Kita, Malaysian online platform for second-hand and recycled clothing

When she’s not busy studying for her electrical and electronics engineering degree, Wei Ean runs her own startup, Kita, which tackles a serious problem: fashion waste.

However, the student has always been enterprising and has been running an e-commerce store since she was thirteen.

This experience made her realize how harmful fast fashion and hyper-consumerism can be.

“All the waste generated and the clutter of stuff we thought we needed,” she noted. “I wanted to make an impactful contribution in the opposite sector, in the field of sustainability.”

One way to promote sustainability in fashion is through thrift. This helps extend the life of clothing, while often being cheaper than buying new items.

Image credits: Kita

Wei Ean became particularly involved with thrifting during the pandemic, as curated thrift stores made their way to Instagram stores.

One day she came across an online thrift store with clothes she liked. However, the caption showed almost everything labeled “sold out.”

At that moment, she wished there was a platform like Zalora for second-hand fashion, second-hand clothing, thrift shopping, reworks and other sustainable fashion items. This way, shoppers don’t have to search Instagram for sold-out items.

That was when Wei Ean wondered if others felt the same way.

Being a resourceful person, she decided to create a Google Form to find out others’ opinions. Within a week, she received about 76 responses.

They were largely positive, with respondents saying they “dreamed of having an app like this” and that the concept is something “the Malaysian thrift scene needs”.

Wei Ean said: “I think second-hand fashion should be as accessible as fast fashion. I think this community deserves a special, tailor-made platform for them.”

With that, Kita was born.

Creating a circular economy

Kita is essentially a marketplace for all things circular fashion, with second-hand, pre-owned, bundled, vintage or upcycled clothing.

“Thrift stores on Instagram are all spread out, and everything is still very manual; sellers don’t have the right e-commerce tools to run their business,” she says.

Kita fills this gap by providing relevant tools for the suppliers, from order management and payment gateways to automatically generated shipping labels and storefront customization.

Image credits: Kita

Streamlining these backend processes also makes it easier for shoppers to shop by making thrifted items more accessible.

It differs from platforms like Carousell, which has everything from cars to even real estate. Meanwhile, Kita is very focused on fashion.

“Kita was created for the community that is here to celebrate the love of fashion and sustainability,” explains Wei Ean.

She pointed out that similar platforms exist on the western side of the world, such as Depop. However, these apps have not really taken off in Malaysia and Southeast Asia. “Thrift is on the rise in Southeast Asia and Kita wants to fill this gap.”

Kita is free for anyone who wants to save or even post their own favorite clothes. How can Wei Ean make money from it?

Image credits: Kita

She then shared that vendors who want more features can subscribe to an ‘Atas’ plan for around RM28 per month. This is for sellers who operate entirely as thrift stores and therefore need tools to be competitive.

The theft startup has also participated in accelerators and competitions (TechStar Startup Weekend Taylor’s Uni and LaunchX Sunway iLabs) that helped get the seed funding off the ground.

Finding the right fit

Building a startup comes with its fair share of challenges every day, Wei Ean admits.

“It could be a technical bug that doesn’t work the way we want, the fear of meeting very important people, designing operations, making pricing decisions…,” she summed up. “It’s an avalanche of new challenges every moment.”

However, she believes that all of this can be overcome through effort and perseverance.

Image credits: Kita

“I think the real challenge is the uncertainty,” she said instead. “Uncertainty in our market, in our decisions, uncertainty in uncertainties. It gives me the unpleasant feeling that all I can do is do my best and march on.

The young entrepreneur has been running her business solo for a while, believing that she needed to lay the foundation before she could bring more people on board.

Now that the product and technology are solid, she wants to invite more people on this journey and be part of Kita.

“It wasn’t the easiest to find the right fits,” she opened. “I have many interested applicants, but I am also very picky.”

Image credits: Kita

But in any case, the growth of the team is necessary to grow the company as a whole, whether it concerns the customer base, online acquisition or offline events.

“Fashion is a huge industry, so much can be done in the long run,” Wei Ean said of Kita’s potential. “Our north star is to make what we wear more circular.”

The future is bright

Combining an engineering student with running a startup is not easy. Wei Ean himself said that it sometimes feels very “Hannah Montana”.

“Although I am busy with Kita, I still love what I do in the field of technology. I am making the effort to show up and be on top of things and maintain my CGPA of 3.9,” she assured.

Now in her final year of high school, Wei Ean knows she has an important decision to make soon.

“I think I’ve been dealing with the dilemma of my chosen education and my entrepreneurial path for the longest time ever until I accepted it as something I want to embrace from this mosaic of choices I’ve made in my life,” said she,

When making this decision, her considerations include the opportunity costs associated with not building her career early and missing out on a stable income.

Image credits: Kita

Yet she is also enormously attracted to Kita’s mission: making online recycling more accessible and saving the world, one thrift at a time.

At the end of the day, she shared that she thinks she’s greedy enough to want to love and pursue both of those things.

“But I think being super young gives me an edge to take risks, and these years won’t be in vain: I’m gaining practical experience starting something from scratch, learning to wear many hats and having a bag full of stories to tell” , she said.

“Even if I don’t pass, I think it will still be a valuable experience. I like to experience life as a journey and not as a destination, and I think this is a valuable journey.”

  • Read more about Kita here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured image: Kita