Earth-friendly startup thinks inside the box to make dressing kids more affordable and sustainable
Story by Shanee Edwards | Photos by Zsuzsi Steiner
Each year Americans throw away 13 million tons of clothing, according to EPA estimates — that’s roughly 80 pounds per person ending up in a landfill. Many of us donate our used clothing to charity thrift shops like Goodwill or The Salvation Army, but only about 10% to 20% of those items find a new home.
That’s why Melissa Gerber, a Playa Vista resident and entrepreneur, launched a clever new business to help children’s clothing get a second chance. While getting her MBA at Loyola Marymount University, Gerber was challenged to create a business concept that would have a positive impact on society.
“I had been reselling clothing online for over 10 years, especially when I was an undergrad,” says Gerber. “I’ve always been passionate about used items and finding a home for them, whether it’s clothing or collectables.”
Gerber combined her passion, experience and new business degree to repurpose high quality, gently used kids clothing as a startup called Deux Life.
Here’s how it works: For $49, parents can order of box of 10 pre-owned, name-brand clothing items in their child’s size, which Gerber estimates as a $150 value. Customers can choose trendy or athletic styles, or a mix of both, for boys or girls. Shipping is free.
Not only is the service eco-friendly, Deux Life gives back to kids in need by donating one box to homeless or refugee children for every five boxes sold. Gerber says she was inspired by the TOMS shoes business model she studied in school, in which the company gives needy kids one pair of shoes for each pair sold. Gerber hopes to achieve the same 1:1 donation ratio in the future.
“Right now I’m in my startup phase, so it’s a little bit less than what I would like to give, but as the business grows I’m excited to give back more,” says Gerber. “There’s an endless supply of kids clothes because, unlike adults, kids have to grow out them. I hope to rehome all of it!”
In the future, she hopes to add a category for baby clothes, but probably not one for grownups.
“Adults aren’t on the roadmap because adults tend to want to pick out their clothes more than kids,” she explains. “They’re more concerned with style and tend to hold on to clothes a bit longer, so they’re a little bit less wasteful.”
Gerber is currently shipping boxes out of her Playa Vista home and says it’s been a bit of a whirlwind.
“It went from concept last fall to prototype this winter, so I’m just finishing in the business incubator program. That’s where you actually have to launch the business, so now we are available for purchase.”
Recently engaged, Gerber and her fiancé joke about hoping they can still afford to live in Playa Vista when they have kids.
“That’s the whole point: the family-friendliness of it. It’s become my own bubble — in fact, we only have one car because I don’t want to contribute to the rising environmental problem we’re having. Luckily, we don’t need a second car because of the convenience that the community offers.”
Though it might take some time for Gerber to turn a profit, she’s optimistic her business will thrive.
“I know this model will work. There is a market; we just need to educate people about it.”
Visit deuxlife.co for more info. Gerber has set up the discount code PVDIRECT to give locals $10 off their first box at checkout.