Student launches online marketplace, grows site with community outreach

Published in The Daily Free Press Sep. 18 print edition

As music pulsed through Boston University’s Center for Gender, Sexuality and Activism on Sunday, students eyed the space, full of used clothing, with anticipation. Through racks of shirts, coats and accessories, Alex Shadrow walked to the head of the room, cut the music and shouted, “Go.” With students ripping clothes off the racks and guarding them protectively in their arms, BU’s first clothing swap had just begun.

“We didn’t want to make it a money event, but something more around the fun of clothing shopping,” Shadrow, a College of Communication senior, said. “We wanted to do something fun for BU girls to bond over.”

Shadrow is the CEO and founder of Unitiques, a free, student-exclusive online marketplace that hosted Sunday’s clothing swap. With over 3,000 college and university students across the country using her website, Shadrow said she is constantly looking to expand her brand, a process spurred on by events at BU.

“Unitiques was never an idea that I had. It sort of just came to me,” she said. “I tried to go to secondhand stores carrying these heavy bags, only to be ripped off. I didn’t like that process, [and] I figured there had to be something else out there for college students, which there wasn’t. So I created Unitiques.”

Shadrow’s website allows students to buy and sell new and used clothing and offers a search bar based on college, price range, category, color and size.

“Unitiques is great because it feels safer, and it’s good to give our clothes a second chance,” said clothing swap attendee Sara Tse, a first-year graduate student in Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. “It’s easy for students to make a few extra bucks.”

Since its inception in December 2013, Unitiques has grown from a Facebook group solely within BU to an online shop with users in states as far away as California and Alaska.

“What’s really been special for me is the response from students and how much they like the website. It’s my motivation to keep on going,” Shadrow said. “Watching the website go up has been a major challenge with multiple hurdles, but it’s really rewarding.”

To promote Unitiques and network with other students and young entrepreneurs, Shadrow said she is focusing on projects that foster collaboration and support in the BU community.

In a partnership with Cookin Cafe and Grille — who also catered Sunday’s clothing swap — Shadrow is working with College of Fine Arts students Alexander Golob and Addie Camp to paint a BU and Boston-themed mural in the Allston restaurant.

Aslan Zadeh, owner of Cookin Café and Grille, said he has planned to remodel the interior of his restaurant since purchasing it.

“It’s a popular area with a lot of students, and white walls don’t really make sense for a place around here,” Zadeh said. “Originally, I thought I would just paint the wall, but the more Alex and I started talking, we both thought about a large mural.”

Work on the mural will begin once the final designs are solidified and will conclude in early October, Zadeh said.

Golob, a CFA junior, said a friend recommended him to Shadrow, who then contacted him about designing and painting the 12-by-16 foot mural.

“The nice thing about murals that involve community members is that it becomes not just about the final project, but about the enriching procedure that you went through,” Golob said. “I have confidence that the design we come out with will be enjoyable, a piece of art in itself that will be memorable and promote what Cookin Cafe is going for, which is building a community and a fun space to hang out in.”

Working with Shadrow has fostered a strong relationship between Cookin Cafe and Unitiques, Zadeh said.

“BU takes care of me really well, bringing these students into the area,” he said. “I would really like to give back because the more I give, the more I get back…Personally, if I didn’t have Alex, it would take me years to get into the market and reach out to all these students. I think we’ll be working for a long time together.”

Shadrow will continue to develop Unitiques, support fellow entrepreneurs and strive to empower women through her site, which she said pushes her to “be the best I can be.”

“Before I started the Unitiques site, I had confidence issues, and doing this has proven what I can do for myself,” she said. “My message is to find something that you tell yourself that you’re good at rather than things other people tell you you’re good at. Taking risks is worth it.”

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