Startup of the month: Sarah Panter

Bachelor’s degree student in Economics and Business Administration, Sarah Elise Gjemdal (23) at NTNU Business School has come up with a new anti-consumerist idea based on a freegans lifestyle.

By Ingvild Forseth

“What is the idea behind your startup?

“Sarah Panter is a second-hand store targeting young people. We want to take down the barrier towards buying used clothes. The way we collect clothes ensure that we get more high quality clothes. The clothes we sell are relevant for young people today, and the store is supposed to resemble a “normal” clothing store”, says Gjemdal.

Gjemdal opened her store about three months ago at Merkursenteret in Trondheim. She collects clothes to the store by offering people the chance to buy their clothes for 25% of the prize she thinks she will be able to sell them in the store for.

“Customers often get surprised when I tell them they are in a second-hand store. The concept of exchange stores are really popular in the U.S, which can be found all over the country, such as Buffalo Exchange”, says Gjemdal.

“Where did you get the idea from?

“My plan was to become a real estate agent. Then I took a marketing course in high school. We were supposed to plan our own business, and I was hooked. That’s how I found out I wanted to be an entrepreneur”, Gjemdal says.

Gjemdal became an environmentalist about two to three years ago. She saw that her friends weren’t as enthusiastic as her to go shopping at Fretex.  It was then natural that she became a fan of second-hand shopping, which at the time didn’t apply much to young people. She wanted to do something about it and moved to Trondheim to start her business.

The clothing industry is the second most water pollutant industry, right after the oil and gas industry. Every year 20 new pieces of clothing is produced per human being in the world, which is a lot considering how many people that don’t have access to these clothes. The clothing industry also produces a lot of garbage that we are having difficulties getting rid of. We simply have to extend the lifetime of the clothes we wear.

Sarah Elise Gjemdal
Sarah Gjemdal hos opened an innovative second-hand store in Trondheim. Photo: Katarzyna Marie Wie
Sarah Gjemdal hos opened an innovative second-hand store in Trondheim. Photo: Katarzyna Marie Wie

“How has the process been up until where you are today?

“I knew that I wanted to open a store, but I decided to study a year first to get a network in Trondheim. In December 2016, I became a part of a pre-incubation programme called “Greenhouse” by Climate-KIC. The programme lasts half a year and is directed at climate business ideas”, Gjemdal informs.

The pre-incubator programme provided Gjemdal with a mentor, 50 000 kroner and a working place at the incubator NTNU Accel in Trondheim. An incubator is a company that helps new companies develop and often offers offices and a community for startups. The Trondheim-based advisory service for students, Spark NTNU, also helped Gjemdal along her way.

“I got guidance from Spark for about a year and it was really nice having someone on your own age mentoring you. I also received “TrønderEnergi-bidraget”. Most of the 25 000 kroner went to arranging a pop-up store to test the concept. It was a great success, and not long after I signed the deal to open a store at the Mercursenteret”, says Gjemdal.

As of today, it is the student loan that makes it possible for Gjemdal to pursue her startup dream. Apparently, it is normal for a retail store to take about one to two years before generating a surplus. The goal is to make Sarah Panter into a retail chain, with Oslo being the next city in line.

Sarah Panter is a second-hand store targeting young people. Photo: Katarzyna Marie Wie
Sarah Panter is a second-hand store targeting young people. Photo: Katarzyna Marie Wie

Why should students start their own startup or be a part of one?”

“You get to use so many sides of yourself when creating a startup. You have to be creative, use your network and apply the things you have learned in school. No workday is the same, which is exciting, and you get in touch with a lot of interesting people”, Gjemdal says.

There’s about eight people working for Gjemdal to keep the store open everyday except Sundays. She doesn’t necessarily think that everyone should start their own business, but she wants to encourage those who are already thinking about it.

“It is an experience to challenge oneself and do something different from what everyone else is doing. I get to inspire others to take more environmentally friendly choices, which is perhaps the best part”, says Gjemdal.

Want to know more about Sarah Panter?

  • Her webpage for a guide on how to “pawn” your clothes.
  • Check out her instagram for a lookbook.
  • There are occasional events at the store Sarah Panter. Check out her facebook to keep a track of them!

Educate yourself on the clothing industry and sustainability! Here are Sarah Gjemdal’s tips: