Today we’d like to introduce you to Shilla Kim-Parker.
Shilla, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I have been a vintage and second-hand shopper my entire life. I have always loved the thrill of the hunt – that dopamine rush when you find those off-the-beaten-path unique gems at a great value. I have also always been passionate about supporting local, small businesses – the backbone of every city and town’s economy.
My passion here runs deep – my grandparents on my father’s side ran the first black business in their town in North Carolina, and despite being constantly harassed, beaten, threatened, and jailed – they persevered and survived through Jim Crow for an unbelievable 40 years.
My mother’s family comes from deep poverty in Korea and had to survive the trauma of the Korean War and a split country. Nevertheless, my grandfather turned to small business and through that gave his family new and brighter horizons.
Lastly, I have been trying to do anything I can to mitigate my impact on the environment, and reusing and recycling clothing is one of the most critical ways we can do our part. So – there are a lot of reasons why I have always loved shopping second hand and supporting small, local stores — spending entire afternoons or weekends sifting through racks used to be a favorite activity.
But now, I am a working mom (I have a two-year-old son, and I am also six months pregnant), and I found that I barely had enough time to shower, let alone spend hours at my favorite boutiques. I yearned for a “search” and “delivery” function – for a way to still support these businesses that would fit into the chaos of my life. This was my “aha” moment.
Professionally, I have had a very non-linear career – I started in investment banking at JPMorgan, went to business school, then dove into the non-profit arts world (Lincoln Center in NYC), then worked in media (as chief of staff at Disney ABC).
I have given my family (and most of all my mom!) a heart attack at every non-linear jump and move I have made. This last leap into entrepreneurship – mid-career, with kids, and giving up a dream corporate job – was probably most anxiety-inducing of all.
It is definitely a risk, and yes sometimes terrifying – but it’s also exhilarating and unbelievably rewarding to be building something you believe deeply in, and you hope that at the end of the day it will stand the test of time.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
This feels odd to answer, only because I am still so early in my journey. I can’t wait to answer this question in a few years when hopefully I can look at this phase with distance and humor. There were (and remain) many challenges.
First of all, I am a mid-career, pregnant, woman of color – and unless you come from wealth, you will need to raise money to launch a business. I am also building a technology-based, two-sided e-commerce marketplace – not a cheap endeavor.
There is a reason why venture and entrepreneurship have the devastating stats they do. Less than 1% of black women get venture funding – and only 34 black women in the history of the venture have raised $1mm. Raising money is probably the first, biggest, and most important hurdle most will face, and it was no different for me.
After hundreds of meetings, pitches, and conversations, we finally raised what we needed in order to get the business off the ground. Then there comes the nitty-gritty of building a business – everything from finding the right partner (which I have thanked God in my CTO and co-founder Brad Mallow), building the actual product, pursuing large-scale partnership and revenue opportunities, building relationships with stores – to the tedious and yet extremely important (insurance, taxes, trademarks, legal, contracts, office supplies, etc).
Despite the history of entrepreneurship in this country, there still aren’t great roadmaps for how to do any of these things, or what to do in what order. One of the best things about starting a business a little later in life is that your friends and family are older and wiser too. Relying on friends and my angel investors for counsel and advice based on their own experiences has been hugely invaluable. I have learned what it really means to be a true friend and mentor. And I can’t wait to be able to pay it forward one day.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Thrilling – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
We are putting your favorite vintage and thrift stores online, for the first time. There are 30,000 of these stores across the United States (more than both McDonalds and Starbucks) and yet – their nearly $30 billion of incredible and unique inventory has been sitting in digital darkness. There is a reason – the nature of the inventory (one-off, individual items) is extremely challenging to put online in a scalable way.
Our company at its core is a tech and logistics company – we do all of the work on behalf of the store owners (we do all the photography, the measurements, the copy, the shipping, and fulfillment) – without physically holding any of the inventory.
We are really proud to be partnering with these incredible and dynamic local store owners – most of them women, most of the artists – who have been honing their craft for decades, and have an authentic, specific and original voice in fashion.
And we are proud to be helping mitigate the effects of the new apparel industry – the second largest contributor to pollution behind only big oil (among many other large-scale issues). Buying an item second hand reduces its waste impact by 75%.
Shoppers can come to shopthrilling.com and shop their favorite store online for the first time – or they can look across stores by category (“dresses” or “denim” for example). We launched in Los Angeles this year, and are adding more stores every week (we now have a long wait list). Our customers so far have been from all over the world – from Australia to Japan, to Wyoming.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
There are such fabulous local second-hand stores in the smallest towns across the United States, and in major cities around the world. We can’t wait to offer our shoppers unprecedented access to these off-the-beaten-path gems.
- Delighted to offer VoyageLA readers a 10% discount on anything on our site – with code VOYAGELA10
- Website: www.shopthrilling.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: instagram.com/shopthrilling
- Facebook: facebook.com/shopthrilling
- Twitter: twitter.com/shopthrilling