ultimate convenience of a beautifully curated online boutique, saving tons of money and time.
I think what makes us different is that we make the buying and selling process simple, with free door-to-door pick-ups for sellers, as well as free shipping and hassle free returns for shoppers. This means that parents can #jointhecycle from the comfort of their home. In addition to that, our exceptional quality and authenticity controls and assurance makes Retykle a trusted platform. We thoroughly inspect each piece of clothing we receive so that there is peace of mind with every purchase. We are on a mission to make shopping second hand as good, if not better, than buying new.
Retykle promotes the idea of buying quality over quantity. Is this one of your personal values and how does this impact on how you shop for yourself and your family.
Absolutely. I was raised to shop with a conscience about quality, value and design. I believe kids are heavily influenced by the shopping behaviours of their parents. My parents are architects and they naturally appreciate design in all facets of life and growing up with aesthetes led to my love of fashion. My mom shopped high quality classics which could be in her wardrobe for many years. I learned from her to adopt a classic style and a capsule wardrobe. I made an effort to avoid trends, despite it being my job for many years to identify and capitalize on trends at work. I still wear many items purchased from my first job in fashion at Club Monaco when I was a teen.
When you buy items you love, that you will wear indefinitely, I chalk that up to responsible consumption. Unfortunately no matter how much we wish to keep it minimal with kids, it’s not possible to keep items in rotation for long as they sprout so quickly. The next best thing, is choosing high-quality clothing and recycling those items so that they can maintain their long lifecycle with another family. My hope is that something as simple as getting dressed can also be a family philosophy about how we consume.
Have you always been passionate about helping the environment? Or did something spur you to make a change for the better?
I grew up in Canada and recycling and being conscious of your environmental footprint is engrained from a young age. However, I must admit that shortly after the horror of throwing away my first few ‘recyclables’ in Hong Kong, for lack of the facility to do otherwise, I began to shed my upbringing and adopt a much less green life than I was used to.
It wasn’t until I had Henry that my career came into sharper focus. I thought differently about the future and the planet and how I could personally make an impact for the sake of his future, and my role as his teacher. It is a learning process for anyone who wants to pursue a more eco-conscious life and we are doing our best as parents to lead by example and make conscious choices.
Retykle is already making a difference in reducing the amount of children's clothes that are discarded in Hong Kong. What does success look like in the future for Retykle?
We recently participated at The Conscious Festival in Singapore to great success. This was the first time we brought the Retykle brand to a more international audience and is testament that there is a need for our platform. We are looking forward to opening Retykle to sellers in more cities across the region to expand our reach and impact. We will continue to explore new product categories and new ways to help parents save money and keep their high quality outgrown items in circulation and out of landfill. The mission is to develop a global circular model for kids products because despite our differences, the problem is universal.
What are the challenges of running your own business?
There is a steep learning curve to starting a business. It requires a lot of hard work, preparation, a trove of curiosity and buckets of resilience. Nurturing all of the ingredients to a successful business at the same time is a challenge. There are endless possibilities for improvement and what to give attention to is a matter of considered prioritisation. Switching off Retykle at the end of each day is a challenge because my wheels are perpetually turning.
How do you find the inspiration and energy to keep going?
A strong team is essential to accomplishing our ambitions. The passion of our team and the enthusiasm of our community is a consistent encouragement that what we’re building is a worthwhile mission.
Our community has embraced a new way of shopping for their kids and we’re creating a positive ripple effect together.
I love a challenge and building a new business model requires constant testing and innovation. If we weren’t solving a big problem I may have been bored by now but if you love what you’re building, you won’t run out of stamina. It’s important to build a product or service that you feel passionate about so that you don’t lose interest along the journey. I feel proud of what we’re building and I love that we’re benefitting the lives of parents today and the environment we’ll leave behind for our kids tomorrow.
What have been the most rewarding things about starting Retykle?
Every person that shares a positive experience with us about Retykling makes my day. We strive to create a seamless customer experience and so each referral we receive from a Retykle enthusiast feels like we’re one step closer to delivering on our promise.
I set out to create a company that I couldn’t find for myself. I’m trying to create a team of individuals who know and embody our values such that they can act independently on behalf of Retykle and feel empowered to innovate, solve problems and be leaders in their own domains. We want to make our team and community feel like they are doing something great by Retykling and in turn feel great about themselves. Seeing happy, collaborative, engaged team members is very rewarding. Similar to raising children, building a business takes a village.
I love that no item of clothing has gone to waste since we started. Our savvy sellers have earned a considerable amount of money with tens of thousands of items resold. We’ve also made an enormous number of donations through our charity partners ensuring that every piece stays in the loop. We have also donated 100% of proceeds from our charity closets to local charities shining light on lesser known causes and encouraging Retyklers to shop for a cause.
I’ve also made countless new connections via our enthusiastic Retykle community and the open, generous and collaborative business community here which I appreciate and value.
On the personal side, it’s a juggle to have a business and a family and it’s not always in perfect harmony. My kids are still very young but when they see the Retykle logo, they say proudly ‘mommy’s office’. We teach them about passing along items to others, recycling waste, mending toys and through our own daily actions, so that they can take small steps towards their own environmentally friendly lives.
Do you have any tips for entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
Start with passion. If you spend every waking moment thinking about the problem you want to solve, and you’ve done some research to ensure that there’s a market for your idea, go for it. Then take it step-by-step, day-by-day. The hardest part is getting started. Stay endlessly curious, connected and in a perpetual state of learning. It’s a journey, not a straight line, so you need to build your problem solving skills and emotional resilience. You will need support so ensure that those you are closest to believe in what you’re building as you will need their encouragement along the way.
Every person has different ambitions for their business and it’s important to know what a satisfying outcome would be for you when you start rather than let others define what success looks like for you or your business. Define your goals and then build your dream. Hard things are worth doing.
How has being a mother changed the way you work?
I have always worked hard but I’ve become more effective with my time since having kids which I think is a fairly universal truth for moms who return to work. Committing to an end to your work day enforces a stricter prioritization of your time.
I’ve made it a priority to have unconventional hiring practices and flexible work arrangements to ensure that we have a stellar team assembled inclusive of those who want to balance their time between work with family. There should be many more opportunities to accommodate parents and others with competing priorities in their life so that it’s not a zero sum game for those who work or don’t work. I’ve created a safe space for parents, including myself, to prioritise their kids over work when they need to so that there are more options available to those who wish to work and balance life with kids.
#weretykle because something as simple as getting dressed has become our family philosophy about how we consume.Sarah Garner, Founder