In our attempts to save the planet as conscious fashionistas in Nigeria, Selr is the eco-friendly shopping platform we’ve all been waiting for. Selr is a newly-launched online marketplace for buying and selling pre-loved fashion items, without the pressure of owning a business. The app was built with the philosophy that all sellers are buyers and vice versa, therefore providing an avenue for users to simultaneously earn money and shop. It also encourages sustainable fashion practices amongst its users, with an emphasis on creativity and community building. We caught up with the creator and founder of Selr, Preye Onita, to talk about her vision and why we need to take sustainability more seriously.
Hi Preye! Welcome to our interview. Can you start off by introducing yourself?
Preye Onita: Hellooo! My name is Preye Onita. I’m a 24-year-old Southern Nigeria woman and the founder and CEO of Selr. I have a background in computer systems and advanced web engineering, but I’m also a creative in every sense of the word. Tech itself is a creative industry, so building a marketplace that’s an intersection of tech, sustainability, fashion and entrepreneurship at heart doesn’t seem farfetched. It’s sort of a blend of my background and interests.
When and how did you get the idea to create Selr?
Preye Onita: I got the idea for Selr during my NYSC year. If you have been a youth corper, you most likely understand the concept of being overworked for peanuts. At some point, I just got really frustrated spending more than I earned on bills and decided to sell my items like I used to do back at university. I had made at least £1,000+ a month from reselling new and fairly used items. I remember the first things I sold were my Dr. Martens which were oversized hand-me-downs.
Being new to Lagos, I asked around for where I could resell my items but the marketplaces here just weren’t the right fit for me. They were either tailored to businesses, not individuals, with strict guidelines on the type of photos and items you could list for sale. They didn’t really inspire creativity and didn’t have the right audience, in terms of the community who would be interested in the kind of items I wanted to sell. In the spirit of being the change, I saw a gap for sellers who wanted to sell with or without a business, so that’s how the idea for Selr kicked off.
Over the last year, the team and I have been building a space for young people and creatives to sell and resell their items to friends and followers, without worrying about handling deliveries, accepting payment and getting the right people to buy what they are selling.
What was the most difficult part of getting the idea for Selr off the ground?
Preye Onita: The most difficult part was definitely forging connections based on value, rather than money, and building a strong team. Selr is a community-based idea, and building a community in line with our values has been a challenge. I think for anyone who’s growing an idea into a reality whether it’s a brand, business or startup, the challenges would be similar.
We’ve been lucky to have a phenomenal CTO and a committed team who understand the impact Selr can have in Africa, and are in it for the long game. The support we’ve received from early adopters and friends and family has been great; we put great effort into making the connections we need from within the community we already have, which is what I think anyone at a similar stage should do. If you are building something great, eventually people will realise its value and come onboard.
How do you think Selr can impact fashion consumerism right now?
Preye Onita: I feel like everyone has like 6 clothes they wear all the time in rotation and then ‘others’. Others are those you wear once or twice; we see them in Instagram photos and most people never wear them out to the same place or with the same people. I’m laughing at the thought of it but it’s so toxic. Because most of the time when we shop, we don’t shop for the lucky 6 we actually wear but for ‘others’ which is insane.
Selr comes in to rescue these items. While you can sell new items on the app, it’s important that pre-loved items are a huge part of what we encourage users to list for sale. At the end of the day, Selr is built for consumers. Most of our users are people who don’t have businesses and who come to resell their items to other consumers. It’s an opportunity for entrepreneurship, sustainability and a side income. I believe it’s important for everyone to do their part to give their items a longer lifespan and promote circular fashion. Even if you choose to shop fast fashion, be responsible with what you do with it after you’ve posted your Instagram photo.
With what we are building, everyone is invited to the table, not just individuals but businesses and bigger brands too. Users can get creative about how they choose to contribute to that, either through upcycling, DIY, thrift, selling older collections (for brands) or even creating their own brands out of it – there’s a lot of opportunities. I’ve been trying to get the hashtag #SecondhandSecondlove to trend for a minute now.
Seeing as it is youth-focused, [how] does Selr intend to collaborate with its users?
Preye Onita: Like I mentioned earlier, community is the foundation of who we are and we are trying to push that at any chance we get. Every item listed on the Selr app is user generated. Essentially, our work here is to connect people with each other. Not to be dramatic, but if we don’t collaborate with our users, we are dead.
We are currently reaching out to influencers and content creators who have more clothes than they can keep to run closet sales on Selr. We are spotlighting creative users and their items, those who upcycle and create something out of nothing, and we plan to keep doing that on a wider scale and in the physical world. I can’t say too much right now, but we will be hosting events in the future to bring our community together and actively run initiatives that enforce our environmental responsibility and support our community.
Your opinion on the traction sustainable fashion is getting: a trend that’ll die out, or a real indication of progress in the fashion industry?
Preye Onita: I think sustainability is somewhat like veganism, people who care about it always want to talk about it and people who don’t get it act like it’s silly. The fact of it is that sustainability is here to stay; it’s not a trend. I feel this generation is more actionable when it comes to sustainability, especially in fashion – they are pickier with brands they buy into.
It’s not just a talking point or a means to seem more aware, especially for smaller brands, influencers who run closet sales and thrifters. I was speaking to someone earlier this year who asked me, “Do you really think sustainability is a problem for Africans with all they are already going through?” I thought it was quite ironic because sustainability is the answer.
What are some of the issues we face as youths in Africa? Lack of jobs, inflation and endless bills. From a sustainability standpoint, we are using items for longer and supporting circular fashion, but when you sell as a side hustle, you are also creating more income without limitations on how much you can sell and earn, working hours…everything is on your terms. You are saving the planet while also being able to financially sustain yourself.
What’s one thing you’ll like to see Selr achieve this year?
Preye Onita: Selr is very young at the moment. We are giving her space to grow into whatever the users need her to be. We have a vision of people who start off using the app trying to get rid of old stuff, but it could also evolve into sourcing items and selling full-time as a job that feels like a hobby. I’m just excited to see how the community defines it for themselves and what they do with it. You can download the app here!