A Tunisian apparel-retail entrepreneur rides the e-commerce wave
2020-05-29 | Since 8 Month
Tunisian fashion enthusiast Ameni Mansouri never thought that the Facebook group she started almost four years ago to sell clothes and accessories would one day turn into a popular online marketplace used by women throughout North Africa.
Launched in 2016 with co-founder Ghazi Ketata, Dabchy (which translates as “my stuff”) is now a regional social networking and fashion marketplace with a growing community of women who buy and sell their pre-loved clothes.
“When I was living in Paris to pursue my studies, I was passionate about the world of fashion,” said Mansouri. “I was using apps that were giving clients the opportunity to buy and sell their used clothes at a lower cost and in an easy way.
“I said to myself, ‘why not in Tunis?’ and that is when my entrepreneurial journey started.”
Dabchy now has more than 430,000 registered users across Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco and plans to expand throughout the region.
A $20 billion global industry, second-hand apparel retail has been growing substantially over the last few years.
It is even expected to outpace traditional retail, with a projected sales increase of 15 percent annually over the next three years against only 2 percent for traditional retail, according to a 2018 report by online consignment and thrift store ThredUp.
While the idea of buying second-hand clothes may be a new concept in Tunisia, it is quickly catching on. And with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic keeping many shoppers under lockdown, e-commerce has been experiencing an added boom worldwide.
Mansouri said: “We’re experiencing a societal shift. People are concerned less with ownership and more with price, which now takes precedence over other criteria. “Clothes are no longer accessible to most of the Arab population, and they are being sold less and less.”
In this sense, Dabchy is an alternative platform for those who cannot afford to buy new and branded clothes.
The concept seems to appeal to young women, who are more likely to purchase second-hand clothes and according to the same ThredUP report, 18- to 37-year-olds are taking this route two-and-a-half times as fast as other age groups.
To grow its community, Dabchy created an easy-to-use app to allow its customers to post and buy items within minutes. Operating across North Africa, the app is a mix between an e-commerce platform and a social network.
Users can create a profile and post their products for sale as well as share their fashion style online. The platform is gaining momentum and has recorded 1,200 listings daily from its African users.
However, growing the startup to where it is today has not been easy. “I had to go through the whole journey of converting from a biomedical engineer into a well-rounded business owner,” Mansouri said.
“I also had to learn about marketing, financials, public speaking tricks and hacks when pitching and so much more.”
Attracting and managing investments was another challenge for the startup.
However, the team believes that learning is a never-ending process and relies on advice and guidance from experts to continue growing and scaling the platform.
“At Dabchy, we are always on a learning journey, so we never stop learning new things every day. Also, being a startup that is growing daily and that needs to reach a certain level of sustainability, we are always keeping an eye on our potential investors, even if we are not fundraising,” Mansouri added.
The founders plan to expand the platform to the rest of the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region in the near future. They are also continuously working on growing their community and enhancing the user experience by using blockchain technology.
Mansouri said: “I am happy that the mentality is changing toward circular fashion because now is the time to act for a healthier and more sustainable environment.”