Making sustainable clothing more accessible: Jad Robitaille, Mini-Cycle

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Montreal-based, female-led start-up Mini-Cycle is just what millions of parents need in their lives—an easy way to find new, recycled, or upcycled kids’ clothing with the option of returning old, worn-out and outgrown stuff at the same time. All new clothes sold on the Mini-Cycle website are chosen for their durability, meaning that they can be repurchased and resold at least 4-5 times. The entire process lengthens each piece of clothing’s life and not only reduces the cost to consumers but the entire ecological footprint of the item itself.

Founder Jad Robitaille’s mission is to make sustainable clothing more accessible by incentivizing families who return their clothes. Mandy Gardner reached out to Robitaille this week for some insight into the company’s process and to ask how Mini-Cycle is coping with the pandemic.

Jad Robitaille, Founder, Mini-Cycle

What kinds of things can you do with a piece of clothing that can’t be worn anymore?

When we receive customers’ trade-in pieces, we process them through an in-house app, determining the pieces’ value based on their original retail price and condition. If the pieces require mending, we will repair them and then put them back onto our platform for sale. If the pieces are completely worn out, we reuse the fabric in different types of up-cycled products. For example, we have a partnership with a local company that makes stuffed animals from our recycled materials, and other plans expand into making other recycled items. These processes would otherwise be defined as waste becoming a new raw material that can be used in new products for many more life cycles, thereby avoiding the landfill. 

Kids Clothing – Picture Courtesy Mini-Cycle

How did you choose the specific brands of clothing that you buy and sell?

At Mini-Cycle, we sell both new and preloved clothing with the notion that all items purchased at our store are guaranteed to be bought back by Mini-Cycle and given another life. We hope to have items enter our cycle 4 or 5 times before they are no longer able to be mended or used (after which we find unique ways of then upcycling the item). As such, we hand-pick timeless pieces that comply with one or more of our sustainability requirements. [That means it should be] durable, local, natural, and ethical—ensuring that what we sell holds true to our values and is fabricated with longevity in mind.

Soft Toys – Picture Courtesy Mini-Cycle

How do you package your items for shipping?

Finding truly sustainable packaging materials is a challenge because we recognize that, unfortunately, the most planet-friendly packaging is the one that doesn’t exist in the first place. However, we have worked with several incredible suppliers to find the best possible packaging options that both help reduce their environmental impact and ensure that packages are protected in transit. 

To give you a snapshot of our mailer components, every order is packaged in natural kraft paper that can be recycled or composted. That kraft paper is sealed with a compostable sticker by @noissueco that is printed with vegetable ink. We then include a compostable @sobezone thank-you note that is also printed in vegetable ink. Finally, the whole package is shipped in a @betterpackagingco compostable mailer envelope that is made from corn. 

Using mindful packaging is an ongoing process for us that we’re always looking to improve upon. We recognize we’re far from perfect, but we’re dedicated to continuing to improve upon our practices and have faith that as sustainable materials continue to evolve, so will we. 

Kids Clothing – Picture Courtesy Mini-Cycle

Where are the majority of your customers located?

Our business is based in Montreal, so around 45% of our customers are based in Quebec. We then have 40% of our customers who make up the rest of Canada and 15% of us from the US. With the rise of e-commerce and our ability to fulfill international orders, we’re excited to hopefully see our sales continue to rise from conscious customers around the world.

Kids Clothing – Picture Courtesy Mini-Cycle

Tell me how COVID-19 affected the business.

When the first wave hit, we saw our sales increase by three times. We believe this was because brick-and-mortar stores had to shut their doors, and people were looking for meaningful and local e-shops to purchase their kids’ clothes from. We’re excited to see that we have continued to see an increase in our sales since then. The second wave definitely resulted in less foot traffic for our Montreal showroom and limited physical holiday shopping, but at the core, since we offer a fast and easy way to shop online, our customers are happy to shop online and can do so with peace of mind given we offer fast and efficient returns as well. 

Check out Mini-Cycle online at https://mini-cycle.com


Mandy Gardner
Mandy Gardner

 

Author: Mandy Gardner, Content Writer, Toronto, Canada. If you have any stories or comments, kindly email: –smandylouise@gmail.com

SOURCEMini Cycle - Montreal

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