Beni: A game changing tool making resale as easy and convenient as buying new
Her-Age Team has interviewed Sarah Pinner, a business designer and CEO, Co Founder at Beni, a browser extension which aggregates a curated list of secondhand alternatives from over a dozen re-commerce platforms (TheRealReal, eBay, Rent the Runway, Vestiaire Collective, etc.).
As known Beni’s goal is to make it easy to find and buy secondhand items through its new features that include: size profile, sort by resale marketplace, sort by price, and browsing by brand. So how was Sarah inspired to develop it ? and how does Beni work and how does it facilitate the search to find the best resale alternatives from throughout the internet?
Sarah Pinner, Can you talk about yourself and your background in designing sustainable businesses?
I consider myself a circular economy nerd. My goal is to help bring to market products and services that utilize circular design principles so that we can build a world without waste. Prior to founding Beni, I pursued my passion for sustainability and reducing waste at Imperfect Foods, an online grocery company focused on fighting food waste, where I worked on market expansion strategy and launched the first company-wide sustainability team. Before Imperfect Foods, I worked at Rabobank where I supported both the corporate lending practice and managed Food & Ag startup initiatives like FoodBytes!, a now-global pitch competition and accelerator.
Personally, I’m originally from Santa Barbara, CA and I love hiking, painting, and watching reruns of Ted Lasso. I graduated from the University of California Berkeley with a B.A. in Political Economy and a minor in Italian (I lived for a year in Bologna!) and I earned an MBA and MS in Design Innovation at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and McCormick School of Engineering.
As a Co- founder of Beni, what inspired you to start developing it?
Beni was inspired by conversations I kept having with friends where they would say something like, “ugh, I know I should buy secondhand, but I just don’t.” In other words, there is an intention-action gap for aspirational secondhand shoppers. This tension is reflected broadly in research from thredUP which indicated that, while 93% of shoppers are open to purchasing secondhand, only max 50% actually do, and those that do are often unsatisfied with the experience. Through our user research we uncovered that this is because while shoppers recognize the financial and environmental value of buying secondhand, the experience of shopping secondhand is time-consuming, clunky, confusing, and rarely top of mind. In other words, we realized that although shoppers increasingly want to buy clothing secondhand, most did not actually want to shop secondhand. Beni solves this problem for the first time, making the secondhand shopping experience frictionless because, with Beni, shoppers can buy secondhand without changing how they shop. In doing so, we believe that shopping resale can become the new norm – a win for our wallets, our closets, and our planet.
How does Beni work and how does it facilitate the search to find the best resale alternatives from across the internet?
Beni offers a free and easy-to-use browser extension that makes secondhand shopping seamless. With the click of a button, Beni intercepts online shopping searches and directs users to the same or similar products on leading resale marketplaces such as The RealReal, Rent the Runway, Vestiaire Collective, eBay, Kidizen, and more. For example, when a shopper finds a product on a retail website (i.e. Nordstrom), Beni surfaces the same or similar secondhand items aggregated from re-commerce platforms (Tradesy, eBay, etc) using a combination of AI technology.
Beni is dedicated to reducing fashion’s burden on the planet. What is the sustainable approach it takes to achieve your vision?
The fashion and apparel industries contribute 4-10% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions. Circular business models, like resale, are critical to achieving the necessary reduction in fashion-related emissions by 2030 because, as the UN states, “the only way to make fashion sustainable is to end the throwaway culture.” Specifically, according to McKinsey & Global Fashion Agenda, by 2030 (in just 8 years) we need to live in a world in which 1 in 5 garments are traded through circular business models like resale. This means we need to buy and sell clothes a lot more than we do today, but not every piece of clothing. It’s all about progress over perfection. At Beni we hope to accelerate this progress by making secondhand shopping as easy and convenient as shopping new.
In today's world how important is it to follow a sustainable business model, how can entrepreneurs develop that?
I would say that it’s critical for every business to seek to build operations, processes, and products with sustainability in mind. In doing so, it’s important to remember that there is no perfect answer or silver bullet. You have to spend time to really evaluate your business and your operations, identify where you can make the most material and mission-aligned impact, and then take continuous steps to make those areas. For example, when I launched the sustainability team at Imperfect Foods we first evaluated our carbon footprint across our business to identify where to focus our efforts towards building a more sustainable business. It’s all about progress over perfection.
What is the future of Beni? Where is it heading now?
Beni’s overarching purpose is to transform the norms of consumption by accelerating the circular economy. We know this is a lofty goal and we are taking it one step at a time. In September we officially launched the Beni browser extension on Chrome and Safari (both desktop and mobile) after months of building and testing. Going forward we are excited to continue to grow the community of Beni users and resale partners. We will also expand the functionality of the extension to further reduce pain points in both buying and selling through resale online.
If you could give one piece of advice to a luxury entrepreneur starting in 2022, what would it be?
I typically give the same advice to any entrepreneur, regardless of the industry and that is, ironically, to take all advice with a grain of salt. As an entrepreneur you will get a lot of advice about how you should build your business. The risk with this is that if you take everyone’s advice you will be going in a bunch of different directions. For me, I’ve found it has been important to take time to look for patterns in the advice and feedback I receive, and to identify mentors that I truly trust and can look to when seeking advice.