Mode for Me: Rayhana Ziai

From selling Pokémon on the playground to connecting consumers with fahsion designers, Startups talks to the new crowdfunding platform

Name: Rayhana Ziai
Company Name: Mode for Me
Location: London
Date Launched: 01.02.16
No. of employees: 4
Website: www.modeforme.com

Tell us what your business does:

Mode For Me is a crowdfunding platform that connects the most talented emerging designers to fashion lovers everywhere.

Designers showcase a new design, and if enough people want to buy it, Mode For Me passes on the funding to the designer to produce the item, and send to the customer’s doorstep.

Our mission at Mode For Me is to launch the designers of tomorrow. We need fresh new talent in the industry and its time to #BringBackOriginality. All the designs we have are expertly curated and with the highest quality.

By shopping with Mode For Me, customers receive up to 50% off on top independent label clothing and accessories.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

London Startup Weekend, a hackathon in WeWork on Southbank. The challenge was to come up with a fashion technology solution to a problem, and after feedback from designers, we spotted an opportunity and went with it.

The hackathon lasted 48 hours, and consisted of a dangerous amount of coffee, pizza and energy drinks. It was amazing to see our idea evolve. The original idea changed completely from consumer feedback, which was invaluable. Myself and my co-founder Gigi went onto the busy streets of London and asked 100 consumers a questionnaire designed to find out what they really wanted.

The feedback suggested something very different from our first idea – an eco-fashion brand. We analysed the data and spotted another opportunity.

From there, our developers, Claire and Michelle created some mockups of the site, and started coding. Mode For Me was born.

How did you know there was a market for it?

We literally spoke face to face to countless consumers, who gave us extensive feedback. This was very important in shaping our proposition. From this we realised that many people don’t know where to look online if they want to find super original, non-high-street type clothes from smaller labels.

What were you doing before starting up?

I have worked in various roles in commercial banking.

Some of my roles included working in a data and architecture team where I aided the development various internal and external trading platforms. My most recent role was in the product propositions team, which worked on bringing products from concept to pilot within six weeks, and repeating every quarter.

This last role thought me a vast amount about how to build great products that people want.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

Absolutely. When I was nine, I started selling my Pokémon drawings to my classmates (and they would actually buy them).

When I was a teenager, I began a mobile car washing business by recruiting school friends to wash cars in the area for me and pay me a cut for giving them the appointments.
I have always wanted to create, own something and leave a mark. That is my motivation for starting a business.

How did you raise the money?

We’ve bootstrapped our company to date, and recently completed the Tech Stars ‘Startup Next’ incubator which has exposed us to great mentors and investors. We’ll be looking to raise shortly.

Describe your business model and how you make money:

Mode For Me makes money through successful projects on our platform. For example, if a designer’s product reaches its target, we take a small cut. However, if the project is unsuccessful, we take no charge. This means it’s completely risk free to use our platform, and it also encourages more designers to try Mode For Me.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

There have been many challenges when launching a startup, these are made even more difficult by the fact that Mode For Me is a two-sided marketplace, meaning we need supply and demand to make the business work. This is difficult, and scaling is something only the best marketplaces can do.

It takes time, and a ton of effort!

What was your first big breakthrough?

Our first breakthrough was winning the international competition ‘Global Fashion Battle’. The team were flown out along with teams who won their countries Startup Weekend hackathon’s including Miami, New York, Chicago, Santa Cruz and more.

We pitched to an audience of around 350 people in Poland and we’re super proud to have walked away with the win!

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

My advice to budding entrepreneurs is to follow your passion. If you’re stuck in a company you don’t want to work for, do something about it.

Also, work in smaller companies when you leave university. You’ll experience much more, get given more responsibility and see things you wouldn’t see at a large corporate company.
The mistake many grads take when leaving university is to chase the money, where they then get accustomed to the lifestyle.

This is where it then gets hard to leave your job as you have expensive rent, a company car and are used to splashing out on expensive meals.

As Steve jobs says, ‘Do what you love’

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

In five years’ time I’d like to see Mode For Me operating in many countries, with an international team attracting top talent to join the team and Mode For Me site.

We’re already planning our future fashion verticals. Stay tuned.

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