Things may be slow in the early days of launching a startup but Socielle founder Rechelle Coombes is not giving up

“When shit hits the fan and things are going tough don’t give up, that’s the difference between successful founders and founders whose [ideas] die,” says Socielle founder Rechelle Coombes.

Little over six months ago, the Melbourne founder launched impact-driven e-commerce platform Socielle to share her love of ethical and sustainable fashion, beauty and accessories with the world.

And while also managing a full-time job, Coombes has recently launched a beta version of her second startup, Promoterly.

Coombes, an active member of Melbourne’s startup community, has built both platforms herself using more than a decade’s worth of experience in digital marketing, website development, and coding, and by teaching herself new skills in tech development.

She believes there is a huge need to make sustainable fashion and beauty products attractive to mainstream consumers and she’s using technology to fill this gap.

“It’s like a typical shopping site,” Coombes tells StartupSmart when describing Socielle.

But every product on the site, which hit the market in August 2016, has a social or environmental impact and the loyalty program benefits non-profit causes.

“Around 60% of the items are made by women from developing communities,” Coombes says.

“At the end of the transaction, when [shoppers] get to the checkout, they simply select the cause they align with most.”

Coombes calls this “shopfunding” and wants it to be a new way for non-profit groups and charity organisations to raise awareness and donations.

Coombes, who attended the School for Social Entrepreneurs in Melbourne, says the idea was sparked by her exposure to social impact startups and projects during the course.

“I was meeting all these people and ethical and sustainable businesses and I thought how can I apply these principles in my everyday life and in my purchases,” she says.

Applying her “minimalist” personal lifestyle to her venture, Coombes says she opts for recycled paper and stock options and ethical dyes when printing materials, limits the use of packaging, and only works with socially conscious businesses like carbon neutral delivery platform Sendle.

“We are definitely in no place where brands and products are perfect throughout every part of the value chain, but we’re getting closer,” she says.

While Socielle slowly grows—its monthly visits average around 1000 to 3000—Coombes is also managing the release of Promoterly’s beta version.

With this second platform, Coombes’s goal is to help startups and small businesses “get exposed” through innovative ways in marketing and promotion.

The idea for this venture came out of the challenge she’s had in driving brand awareness in cost-effective ways for Socielle.

“We are not SEO or Facebook advertising anymore,” she says.

“Really where I was getting traction was through media articles, interviews, podcast interviews … and general collaborations with other businesses.

“It takes a lot of time to find those opportunities especially when you’re building a side hustle.”

While traction in the early days can take time to pick up, Coombes remains patient. She believes her passion for technology and problem solving will be the key to her future success.

“I’m the master of Google research—there’s almost always an answer,” she says.

“I love technology.”

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