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Tampa Startup Aims To Reshape Sales Of Children's Clothing




Picture this: you're digging around in the back of a closet, searching for your children's seasonal clothing -- only to discover that last year's looks no longer fit your growing kids.

For Internet marketer Vishal Mahtani, this scenario was all too familiar. After conducting research and conversations with friends and family, Mahtani and his wife, Dr. Roshan Mahtani, discovered that they weren't alone. They set out to solve the problem.

Kindermint, an online platform for buying and selling new or gently used kid's clothing, was born.

"It's almost a natural evolution,'' says Kindermint co-Founder and CEO Mahtani. "We are solving a problem that is quite painful and time-consuming, and we're finding that there's a lot of stuff happening organically on Google search and social sites like Facebook and Pinterest. People are looking for us.''

Kindermint carries over 650 brands, including Gymboree, DKNY, Janie & Jack, Oilily, Juicy Couture, Ralph Lauren, and many more.

"Like many simple solutions, what's behind it is quite complex,'' says Mahtani.

Children can outgrow their clothes every few months; it's a seasonal thing. The best option for many parents is to sell gently worn clothes to consignment stores, but, says Mahtani, "I found a tremendous amount of inefficiencies: It's inconvenient, time-consuming, costly, and risky to sell and buy gently used clothes to consignment stores.''

Kindermint, a one-stop online shop, offers busy parents an alternative by providing a platform for searching a large inventory in one place. The site can be searched by brand, price, type of clothing, or size.

"This is about making it more efficient and convenient. When you look at the schedule of our target market -- which is moms and dads with kids between one and eight years old -- there's no time,'' says Mahtani. "Busy moms are busy.''
 
Local Business, National Reach

Kindermint buys and sells clothing nationwide. The company launched procurement and began building inventory in April 2013, opening up for distribution in fall 2013.

How does it work?

After requesting a Mint pack, fill it with the clothes you want to sell and send it back with a prepaid shipping label. Customers are notified by emails once Mint packs are received. Processing time, including weekends, is typically only 2-3 days. After processing, customers may request a check or receive credit within the Kindermint system, which can be transferred out to Paypal or spent within the store.

With a rigorous appraisal process that involves custom lighting and photography, the items that make it through Kindermint's quality check appear brand new -- and in many cases, come with the tags still attached. Kindermint's current inventory is 10,000-12,000 pieces, with hundreds of pieces waiting to be appraised.

"Moms have told us they love the service. It was kind of like, 'Ah-ha, of course we need this!' '' says Mahtani. "It's validating.''

With improvements like recommendation engines and cues from online marketers like Amazon and eBay, Mahtani intends to improve the experience of online shopping.

"You want to put your time and energy into making the customer happy,'' says Mahtani. "It's all about the customer experience.''
 
Mahtani's own children have gotten some good deals from Kindermint: "Burberry jeans, for instance,'' he says. "I mean, seriously? I didn't even know Burberry made that sort of quality for children. It's good stuff. A $100 pair of jeans sells for around 19 bucks. You can't beat it.''

While arriving at a price point requires complex technology and statistics, the site's prices are "amazing -- around 80-90 percent off,'' Mahtani says.
 
Kindermint charges a deposit of $4.95 for Mint packs, but the fee is 100 percent refunded, so it's virtually free. Flat rate shipping for purchases is $6.95, but if you spend over $40, it's free.

The company has worked out deals with UPS and the postal service to achieve flat-rate funding for customers. Order fulfillment and distribution is handled out of the Kindermint office in the Wesley Chapel community of Pasco County, Florida. The warehouse is just a few miles away, although Mahtani would like to consolidate in the future. Administration and shipping all occur out of the same office space off of Cross Creek Boulevard.

Process Creates Quality Control

Quality control is very high, Mahtani says. Currently, two shifts of three employees each work from early morning until midnight to assess, photograph, catalogue, and package clothing in individual plastic sheaths. Items then go to the warehouse a few miles away to be inventoried and stored until they are sold.

What happens to clothes that don't pass the quality check? They are donated to charity partners like Habitat for Humanity and customers are sent receipts.

"We hope for 10 or 20 charity organization partnerships,'' say Mahtani. "With Habitat, we're in the phase of finishing up a house with the amount of money that's been generated so far. It's made quite an impact, and we're very proud that our company can do that.''

A positive environmental impact is also important to Mahtani.

"The clothing that have been repurposed, even for charity, is saving waste from ending up in landfills,'' he explains.

Kindermint is currently bootstrapped and has no external funding to date, although ''we have the data to justify external funding,'' Mahtani says. Investors and partners include Randy Malluck, Sanjeev Ramchandani and Jacob Shemesh. Mahtani didn't want to reveal exact numbers, but when asked how it was funded, he laughed and said, "Blood, sweat, and tears.''

"It's a pretty intensive business, because you carry the inventory -- you're buying it outright. It can be labor-intensive.''

With five full-time and two part-time employees in Tampa, Kindermint will expand locally as needed.

"I think this community needs a huge hit from a tech play, in order to make Tampa the tech hub it needs to be, like Groupon was for Chicago,'' Mahtani explains. "That's what we need here, and that's what we would like to be for the community.''

Mahtani received a Bachelor's of Business Administration in International Business and Management Information Systems from Florida International University in Miami, FL in 1999. He served as the Director of Business Development and VP of Online Marketing for a company called iMarketer, before founding GoldCycler, a direct gold buyer internet marketing company, in 2007.

Justine Benstead is a freelance writer who spends her days walking her dog Chloe in her South Tampa neighborhood, drinking far too much coffee, tweeting, and taking photos with her trusty Nikon. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.
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