For our latest Startup Spotlight Series interview, we spoke to Francesca Theakston, the founder of Bandi App. She talks to Trendscout about their clothes swapping app built with the purpose of passion for tackling the global fashion crisis.

 

Frankie is a Mathematics graduate with a love for all things mother earth. She has worked in various departments of the tech world and is passionate about mitigating waste in the fashion industry and creating a sustainable business with Bandi.

 

Table of Contents

 

Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you better. So, can you tell us a bit of your “backstory” and how you got started?

 

I am a surfing, nature-loving, meditating problem solver. After graduating from university, I worked for BP within their Emergency Cyber Response Team, my dream role, before realising I needed to travel and see the world before settling into corporate life. This led me to travel and live in several countries, always managing the various companies I worked for before reaching Morocco and rescuing a dog just before lockdown.

 

Before lockdown in March, my sister, Nicole, had come to visit, and as always, I asked her to bring clothes for our tradition of swapping wardrobes. We have always done this – but this time, it had been about a year since we had the opportunity,’ I had a completely different appreciation for it. “Wouldn’t it be great if everyone had a sister to swap with?” I said to her. 

 

A few weeks later, unexpectedly unemployed, we started playing with the idea. What feels like a habit taken too far has turned out to be my purpose over the last few years. It has shaped me, grounded me and helped me find a balance between a life of purpose and passion and using the skills I am so grateful for.

 

My goal is to create a circular, sustainable economy within Bandi, reduce the overproduction of clothes, and educate the women who make these clothes to propel gender equality, leading by example for what a sustainable business SHOULD be. With purpose at our heart.

 

What was the most exciting story that happened to you since you launched your startup?

 

Being featured on ITV This Morning’s second-hand segment next to ThredUp and Vinted, where they called Bandi “The Future of Fashion.”

 

No startup founder is immune from making mistakes, and it’s part of the “growing pains” they go through. Can you share one mistake you’ve made with us and the valuable lesson it taught you?

 

I don’t wholeheartedly believe in mistakes. Every choice and decision leads you to where you need to be or teaches you something you need to learn. They help you grow and learn in so many ways that it is hard to label them as “mistakes” but rather as lessons.

 

I have consistently learnt many lessons with Bandi about myself and the business and will continue to do so, shaping Bandi and my role as CEO. Examples of these lessons are hiring, firing, budgeting, prioritising my well-being, paying attention to staff well-being, the intertwining of personal and business relationships, emotions and decisions, and many more. . .

 

There has been much talk about supporting diversity and inclusion among startup investors. This may be obvious to you, but can you share with our readers why it’s so important for investors to support startups with a diverse and inclusive executive team?

 

This comes from a place of passion, but because The Fast Fashion Industry is a global carbon-producing culprit, it also has many floors within sustainability. During my Oxford University Leading Sustainable Corporations Program, I could dive deeper into what sustainability means to business. My conclusion when looking at the fast fashion industry is that it falls short across all aspects, including equality and inclusion. 

 

As a woman in business, it is hard to ignore the poor wages and standards of working conditions across the industry, mainly for women. It empowers you to do something about it. Being a diverse executive team brings these issues to the forefront, enabling you (me) to do something about it, to use our voices and power to make a change. In our current economy, where conscious consumerism is rising, you cannot, as an investor, ignore what their demands are. 

 

Consumers are more clued up on what they want a business to run, including equality and inclusion. Investors need to support startups tackling all aspects of sustainability because it is where consumers drive us; equality, well-being, responsibility, and carbon are included in what consumers are looking for. 

 

If you do not invest in these startups, not only are you putting your investment at risk into businesses consumers will not be buying from in years to come, but you are ignoring the responsibility we all have to help preserve our planet for future generations.

 

If you can inspire a movement that would bring a positive change within your community, what would that be and why?

 

Swapping. There are 100 billion pieces of clothing made yearly, and only 7 billion of us are on the planet. We have MORE than enough clothes to go around, and we need to get them into suitable wardrobes.

 

As a Mathematics graduate, I created a carbon calculator for our “Re-solutions” Challenge in January, where we had 268 people join us in swapping instead of buying new for the whole month. A bit of (geeky) math applied to this concept, and I figured out that this one month alone and 268 people swapping saved 3100 cups of coffee and 120 trees. Imagine the amount of carbon and water we can save if we made swapping mainstream!!?

 

If you had a chance to spend a day with someone and have the liberty to ask anything, who would that person be? What three questions would you ask?

 

Chris XU – Founder of Shein.

  1. Do you ever stop to think about the damage you are causing to the environment?
  2. What will you spend your fortune on when no planet earth is left?
  3. Are you willing to work with slow fashion / sustainable advocates to change the future of fashion?

 

Can you share your favourite life quote with us and why this is so relevant to you?

 

“What day is it?” asked Pooh.

“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.

“My favourite day,” said Pooh.”

 

I battled Bell’s Palsy when I was younger, which was quite a turning point for me. I put a lot of work on myself to enjoy the present moment and stop putting myself under such high expectations and stress. That has been something I have continued to work on every day.

 

However, reminding yourself to enjoy each day as it comes, good, bad, ugly, hard or easy is something I find easier to do after reading this quote; it reminds me to be present.

 

Great! Thanks for that. Now, let’s go to the main focus of this interview. Can you share with us the story behind that “A-ha Moment” you had that led to the idea of creating and launching your startup?

 

The moment everything sparked, and Bandi came to life was born from my habits of swapping clothes with the women in my family, specifically my sister Nicole. We have always swapped clothes, and while sitting on a beach in morocco wearing our just-swapped clothes, we realised it would be fantastic if everyone had a sister to trade with.

