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UCLA student co-founds online secondhand clothing store with brother

(Helen Zhao/ Daily Bruin)

By Vivian Xu

April 7, 2020 5:15 pm

Minh Mai said she wants to make secondhand fashion everyone’s first choice.

The fourth-year economics student co-founded NextBest, an online marketplace for secondhand clothing, with her brother, Hoa Mai. Her idea for this retail platform stemmed from her experience with RefineLA, a social organization she co-founded last year at UCLA that functions like a pop-up thrift store. When she became interested in expanding the club’s reach, Minh Mai said she thought of moving it online – an idea that eventually resulted in NextBest, a separate company dedicated to selling secondhand fashion.

“I was thinking, ‘What’s the perfect solution for college students buying and selling to each other?’ Minh Mai said. “(With NextBest), they can get rid of clothes they’re not using but make resale fashion a little easier to buy.”

[Related: Students thrift to create sustainable, affordable fashion line inspired by UCLA]

NextBest functions as an online marketplace geared towards fashion, where users can buy and sell used clothing items, Minh Mai said. After taking photos of items, sellers post them on NextBest and interested buyers can contact them to arrange a meetup for exchanging the goods. Though the website is open to anybody, Minh Mai said it is particularly focused on the UCLA community because the logistics of handing off clothes depends on close proximity. However, they have temporarily suspended business due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The company’s focus on a college community makes selling secondhand clothes significantly easier, said Amanda Norman, a fourth-year communications student. Though Norman has used other sites with a similar function, like Poshmark, she said their global scale results in an overwhelming amount of clothing items to sort through. The geographically close community of users on NextBest not only reduces the traffic of items being sold, but also simplifies the process of delivering the clothes, Norman said.

“With those other apps in my past experience, it can be kind of inconvenient … to ship whatever item I’m selling – with packaging – and go to the post office,” Norman said. “(With NextBest), if you’re going on campus that day, you can just meet up with someone.”

On the company’s end, Minh Mai said the team has been working on streamlining the customer experience. They originally planned to launch version 2.0 of their website during week one of spring quarter, Hoa Mai said, but the COVID-19 pandemic has complicated their entrepreneurial timeline. Instead, they are planning a smaller-scale launch where he said users can stay safe but still experience the new features of version 2.0. Amongst these new features are functions such as filtering items by characteristics like size or category, watching items, commenting on items and messaging among the site’s users, he said.

[Related: Online thrifted clothing platform offers affordability, convenience to students]

Even further down the line, Minh Mai said the company is working on developing an app that embodies all the new website’s features – especially messaging – with the goal of debuting it in fall quarter. The new addition is intended to increase user engagement, Hoa Mai said, since the majority of their users access NextBest through a mobile device.

“We believe that one advantage of apps is that people will be reminded to thrift and buy used clothes if they see an app on their home screen,” Hoa Mai said. “It also makes notifications a lot more (timely), since you don’t have to message through a website.”

NextBest’s revamped website and eventual app create a secondhand fashion experience that is entirely online. This change in medium affects the process of purchasing secondhand clothes, Minh Mai said, but in a way that merges the benefits of thrifting in-person and online shopping. The cheap prices of clothing items that come with thrifting, combined with the efficient means of online shopping, only expedite the entire process, she said.

“Online, it’s easier to sort through what you’re specifically looking for and all the items available,” Minh Mai said. “I think it’s more so you know you want to look for something in particular and try to find it secondhand. It’s just shopping like any regular online store but you can buy secondhand and you’re buying the same item at a better price.”

With long-term goals of expanding to other California college campuses and the possibility of implementing short-distance shipping, NextBest works towards fulfilling its grand mission of implementing ideas that will increase quality of life, Minh Mai said. But for now, she said she hopes that NextBest will gain popularity as a means of buying and selling secondhand fashion.

“For NextBest, I really want us to become the number one for secondhand fashion,” Minh Mai said. “At the end of the day, we want to be the place where you go to make secondhand fashion a lot easier and simpler.”

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Vivian Xu | Assistant Arts editor
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