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Conversations with professionals in the sustainability sector: Qi Xia

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Student Sustainability Architects

Freya is a Student Sustainability Architect who had a project focused on Sustainable Careers. While in post she has worked alongside the University of Leeds Careers Service to organise a sustainable careers webinar during the Spotlight in Sustainability week. There, she shared tips and research on on-demand professional skills in the sustainability sector and general misunderstandings of careers in sustainability to increase students' employability in the sustainability sector. 

A photo of Freya Wang, who is wearing an orange top and blue jeans and is stood in front of a metal bridge.

Freya Wang

Now, she would like to take this one step further and share her discussions with professionals in the sustainability industry. Join Freya as she speaks with Qi Xia, a sustainability entrepreneur who has created a startup in sustainable fashion.  

Qi has undertaken an entrepreneurial journey in sustainability, working in some boutique vintage stores to determine their pain points. Currently based in Boston, Qi is the co-founder of a startup business that helps secondhand clothing stores (especially local small businesses) grow their online presence and sell more of their products online. Passionate about running a socially impact-driven technical startup and team building, she would love to share her journey with students. 

A lady with dark hair and thick rimmed glasses smiling at the camera.

Qi Xia

Freya asked: What are some lessons that Qi has have learned on her journey so far? 

Qi answered ‘Being a sustainable fashion startup founder has taught me the importance of creativity and innovation. Initially, I believed that developing user-friendly software for secondhand store owners to improve their operational efficiency would be a straightforward process.  

However, I quickly realized that it was much more complex than I anticipated. To improve their existing inventory systems, which they had been using for many years, without adding any complications, I had to constantly think outside the box and develop new software solutions that could integrate seamlessly with their existing systems while improving their efficiency.’ 

What is the process you use to tackle obstacles? 

Qi replied ‘For instance, I conducted extensive research and experiments with various inventory processes and software that had been adopted by several store owners. Through this, I discovered that implementing computer-aided software to replace time-consuming manual processes (like writing descriptions, pricing, measuring sizes) could significantly reduce their processing time. 

Collaboration has also been a crucial part of my journey. When I was first starting out, I reached out to other sustainable fashion founders and industry experts for guidance and advice. I quickly realized that building relationships and networking was just as important as creating a sustainable business model. Through these connections, I was able to learn about vision-driven secondhand store owners and passionate social media influencers that I could partner with, which ultimately helped me to create a more sustainable and socially responsible brand.’ 

What would you say to fellow students who also want to be sustainable entrepreneurs in the future? 

Qi responded ‘Looking back on my journey as a startup founder, there are a few things that I wish I had known when I was starting out. First and foremost, I would tell anyone interested in the field of sustainability to always stay true to their values and to be customer centric. By keeping the needs and desires of our customers at the forefront of our minds, we have been able to build a loyal customer base that appreciates our commitment to sustainability. 

Another important lesson I have learned is to persist in the face of challenges. Sustainable fashion is still a relatively new and rapidly evolving field and navigating it can be a daunting task. However, by remaining steadfast in our commitment to sustainability and continually seeking out new opportunities to improve our practices, we have managed to stay ahead of the curve and make a meaningful impact in the industry. Despite the absence of a clear roadmap, we have forged ahead, driven by our passion for sustainability and our belief in its importance for the future of our planet. 

Through creativity, collaboration, and a commitment to my values, I have been able to create a business that not only creates beautiful and meaningful products, but also makes a positive impact on the world.’ 

Freya concluded by thanking Qi for sharing, acknowledging that starting a sustainable fashion company must be a challenge as well as being rewarding.

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