Fabricycle is a business start-up dedicated to the circular economy of clothing. It provides a brand-new second-hand clothing recycling experience which only takes an app, three steps, and five minutes for the used clothing to easily find the new appropriate owners. Therein, you can earn some profit or donate your used clothes to those in need, implementing the long-term goal of 3R to improve the existing recycling industry for used clothes.
Fabricycle Team, after completing the AngelHack’s 12-week pre-accelerator program, stood out from 878 teams in 55 cities throughout Taiwan to become one of the 16 teams that were qualified to participate in Global Demo Day in San Francisco, at which it pitched its Business Plan to potential investors.
In the team, I was mainly responsible for the design of the overall service process, and actually cooperated with the public welfare group by volunteering, so that I was able to make improvement plans after understanding the status quo of the complete recycling for used clothes.
I also co-formulated the business model, app design and all the details related to the design.
The Taiwanese people have discarded 5.2 million pieces of clothing a year, but the recycling ratio of old clothes is only 15%. And in each person's closet, up to 20% of the clothes are seldom or even never worn, causing waste of resources. There are several causes of this problem.
People often sort out a bunch of old clothes that are not needed. It is too heavy or troublesome to carry the old clothes to the recycling bins. Or such bins are even nowhere to be found.
People are very reluctant to throw away used clothes because the clothes still look new though no more suitable in size. Those clothes are left to occupy some space in the closet and will be thrown away after a certain period of time.
- No easy task
It is very troublesome for a non-professional seller to auction second-hand clothes on the Internet. They need to do the cleaning, taking pictures, filling in a lot of documents, and bargaining over the prices by themselves. Finally, the transaction is very likely to fail due to poor photography or disputes over the wear and tear of the goods.
In fact, these clothes will be multi-purpose if properly recycled. However, there was no convenient channel for busy people to participate in the recycling of old clothes, so we decided to create a brand-new service for used clothes.
- Fabricycle = Recycle + Sell
Our ideal: To unify recycling and selling so as to easily get rid of the used clothes in order to express your love towards people in need and to earn some profits as well.
- Used clothes recycling online
To redress the shortcomings of traditional used clothes recycling: non-transparency of the flowing of the clothes, from recycling boxes to trash cans, inconvenience in transport, etc. Just by the simple operation of an app, your used clothes can be collected at your home, and the clear process makes the old clothes recycling experience easier and more convenient.
- To be nice to our environments
To hopefully improve the circular economy for the clothes by dint of the new service model and reduce pollution for resources to be reused
- To enhance our caring love
It is better blessed to give than to take. Your caring love can be spread to those really in need through more transparent service.
- To set the closet free and change use behavior
We tried to change the user’s mindset and habits towards clothes recycling through convenient and speedy experience, and to reduce the batch quantity by increasing the frequency, so that the unwanted things were likely to become gold, and the user could also learn about the out-of-fashion information.
- Huge economic value
Taiwanese people has discarded 80,000,000 pounds of clothes every year. According to our initial business model, just ten percent recovery of the discarded clothes would make a profit of US$8.6 million after deducting the costs of physical distribution, warehousing, and personnel. The profit would grow with a bang if the market was extended overseas.
How the story began
With the initial idea of changing the used clothes recycling environment, we formed a team to participate in a two-day hackathon organized by AngelHack. The team consists of a computer science expert, a machine learning expert, a senior programmer, a project manager, and me. In the intensive cooperation without any rest for a very short period of time, we made a model of clothes recycling box to scale also known as the working prototype. We successfully gained affirmation from judges and won Excellence Prize and a three-month acceleration of the AngelHack accelerator on behalf of Taiwan. Users could automatically identify the basic information of the clothes and synchronize the data with their mobile phones once they put the clothes into the recycling box.
From imagination to reality
One of the drawbacks of the existing used clothes recycling process is non-transparency, which has often made users wonder if their clothes (or caring love) go to the people in real need. In order to thoroughly understand the existing environment, one member of our team and me volunteered together in Hsinye Foundation, a welfare group involving the recycling of used clothes. In addition to the weekly courses which familiarized us with the recycling status quo, we also actually participated in the process of collecting, sorting, categorizing, etc. in order to figure out what really needed improvement.
Listening to users face-to-face for their real needs
In order to understand more details of the nodes including user mindsets, frequency of demand, quantity, physical distribution status, overall recycling experience, etc., Fabricycle Team and Hsinye Foundation co-organized a charitable event. In Taipei on a certain weekend, the top 40 of the people who signed up would personally go to others’ homes to collect unwanted clothes and donate them all to Hsinye Foundation to help those in need. In just two days, we received more than 600 kilograms covering 1,500 pieces of clothing with caring love.
The following map shows all the homes where we collected used clothes from morning till early morning next day without either sleep or rest. We personally phoned each home, planned the route, collected clothes, recorded their types and quantity, and dialoged with the users face-to-face during the collection to understand their mindsets and needs.
Quality interviews and quantified questionnaires to reconfirm users’ pain points
To confirm whether the service process really satisfied user needs, we made 109 quantitative questionnaires and conducted ten in-depth interviews with users so that we might verify again our hypotheses that convenience, transparency, collection at home, online service were the points users preferred and cared about.
Continuous discussions, corrections and readjustments to optimize service process
- After in-depth discussions with the old clothing recycling welfare group, we understood that the existing old clothes recycling boxes would encounter many difficulties in terms of density, intelligent pipeline configuration, and government policies. So we decided the service going online, which would solve the foregoing problems and make the overall service more convenient.
- In the actual conversation with users who needed to have clothes recycled, we understood there were two types of users: one was people who hoped to actually convey their caring love to those in need and the other was people who simply wanted to get rid of those clothes with sound looks but never to be worn again. Therefore, we decided to increase the possibility of “clothes handling” for donation, recycling, or auction, simplifying actions and providing feedback to increase user adhesion.
- From quality and quantified interviews, we found many problems in the process of taking clothes to recycling boxes, such as difficulties in carrying heavy clothes, and inconvenience to spot the recycling box. We decided to orient the design towards simplification in the overall process which would not take any effort. So, our solution emphasized the collection at homes and assistance in handling many subsequent details.
From service process to interface
- Starting from user mindsets
Imagine what will be the primary concern of people who want to recycle their used clothes. If for recycling, they need only to fill in the quantity simply; if for auction, they can quickly identify the basic information of the clothes by simply taking a picture. After filling out, they can create a recycling form and wait at home for people to collect clothes and complete the entire process.
- To increase friendliness towards environment
The increase of used clothes recycled indicates the feasibility of the idea of slowly cultivating seeds into saplings. It also means that what the users are doing is contributing to the environment.
Business model, cost estimation, manpower assessment
In addition to service design, the success of the business model would make this service truly available to everyone and make investors feel that this idea is worth investing. The revenue was divided into recycling and sales, and the recycling part could be further divided into valuable clothing and reusable fabrics. The sales part provided a platform to earn handling fees. And we carefully estimated the costs including infrastructure, personnel, physical distribution, clothes cleaning, advertising, etc., to find that the project would create sufficient revenue.
Repeated discussions with venture capitalists, accelerators, and relevant experts for the best business model
After being accelerated by AngelHack, our team won the opportunity to go to San Francisco to participate in the Global Demo Day to pitch our idea to the potential investors. For a few days before Global Demo Day, we held in-depth discussions with different venture capitalists to assure the value of the business model.
After repeated discussions and continuous efforts, we finally presented our best aspect to investors at Global Demo Day. Many investors appreciated our idea very much and hoped to further contact us some day in the future. We were very happy that we could make some contribution to the environment one of these days.