Third-year College students Sai Samayamanthula, Aditya Sorot, Jasmanet Chahal, Pramod Grama and Mihir Tandon first became friends while surviving organic chemistry together, but at the end of last semester, they also became business partners and the founders of UVA Thrift.
UVA Thrift is an Instagram account dedicated to providing a reliable source of curated, high-quality secondhand and vintage clothing for students living on a college budget. It was a concept that arose because of the friends’ collective interest in fashion and entrepreneurship.
“When I got into college, I was allowed to wear whatever I wanted all the time, so it was really cool being able to buy stuff and just gain a fashion sense by testing stuff out,” Tandon said. “I realized that you can literally make great looking outfits for pretty cheap, so that’s when I started realizing that I could combine my interests in entrepreneurship with fashion.”
After their first piece sold in one day, the group knew they had stumbled onto a potentially profitable business venture.
“The day we posted it, we got our first sale, and that’s when we knew this could be something,” Chahal said. “If we never had that first sale, I don’t know where we’d be right now, but it gave us the motivation to just keep going.”
Since that first post 4 months ago, University knowledge of UVA Thrift has grown substantially. Today, the Instagram account has garnered over 3,500 followers, posted over 110 items and earned the attention of several prominent University alumni including former Virginia center Jack Salt, former Virginia guard Ty Jerome and Liz Seccuro, activist and Class of 1988 alumna.
When Salt first followed and messaged the account, Tandon and Samayamanthula were surprised.
“We hadn’t even posted much stuff [but] we got a message from him, and we were kinda just freaking out,” Tandon said. “He was like, ‘I have a bunch of stuff for you guys to sell,’ and we were like, ‘What I can’t believe this?’ I was kinda starstruck.”
A couple weeks later, the two were able to pick up two of Salt’s March Madness watches, his official #33 Virginia backpack and a black Nike backpack from his apartment. His watches and official Virginia backpack were soon sold on the account while the black backpack was given away as part of the page’s first giveaway.
In order to receive a piece, students must be the first person to direct message UVA Thrift, saying that they want the clothing article. According to first year College student Haile Mokrzycki, who purchased an oversized Virginia mesh pullover over the summer, the key to being the first student is to turn on post notifications.
“The way that I got my Nike pullover was through turning on my post notifications,” Mokrzycki said. “I saw that UVA Thrift made a post, and I was like, ‘All right, I don’t care what’s going on with orientation, but I need to click this and I need to see.’ It was the pullover and … I just went into my DMs and was like ‘I want this pullover, I want it’ –– or ‘me, want, now’ –– just the quickest words so I would be the first one.”
After a student has reserved the piece, the group will either ship the piece to their home or organize a pick-up location on Grounds, depending on where the buyer is.
Students also have the opportunity to sell their own pieces on the page. To do so, a student has to direct message the group and have their item evaluated for quality, after which the group will recommend an asking price so long as it meets their standards. Pieces sold on UVA Thrift typically cost between $20 and $50, though the price depends on the condition of the piece.
For first-year College student Camile Kielbasa, sometimes the asking prices can feel high, though she admits this is often because of the quality and vintage of the pieces themselves.
“I’d say it’s a little expensive, but it makes sense,” Kielbasa said. “All of their clothes are more expensive. That’s just the way it is because they’re older, that’s the thing, so it’s not really that bad. They’re doing what they can.”
After following the account for a couple of weeks, Kielbasa finally saw a piece she really wanted –– a vintage Disney exclusive Mickey Mouse sweater –– that happened to fall within her price range and decided to message the group for it. Because Disney stuff itself is always “a ridiculous amount of money,” she knows that, for a Disney sweater, her piece was cheap.
Like Kielbasa, Mokrzycki was pleased with the item she received, remarking that it made her feel like a true Cavalier. The pullover she purchased for listed as a 9.5 out of 10 rating when it came to quality, and she feels the piece accurately matched that rating, as the only blemish on it was someone’s initials written on the tag. Because of the success of her purchase, she has been recommending that her friends follow the page and try and grab some gear while they can.
The five friends do not make any money while selling other student’s pieces on their page, only taking a small portion of funds to donate to charity –– 5 percent of the cost of an item posted by U.Va. students and 7.5 percent for non-U.Va. persons. For outside sellers, the remaining 95 to 92.5 percent of the profits goes to them. This setup means that the business owners will only make money when they sell one of their own articles of clothing.
According to Chahal, currently the money collected from these sales benefits the Sexual Assault Resource Agency, which works to eliminate sexual violence by enaging in education and advocacy in the Charlottesville community.
“One of our members from our group has a close friend that was sexually assaulted on campus, so with that being the general consensus, we thought that maybe we should support this cause,” Chahal said. “It’s also a really big issue on college campuses, so we always thought it would be a really good cause to always support.”
As the page gains popularity among University students and the Charlottesville community, there are plans to expand the list of charities the proceeds benefit, increase advertising on Grounds, build a website and grow its portfolio. According to Samayamanthula, this portfolio expansion will hopefully include building connections with popular clothing brands.
“For the future we want to build partnerships with actual manufacturers, like Nike, Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger … and see if they can supply us their backstock clothing so we can sell that clothing for discounted prices to students,” Samayamanthula said. “Part of that process is actually connecting with alums in these various companies and seeing if we can get this done with them.”
While this interaction remains in the works, currently, UVA Thrift is collaborating with Ty Jerome for their page’s second giveaway in honor of reaching over 3,000 followers. The piece up for grabs is a 2019 NCAA’s Men’s National Championship T-shirt signed by Jerome himself.
As these plans develop, Samayamanthula hopes to continue providing UVA Thrift’s services and help other students access high-end clothing brands, but at college-student prices.
“We’re all college students,” Samayamanthula said. “After we got to college, we discovered how hard it was to get new clothes because we’re on a budget. So we learned how to through thrifting, like how to find good bargains online, and we just want to reciprocate that to the U.Va. audience.”