Lion's Lair: Hamilton start-up helps cash in your closet

Trend Trunk is an online marketplace for fashion-forward Canadians to buy and sell their unused threads. In just a year, the company has about 25,000 clients from coast to coast.
Sean Snyder is the founder and CEO of Trend Trunk. (Julia Chapman/CBC)

Sean Snyder decided to give his company a "makeover."

Snyder was the gift card king. He headed up Swapopolis, an online marketplace to sell or swap the gift cards you don't want or can't use.

The 35-year-old is an astute entrepreneur and upon some research, noticed a trend. It was gifts cards for fashion and dining that kept coming up. So, he investigated further, speaking to Swapopolis members about what else they have kicking around their homes.

"Stuff in the garage, excess trinkets. But one thing that kept coming up was clothing and fashion in the closet," he said. "We realized there were bigger opportunities with our platform."

That's when the makeover started. About a year ago, Snyder and his team of 10 launched Trend Trunk, an online marketplace for fashion-forward Canadians to sell the clothing taking up closet space and buy new items using Swapopolis' tried-and-true platform.

Snyder said he still considers Trend Trunk to be a start-up, but it's been wildly successful. He has 25,000 members from coast to coast, was in the top 10 in the latest Start-Up Hamilton competition and has been up for two Canada Post e-commerce awards.

And Snyder said there is "still a lot of room for growth." 

The company

An average person has about $6,000 worth of unused or underused clothing and accessories just sitting around in the closet, Snyder said. That's one of the driving forces behind Trend Trunk, the fact that there is a market for a place where Canadians can "cash in their closet," has he puts it.

Trend Trunk works like this: members create a profile, take photos of their unused or pre-loved clothing and accessories using the site's guidelines and post the picture along with a description of the item.

When an item is sold, the company emails a shipping tag to the seller.

"They don't have to figure out the shipping," Snyder said. "[On other sites], selling is half the battle.You still have to get it to the person."

The seller has a choice as to what they want with the money: it can be deposited into their Trend Trunk account to buy something new, into a bank account or the seller can take advantage of the Closets & Causes program and donate up to 100 per cent of the money received to any of the 80,000 charities in Canada. Snyder is particularly proud of this initiative.

"It's engrained in my DNA to do good and give back," he said. "This is an innovative way to give to charities... and it helps them reach a new type of supporter: Gen Y who don't have a disposable income."

Trend Trunk is a perfect medium for buyers and sellers wanting to go the e-commerce route, Snyder said. eBay can get complicated with sellers having to do their own shipping and free sites like Kijiji have a "creep" factor in which the seller and the buyer need to meet. Trend Trunk is socially-driven, Snyder said, so members can have a good deal of interaction with each other before making a sale.

Just a year in, Snyder has multiple plans for expansion. First, a mobile app is just about ready to go. He also has initiatives ready to roll out like Runway Valet (his staff pick up the items and deal with the transactions and shipping) and Shops at Trend Trunk (where new designers can create a shop for their unique items).

The man

When Snyder was a kid, he collected sports cards, making trading deals like most collector kids do. He thinks that is perhaps how he became interested in being a businessman.

"I got the entrepreneurship bug in me when I was 21," he said, right around the time he was finishing up his marketing diploma at Mohawk College.

From there, he moved to Toronto, started his own company and worked in the corporate world for 10 years. He gave that up to work for himself, sold his company and moved back to his hometown of Hamilton.

When he moved back into a cozy house near Stoney Creek, Snyder made an office out of his basement. A smart economic move - he's not putting any revenue into rent - and also a smart management move. His staff can feel like they work in a comfortable environment and are privy to perks like backyard BBQs with colleagues and clients.

"All the money goes back into the company and the staff," Snyder said.

Why Trend Trunk should win

At 35, Snyder is a seasoned entrepreneur. He said he's made mistakes and learned from them.  With Trend Trunk, he's working on the cusp of economic revolution in which resales and renting, especially with e-commerce, are playing a bigger part.

"We've got something that's applicable to everybody," he said. "Trend Trunk is something anyone can relate to."

But it's the altruistic pillar of his company that Snyder thinks is meaningful.

"We have the opportunity to create a significant fundraising model with all these untapped dollars sitting around," he said.


CBC Hamilton's Julia Chapman will have full coverage of Lion's Lair 2013, including profiles of each of the 10 finalists, an inside look at their training and interviews with the Lions, right up to the gala on Oct. 10.