Mikaela's closet has 65,000 garments
Hi Mikaela Larsell Ayesa! You are a KTH alumnus and one of the founders of Hack Your Closet, a clothing subscription service that in just three years has gotten over 3000 subscribers. As a student, you founded your first company, AXXMA! Tell us more!
What did you study at KTH?
- I have a Bachelor's degree in Design and Product Realisation and a Master in Integrated Product Design, focusing on circular economy. I graduated in 2019.
You are co-founder of Hack Your Closet, but as a student at KTH, you had another idea you were working on. Tell us more about that!
- My friend Alice Axelsson and I designed a modular table as part of our degree project. The idea was to develop a combined workstation and kitchen table with integrated sockets and lights.
What happened next?
- When our degree project was finished, we were really happy with the result. We had had a lot of fun developing the table and we wanted to keep working on it. We had been to several presentations with KTH Innovation and I knew people in my program who had developed their own ideas. I thought it was a cool part of KTH, but I figured you had to have a great idea to get started.
It is quite common for people to believe that they have to have a "great" idea, or have come a long way to start getting support from KTH Innovation, but the only thing you really need is have an idea. Did you feel that your idea was not "good" or "finished" enough in the beginning?
- Yes exactly. We were really curious about the world of entrepreneurship and wanted to continue exploring our idea, but we didn’t know if it was good enough. We also felt that we didn’t know enough to get started. We didn’t think we would be able to build a company without any experience, but we got a coach and then we got into the pre-incubator program, where we also developed a prototype. In the program, we met a whole group of motivated individuals who were on the same level as us, and that made it much easier and more fun to explore entrepreneurship together.
In the end, you chose not to keep developing AXXMA. What happened?
- My co-founder and I didn’t agree on how much time to spend on our idea, and that started to create some friction between us. In the end, we felt that we needed to choose between saving our friendship and continue running the company, and we chose our friendship. Working with AXXMA was our first time running a startup, and how to handle your team is something you learn with more experience. We were probably also a few years too early; the table would have been perfect during the pandemic!
A few months later, you graduated from KTH and shortly afterwards you got in touch with your co-founder Lisa Gautier. How did your journey with Hack Your Closet begin?
- After my studies, I wanted to continue together with a different co-founder or to start from scratch with a new idea. I found an ad for a position at Hack Your Closet and thought that working with circular economy in practice seemed like so much fun.
- Lisa was looking for someone who had studied logistics and had 3-5 years of experience, and I didn’t have either. I told her that if you want someone with lots of experience, you’re not looking for me, but if you want someone who will google a lot, read everything I can get my hands on, and ask lots of questions, you should choose me. That was probably the attitude she needed, because she hired me, and a month later, I also became a co-founder.
Now, Hack Your Closet has 42 employees and 65,000 garments that circulate among your subscribers. How did you get to where you are today?
- In the first three months, we spent our time building the foundation of the company and our processes, from how to pack boxes, style our customers, handle returns and wash the clothes as we got them back from our customers. At that time, we used long Excel lists to know which customer had rented which garments, and we washed all clothes at home.
- Now, we have our own system for handling our stock. We collaborate with several other companies, like Airmee, that I met for the first time at an event at KTH Innovation’s office. We bring in unsold stock from several retailers, and work with a second-hand actor that sells or recycles clothes that we can no longer circulate. We are a team of 42 people, with 26 full-time employees and we have two "dark closets", one in Stockholm and one in Strasbourg where we store, wash and repair our clothes.
How does Hack Your Closet work with circularity?
- We base all our decisions on the belief that circular economy is the right way to go. For example, we chose a more expensive box to be able to reuse it several times. Our dryers generate a lot of excess heat, so we chose partners and premises where we could use the hot air to heat our offices. Today, we only work with garments that are in good condition but simply haven’t been used enough. Garments that have more to give, not new collections that you can buy in stores.
Did you learn anything from the time with AXXMA that you bring with you today?
- I learned to ask for help from people who have been on this journey before. Getting their advice is so valuable. Before AXXMA and my time at KTH Innovation, I don’t think I would have had the courage to ask, but now I know that people in the startup world are always willing to help. I think this is something that differs from larger companies where you see a lot of competition. In this small world, everyone is really, really helpful.
What is your advice to a KTH student who has an idea but feels that it isn’t good enough?
- Your idea is never perfect from the beginning. If an idea has been living rent-free in your head for a long time and you can’t let it go, then there’s something good about it. Get in touch with KTH Innovation! You will get support and can ask all your questions. Do this regardless of whether you think the idea is good or not! We felt the same about our first idea, and we still reached out and got lots of help.
What happened to the modular table in the end?
I use the prototype as a kitchen table!
Shared with Lisa Bäckman