 

Inspiration came from researching the detrimental and awful effects of the fast fashion industry. Whilst creating our business plan, we delved so deeply into the environmental damages of the fashion industry, gender inequality, and poverty that we were fuelled to do something – to make this idea accurate and accessible to all.

 

What do you think makes your startup stand out? Can you share with us examples to show this?

 

Transparency and availability.

 

We have a freemium, simple model to increase the chances of swapping for our users. We aim to tackle the global fashion crisis by swapping and creating as many swaps as possible. We strive to make the process as simple and user-friendly as possible.

 

Where other new swapping platforms have a tedious process of users paying a subscription, sending clothes in, and receiving tokens to spend on other items, ours is simple; upload your items, find clothes you like and chat amongst yourselves to negotiate the swap. On top of this, our users only have to pay for postage.

 

Transparency.

 

We want to pave the way for businesses to interact with their community/clients/users. For every decision we make, we include our users, sending questionnaires, holding community meetings, and anything we can do to ensure we steer our business and idea exactly where our users want it to go. We publish all sustainable plans/accomplishments and stay honest with our users about pricing changes and the problems we run into.

 

What are some “myths” or misconceptions people have when launching a startup that you’ve debunked throughout your journey?

 

This is quite hard for me to answer without googling “myths of startups” because I never knew what myths or misconceptions people may have when launching a startup; I never planned on starting my own business. I was not privy to any myths or struggles until faced with them. I have not wavered that Bandi will succeed. I have had imposter syndrome multiple times, leaving me feeling like I should not be the one driving this forward. 

 

However, I know Bandi is needed and will succeed, and I have never doubted those things. Any push back or hold-up I have had, I have managed to turn it into a lesson or positive – I did not go into this with any expectations on what it would be like getting there, only that I would, I will. . . Bandi will succeed. I guess my personality encompasses problem-solving, so anything I have faced, I have overcome.

 

It is complex, tiring, vigorous, disappointing and disheartening, at the same time as being fulfilling, easy, motivating and extraordinary – a misconception is building a startup can’t be all of these things at once.

 

If there’s one significant difference between launching a startup and a small business, what would that be and why?

 

I am not sure. I’ve only ever launched a startup, and I would not be able to comment knowingly.

 

What are the top three traits that entrepreneurs must possess to launch a startup successfully? Can you expound on why you chose these three traits?

 

1. Strength

 

To deal with the ups and downs you will face and come out the other side stronger, bolder and with your head held high. Do not get deterred from the people who do not share your mission or who will make comments about your sexuality or treat you differently because of who you are. Strength will carry you through the hard times and enable you to find learning and growth even when it seems impossible.

 

2. Confidence

 

This is key to launching a startup. You must have confidence in yourself, who you are, the power and strength you hold to take the business where you envision it will go, and faith in your idea. If you aren’t confident and 1000% sure in yourself and your business, how can you expect anyone else to be?

 

3. Passion

 

A business is nothing without the people who make it happen. If you are a leader with a passion for your purpose, you can inspire others, and encourage and lead them to care and invest in your idea and business. This passion will create the foundations of a business culture that will acquire and keep people of like minds, similar interests and who ultimately share your passion. 

 

You cannot do everything forever, and if you can share your passion with the people who work for you, you can trust that the purpose and mission of the business will be carried throughout every decision made, even when they are not your own. Passion enables you to remind yourself why you started, instilling confidence and strength when you need it most.

 

Let’s flip things around: What do you believe are the three things that can cause a startup founder not to become successful, and why?

 

1. Inauthentic

 

I have had imposter syndrome a few times, but I have always been faithful to who I am and what I believe in. If you aren’t authentically yourself, you cannot expect an investor to invest in you or be able to bring onboard and gain buy-in from other stakeholders.

 

2. Ill Managed mental well-being

 

If we allow ourselves to become stressed, overwhelmed or tired, we are not prioritising our well-being. This will lead to poor decisions, choices and more. We have to be able to prioritise our well-being to stay focused, in the moment and the best version of ourselves.

 

3. Know-it-all

 

One of the most significant lessons I have learned is that you should surround yourself with people who are the best of the best. You do not need to know everything and do everything or be the best, and you need to be secure in yourself that you can ask for help and lean on others when needed.

 

As a parting gift to our readers, what are the top three pieces of advice that you can give to them about launching a startup and why? Please share a story for each.

 

1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

 

Most people are willing to help others, but if you let your ego, insecurities, or anything else get in the way of asking for the help/guidance you need, you will not succeed. I have asked for help and support from nearly everyone I have met. I believe you have something to learn from everyone you cross paths with, and some of the things I have learned from others I have applied to other areas of my life and business.

 

2. Sometimes, you need to step away to see clearly.

 

When you have a lot going on and make decisions, it is hard to know or see the path ahead. Stepping back and observing for a while, taking time for yourself and your well-being, rather than always acting impulsively and at the moment, can result in a much clearer and thought-out decision.

 

3. Surround yourself with the best.

 

You do not need to be the best at everything just because you are a founder or CEO. Surrounding yourself with people with more experience and skills than you ensures a strong and stable team you can learn from, grow with and ultimately rely on to free you up to focus on the bigger picture and end goals.

 

Thank you for these fantastic insights and for your time. We truly appreciate it and wish you all the best on your journey.

 

Bandi App is Raising!

 

Click below to learn more about this exciting startup investment opportunity.

 

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