South African startup Wisi-Oi is a resale fashion marketplace where sellers and buyers can trade new and pre-loved fashion.
Launched in 2020, Wisi-Oi – which stands for “WEAR IT. SELL IT. OWN IT” – is a digital-only platform where anyone can open up their online boutique and start selling clothes.
“The aim is to extend the life of clothes that are already in circulation and reduce the need to buy new clothes all the time. The business also offers an empowerment factor, where sellers can generate an income just by selling clothes that are hanging in their closets,” founder Phumi Körber told Disrupt Africa.
“We are planning on building Africa’s first shoppable video-first marketplace, where sellers can upload short form videos showcasing their items with audio included.”
After years of managing e-commerce stores, Körber said she had become “disturbed” by the enormous volumes of unsold inventory such stores faced at the end of every season, while the targets were to sell more, and cheaper, each year.
“I started thinking of simple ways to use technology to safely facilitate shopping from each other’s closets from anywhere in the country,” said Körber.
“There are some fashion items that are just too precious to donate, some of my items still had swing tags that were waiting for me to lose weight, or waiting for an event that never happened.
I started building Wisi-Oi in 2020, and started selling my own clothes, with really great success. To date, I have sold over 200 items of my own clothes hanging from my cupboard and earned over ZAR62,000 (US$3,500).”
This money was also used to fund the business, which has since organically onboarded hundreds of sellers, and thousands of styles. Körber said Wisi-Oi satisfies a big market need.
“The rise of social media consumption and fast fashion has had a direct effect on reducing the frequency of an item being worn. We wear less than 30 per cent of an item’s life cycle, meaning there is a high amount of clothing that’s of excellent quality that is not being worn,” she said.
“With the economic climate we have in South Africa, not everyone can afford to shop new, and really, there’s absolutely no need to. By getting into the circular economy of fashion, we grant access to people’s closets, sellers earn income, plus we are making the sustainable choice of keeping fashion waste out of landfills.”
Self-funded since launch, the startup is currently looking for funding that will accelerate its tech, marketing, and scalability.
“We are seeking to raise US$100,000, which would allow us to build and maintain the tech, market the product for one year, and onboard an operations team member,” said Körber.
“We currently have an organic email database of 6,000 subscribers, shopper retention rate of 22 per cent, and have processed over 500 orders since 2020, with very little marketing.”
Based in Cape Town and monetising via commission on sales, Wisi-Oi plans to expand into East Africa in the future.