Mona Fang is the founder of Karma Trade, a startup that creates circular economies for second hand stores, allowing people to trade pre-loved fashion and household goods with a non-convertible digital currency called Karma.
A member of the 2019 Future Founders Startup Bootcamp and 3rd place winner at the 2021 U.Pitch Elevator Pitch Competition, Mona has done an incredible job scaling her startup over the past few years, even as she studies Aerospace Engineering at the University of Illinois. We recently caught up with her to see how things were going, and to learn a little more about her journey as a young entrepreneur.
I’m passionate about trash on earth and in space. With just nine years left to reach our UN Sustainable Development goals, we really don’t have a lot of time to research solutions. So I’m very interested in things that would enable us to survive longer on this planet.
With fashion being the second most polluting industry in the world, and with one in six people on the globe working in a role that’s in some way tied to fashion, it’s really important to find a better way to manage our resources. And that’s why I dedicate so much time to this problem.
Anything is possible. When I was 17 and started Karma Trade, I didn’t think it would go this far. I actually didn’t think this would all be possible. But I found something I was passionate about doing, and really enjoyed the process of working with other people on the business. And it was through this work that I realized that even the most outlandish ideas can be realized if you commit yourself to them.
Hustle culture tells you that you have to work 24/7 and constantly be pushing the needle. But I think most of the innovation happens when you stop and think about what you’re doing and how you’re being impactful with each of your actions, and not necessarily just working for the sake of working on something.
People are literally dying from fabric dyes overseas, and their rivers are being polluted irreversibly. And that has very long term effects on ecosystems that we can’t necessarily predict because it mutates the DNA of our plants and babies whose mothers drink this water source. It’s really messed up that way. So, I think about that a lot…all the people affected by this industry.
The part that gets me up in the morning is the impact that we made on people’s lives already. That we actually have built something that elevates human experiences where people can live with more abundance by getting rid of their stuff. And that is crazy to me, and it’s what gets me going, knowing that Karma Trade has a true positive impact on people’s lives.
A world where we have 80% less textile waste than we have right now. When you say “throw away” there’s no such thing as away. I believe the systems that we’re building now through clothing swaps and upcycling and working with the artistic community to bring back production in America… that is very powerful. What does success look like to me? A world where there is a culture around swapping clothes, and there are hyper localized supply chains so that we no longer have to source all our clothes from overseas factories.
Be sure to check out Karma Trade at www.karmatrade.shop. Also, feel free to connect with Mona on LinkedIn, or send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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