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Kristin Lerfald Grostad, CEO of Swancy. Photo: Kristine Møgster, Photostudio Møgster
Girls looking at clothes to swap.
Photo: Kristine Møgster, Photostudio Møgster
Kelly Moulton, Grostad's mentor at Mediekuben incubator.
Kelly Moulton, Grostad's mentor at Mediekuben incubator. Photo: Kristine Møgster, Photostudio Møgster
Big crowd at Lille Ole Bull swap party
Photo: Kristine Møgster, Photostudio Møgster
Girl looking at Swancy app
Photo: Kristine Møgster, Photostudio Møgster
DJ Fraseraze from Vers Libre radio station
DJ Fraseraze from Vers Libre radio station. Photo: Kristine Møgster, Photostudio Møgster
Girls trying on clothes.
Photo: Kristine Møgster, Photostudio Møgster
Woman and man looking at clothes to swap.
Photo: Kristine Møgster, Photostudio Møgster
Girls swapping clothes on Swancy app.
Photo: Kristine Møgster, Photostudio Møgster

What’s a nuclear security major doing in a fashion start-up?

The fashion industry is the biggest source of pollution, after oil. But what if you could use clothes as currency? In this way, you can update your style, for free – and also guilt free. Kristin Lerfald Grostad tells us her story of how her app Swancy came to be, and why you should jump on the clothes swapping trend.
19.06.2018

Two years ago, Grostad wrote a master thesis on the nuclear element in the defense alliance between the United States and Japan. She was aiming for a job in the UN, but that has to wait. She just launched her app Swancy.

This week, Swancy celebrated the launch of their new app, with a swap party at Ole Bull Scene. People who had never swopped clothes before, turned up and left with three new pieces of clothing.

Why did you start Swancy?
– I had been swapping for a long time with friends, and I wanted to swap more. But, when looking for an app or webpage that offered swapping, but I couldn’t find any. So I thought, why not try to make something like that myself.

– I got into the start-up community, through a friend who was working at Impact Hub at the time.  It inspired me to develop my idea. Finally revealing it to a group at the Hub, I was advised to go pitch at Startup Weekend, which Swancy ended up winning. And now, one and half years later, the app is here.

– You might say it was all very random, especially with regards to my background. But fashion has always been an interest of mine, and my education has taught me to look at the international society as an ever-changing entity, progressing towards a brighter future.

– As I learned more about over-consumption, and how this industry is harming the environment I realized it was in need of new, innovative solutions. So maybe it’s not that random after all – because I already had those values and interests. I am interested in fashion, but also in making an impact – by contributing with something meaningful.

What is your goal?
– My goal is to create a service that enables people to make better use of the resources they have. To give them the opportunity to renew their style in a sustainable way, by swapping directly with each other. The idea with Swancy is that it is supposed to be fun and to give you the happy feeling of wearing something new.

What do you think is most challenging from starting your own business?
– Not having a business background, there was a steep learning curve when I first started. I had some very naive thoughts about the time-line of how things were going to develop. I have taken on many different roles in the company. The process has been challenging and exhausting at times, but this is also where the biggest reward lies. However Swancy turns out, the lessons I’ve learned about the process of building and running a start-up will be with me wherever I go.

Have you learned something new from the start-up process?
– You learn how to prioritize your time. There are so many things to do, but you you have to focus on what is most important at any given time, on what will bring the company forward. For example, when developing an MVP you need to keep all your grand thoughts and ideas about how you want the product to look like ideally in check – and focus on getting the product to market – so you can build it with your users instead of just out of your own mind.

Who do you look up to and why?
– A good friend of mine once said that “You don’t have to do anything”. Running a start-up can be stressful at times, and occasionally it will be hard to find the motivation to go on. It might sound like an advice that encourages passivity. But, to me it’s a reminder that even when it get’s tough and you feel like quitting – the decision to keep going is yours and yours alone. It reminds me that, no I don’t have to do this, I want to do it.

– One thing that has helped me keep sane through the startup process is practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It is a sport where you fight another person, but most of all you are fighting yourself and your own mind. You have to make an active decision to keep going and work hard, every day. Even when you are exhausted, your body hurts, and you just want to go home and watch Netflix. I am fortunate to have someone in my life that I look up to in this respect. Someone who leads by example, and whom I see work hard, pushing boundaries every day.

If you were to predict the future, how would it look like in two years?
– In my perfect future, we have landed a big investment and thus have the resources to build Swancy into what it is supposed to be. The app has been launched in several countries. We have our own offices, with a big team of developers and employees, and sustainable fashion has become the new buzzword in the industry.

What does Mediekuben mean to you?
– If it had not been for BTO and Kelly Moulton approaching me after the final pitch at start-up weekend, I would not be here today. Moulton pushed me, guided and advised me, like only a good mentor can. In addition, BTO provided me with the resources, community and network I needed – in order to take Swancy from the idea stage to an actual launched product.

– I am grateful for being part of a community of entrepreneurs who share their experiences, help each other out, and cheer each other on. Mediekuben is also an inspiring place with a lot of cool people, many of them who I now call my friends. You can tell that the mentors and employees at BTO sincerely care about their “incubees”, and wish to see them succeed.

Grostad is now looking for investors. Preferably someone who is interested in investing in a sustainable future.

Swancy is a member of our Mediekuben incubator, located at Media City Bergen, where the company has grown from idea to an app.

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