Milda Mitkute: “Cultural Fit is More Important than Professional Skills”
How would you pitch Vinted in three sentences?
The biggest online fashion marketplace in the world with more than 23 million members in 11 countries. It’s a “movement” that changes people’s habits how they consume fashion. More circular fashion, in a fast growing global sustainable movement.
Vinted has scaled very quickly - in 11 years it has grown from an idea to the largest online pre-loved fashion marketplace in 9 countries with 23 million users. This probably means many long hours and a lot of stress. What does your average weekday look like and how do you relax, unwind and recharge your batteries? What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?
That was a very intense journey. I was 21 when Vinted was born, still a student, not much working experience. And for sure I had nothing to do with business. It took me a lot of effort to understand how “regular people do business in the real world”. On the other hand, at the very beginning, Vinted was nothing more than just a hobby project. It was a playground where I was allowed to do experiments, make mistakes, be creative and crazy.
When Vinted started growing like crazy, I realised I needed to employ new skills such as strategic thinking, discipline and planning. That was a pretty difficult time for me. I ended up with long working hours, no free time. I wanted to prove to myself that I am capable of leading such a fast growing company. Unfortunately, I became a “no-lifer”. The more I used to work, the less efficient I felt. I was tired and stressed.
So I decided to change all that. Instead of working hard, I started to think how to work smart. It took me a few years to get there. I forbade myself to work during the weekends, I started to think about my leisure time more carefully: with whom I spend my time and how. I ended up being more relaxed, more successful and most importantly - happier. I tried many strategies and techniques but the most valuable lesson was - start you day with the goal. Don’t focus on the process, focus on the main goal. It helped me see a bigger picture, to see the direction.
The more I used to work, the less efficient I felt. I was tired and stressed. So I decided to change all that. Instead of working hard, I started to think how to work smart.
I think it’s worth mentioning that I haven’t been active in business over the past three years. I’m on maternity leave and expecting my third child by the end of October.
In the very early stages, you recruited couchsurfing guests of Janauskas to help with marketing. Can you give us a bit of insight on how guests came to do advertising and promotion? What are some characteristics you look for in potential employees and how did those first employees fit in that model?
To be honest, partnership with German partners was a super random thing. At the beginning we didn’t even think that Vinted could be scaled abroad. But two super enthusiastic girls convinced us that Vinted is so needed in the German market. We didn’t have money to recruit them so we agreed it was a voluntary experiment for both sides.
Promotional activities were pretty similar to the ones we did in Lithuania: in the beginning, we focused on convincing our friends to join Vinted, later - spreading news to the media and various bloggers. To our big surprise, German bloggers found Vinted a very cool project and started writing about us. Again, it was free of charge because we didn’t have money. Bloggers really believed it was an exceptional idea and that made us very happy and proud.
Regarding our current hiring policy we are very attentive if person fits Vinted culture. Cultural fit is much more important than professional skills. What kind of person fits our culture? Ambitious and curious. Definitely a team player. It’s a person who seeks freedom but understands that freedom comes with responsibility.
Regarding our current hiring policy we are very attentive if person fits Vinted culture. Cultural fit is much more important than professional skills.
Many online fashion marketplaces are popping up all over the world. Why should customers choose Vinted over your competitor - what is your edge and why do people keep coming back?
At Vinted every person is welcome. Your sex, age, style or salary don’t matter. We put lots of effort into making sure that everyone finds what she or he is looking for. In addition, being the biggest platform we are capable of offering the biggest assortment. And finally, the fact that you can list as many items as you want and it’s completely free makes it very user-friendly and convenient.
What is Vinted’s mission and vision for the future?
Vinted mission is to make second-hand fashion the first choice worldwide. Meaning, anytime a person wants to buy a new piece of item, she or he thinks about preloved items. And we like to think at Vinted that we exist to accelerate the global movement towards sustainable consumption.
As a former shopaholic I always had a dream to open all the closets in the world, browse and get inspired. I think we are on a good track :)
You started Vinted as a solution to your shopping addiction and more as a hobby. It has grown into the largest pre-loved fashion marketplace in the world. What is one staple clothing item in your wardrobe? What are some words of wisdom for people who aim to turn their hobby into a career?
It’s too difficult of a task to exclude one particular item from my closet. Five years ago it was definitely a dress. Now - not sure anymore. Outfit is one of my languages. This is a way to send a message to the world: what is my mood today, how do I feel, what I want to say. Each time it’s different.
Some wise words for people who aim to turn their hobby into a career? I believe people are the best in activities they are truly passionate about. They don’t have to pretend, they are more energetic and enthusiastic to do things. It helps to move further despite mistakes and failures in their road. So be brave and follow your heart.
I believe people are the best in activities they are truly passionate about. They don’t have to pretend, they are more energetic and enthusiastic to do things.
Who did you want to be when you were younger? What are some characteristics of your childhood dream career that have stayed constant?
I definitely couldn’t imagine myself in business. Everything but a business person. I was a super shy girl. I was raised not to pay attention to myself and was always told: if you try to pay attention to yourself, others might think you are arrogant and shallow. Actually, it was the other big future challenge I had to cope with - how to express myself to others. But that’s another topic, I guess.
Despite all this, I made a promise to myself when I was a teenager - I must love my future job. I saw too many examples of people close to me who go to work because they have to, not because they want to. I couldn’t imagine myself spending one third of my life at a job I hate. So that was one thing I really knew.
Though, social work, anthropology and sociology were subjects super close to me. From time to time I still dream about studying them in a more detailed manner.
What is one piece of advice you have gotten that you would like to pass on to future founders and entrepreneurs?
Identify your strengths and weaknesses. As soon as you know your weaknesses, find people who will fill the gap.
As an entrepreneur, how would you define a startup mindset?
A startup mindset is about looking forward, it’s about showing new direction and not being afraid to follow your heart. It might also be a lonely trip at the beginning.
Milda Mitkute is a speaker at sTARTUp Day 2020 in January. She will be sharing her founder story and talking about how Vinted raised €100M.