ThreadBare: To build a successful student venture

ThreadBare will accept applications for new prospective owners.

One year ago, four students created the gender-neutral consignment shop ThreadBare, with the hope that the Student Center-based business would prosper and influence social views on gender identity.

It is now the first Student Unions Entrepreneurial Program business that has been given the chance to stay longer than a year.

A post on ThreadBare’s Instagram announcing the opportunity said the store is “on pace” to be the most successful student-run business hosted by the program.

Each year, the Student Unions Entrepreneurial Program hosts a contest for students to submit a business plan for rent-free space in the Student Center for one year. This year, ThreadBare will be allowed to reapply for the space, but they will still have to compete for the space against other students’ ideas.

“We are super excited,” co-founder Kyle Gunby said. “We think it would be useful if the brand is able to continue for another year so the students wouldn’t have to worry about the startup bump.”

Founders Gunby, Allison Fitts, Gabriel Riekhof and Zach Bine are graduating seniors, so students will apply to run ThreadBare.

The founders say group work plays a key role in ThreadBare’s success. Each of the four founders know one another’s strengths, and they work together to make ThreadBare a success.

Fitts is responsible for fashion choices, Riekhof takes care of managing operation and Gunby directs marketing decisions.

“When we recognize those different strengths, things go super swimmingly,” Gunby said. “When we start asking people to do things out of their range of skills or outside of what they are comfortable with, that is when things being complicated.”

Meanwhile, as seniors, none of the four founders can devote all of their efforts into managing the store. They have to deal with their own classes, activities, internships or jobs and social lives.

From time to time, one of them has to ask for a break from the store management, and the rest of team needs to keep the business operating.

“If you have 40 challenges, then it is a lot easier to face 10 on your own than 40 of them on your own,” Riekhof said. “We wouldn’t be successful if the team wasn’t here supporting each other the entire time.”

Normally, the management team will communicate with each other using text or social media messages. When they face major problems, they will have a group meeting and sit down together to discuss possible solutions.

And it is not uncommon for them to encounter challenges.

“Each week has its new sets of challenges,” Fitts said in email. “We just take each challenges as it comes and learn from it.”

Although the financial mission is completed, the social mission is still in efforts.

All the clothing in ThreadBare is gender-neutral and affordable. Everything is less than $15 before tax.

“Our job here is not to stuff an ideology down somebody’s throat,” Gunby said. “What we want to do by being here (is) being a place where people can come in and be comfortable. We want to be a conversation starter.”

The founders know it is hard to make social changes about gender empowerment, but they feel people have been open-minded.

“The fact that we are profitable means we are supported by the community,” Riekhof said. “The fact that we are supported by the community means that they are validating the idea that we have of a gender-neutral thrift store.”

As one of the more loyal customers of ThreadBare, former Missouri Students Association President Payton Head felt the same way.

“I believe that ThreadBare is so successful because of its mission of inclusivity,” Head said in an email. “They work so diligently to make sure that every person who occupies that space feels welcome and has something they can connect with. “

If ThreadBare stays in the Student Center, the new owners are free to run the store as they want with two restrictions: first, the original founders get the ownership of the brand; second, the store’s general theme should remain gender-neutral and the price of commodities should consider affordability for students.

Student Unions decide what business will occupy the space around the finals week.

But no matter which business is chosen, the four founders have gained a lot from this experience.

“I have learned lessons, made memories and fostered new friendships in a tiny little store in the Student Center, which is pretty great,” Fitts said.

Edited by Waverly Colville |

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