Oghenemine Jarikre talks fashion and data
Insight into the entrepreneur's journey as she tackles clothing waste in North America
Tell us about yourself and how you were first motivated to start redeemclothingrecycling.com.
Originally, I’m Nigerian. I moved to Canada in 2016 to improve my education in business management. I did my master’s in management innovation and entrepreneurship at Queen’s University. While researching the clothing market, I realized the amount of clothing waste produced not just in Canada, but in North America as a whole. Instead of adding to the problem, I wanted to change that. I started redeemclothingrecycling.com, which is a for-profit company aiming to improve recycling behaviors in Canada. We do this through rewards given to customers. I met with Michael (Head of Partner Success at Dataswift) in 2019. We started to talk about partnering with Dataswift, and at the beginning of this year I was approved to work with you guys. It has been a great experience from day one.
Tell us more about how your relationship with Dataswift started.
Michael gave me a list of developers in the Ethical Tech Alliance and guided me through the project. I remember one of the developers that he gave me was in Toronto. He just guided me in terms of what he thought would work best for the project that I had in mind. I ended up going with a developer in India instead.
You met Michael through the Ethical Tech Alliance. What made you decide that this was something that you were interested in?
Michael went to Queen’s University and he had posted something on the alumni Slack channel. I decided to meet up with him and discuss what the Ethical Tech Alliance was about. At the time, I was looking into doing an app. He had posted something about helping entrepreneurs create an app. I was curious as to why a company would want to do that for an entrepreneur. I’ve found that you have to leverage all the partnerships that you can get when starting a business. I think that's one of the reasons why I'm here today. I decided to set up a meeting with him, and he explained to me what the company was about and how this would help in terms of data. A lot of companies like Google and Facebook are having issues with data and customers' information. Hearing him talk about it was sort of new for me. I decided that it was a great opportunity just by knowing that the partnership would keep my customers' information safe. Also, it helped me focus on building a great app.
How long did the process take?
The process of getting approved and getting a developer didn't take long. However, the process of getting online took longer than I expected. The process of introduction and all that didn't take long at all. I think it took about three or four weeks.
You’re online now. What are the next steps for your company?
We need to do a lot more marketing and advertising to get more people to know about the brand and what we are doing as a company. Especially with COVID-19 and the winter coming up in Canada, a lot of people like myself really find it inconvenient to go out. During the spring, Toronto turned into a red zone for COVID-19. I want to let people know that there are other ways to recycle your clothing. You don't have to go out. You don't have to use a drop-off location. You can just go on our website, schedule a pick-up, and have items collected from your house that we will recycle properly. I think a lot of marketing and ads will get people to know more about the brand and recycle more.
Tell us about the user experience. How does it work?
Oh, that's pretty easy. You just go onto the website and then to ‘my account’. If you don't have an account, you do have to create a Personal Data Account first. Once you create the account and you're logged in, you will be able to schedule a pick-up. You just need to put in some information, such as your name and address. Once you schedule the pick-up, a UPS driver will collect the items from you and then bring them to our office. Once that happens, you can go back into the website and get a reward for recycling with us. I have partnered with four or five local businesses in Ontario to provide discounts for their products to those that recycle.
How do you feel about users creating Personal Data Accounts (PDAs)?
I think that it's interesting because it's an opportunity for the customer to own their own data. It's also an opportunity for us to get more people signed up on the website. I think it's a win-win situation for both companies because it makes it easier for the customer. You don't have to put in your information every time you want to recycle clothes. It’s saved once you have your account. You just log in.
An advantage of Personal Data Accounts is not having to take care of user data. Your company doesn't have to store this data. You don't have to own a big infrastructure. Is this something that helps you?
It definitely does because I find that it saves a lot of money. I'm not really experienced when it comes to tech and data. It's something that I'm learning about. Working with Dataswift has definitely helped me to not have to think about that aspect of the business. I just focus on what the business is about - recycling clothing and repurposing items.
What do you think has been your biggest learning as you built up this company and website?
For me, it’s that a lot of people are willing to help. You just need to ask. When I started a business, I was concerned about whether I was good enough. I had just done a master’s in management. It seemed like I was good enough to start a business, but I was going into a field that I didn't necessarily know a lot about. I was excited about the process of starting something new. Also, [I’ve learned] that you can't do it on your own. I've learned that a lot of people are willing to help in Canada. You just have to approach them and keep pushing. It's a one-man show at the moment - it’s just me. I’ve got a lot of volunteers this year working with me. I’ve had a partnership with you guys (Dataswift). I’ve partnered with other local businesses. I was able to be a panelist for Queen’s University regarding sustainable recycling in Canada.
*Interview has been revised in some instances for clarity.