Startup of the Week – Mädchenflohmarkt, the fashion-forward online flea market


Tapping into the “pre-loved” market that’s buzzing in the German startup scene (think VidedressingStuffle, Schpock and Kleiderkreisal) are the Stuttgart-based founders of online marketplace Mädchenflohmarkt. They want to offer women more than just an online thrift shop by mashing up the concept of a fashion blog and premium marketplace via categories that highlight must-have trends. 

We caught up with cofounder Maria Spilka to find out how this is just one way Mädchenflohmarkt stands out in this highly competitive space…

width="515"Founders Thorsten Lückmeier, Maria Spilka and Peter Ambrozy 

Hi Maria, can you tell us a bit more about Mädchenflohmarkt?

It means flea market for girls or women and is an online marketplace for pre-loved things. We started in July 2012 with the first proof of concept and in December we had our relaunch.

On one hand, we have a typical marketplace where we really try to approach users in a way that suits them – such as how they think, shop, dress and get inspired. This is our unique selling point.

On the other hand, we have the concierge service, which approaches women who have designer or premium fashions but don’t have the time for the listing process. They can just send in a package with all their clothing and we do a quality check, a fake check, write down the product attributes, shoot the photos, score the items and ship them. All they have to do is send the package and name the price for the clothes.

We take a 40 per cent commission fee for the concierge service – but only when the item is sold. For the marketplace items it is the same, when an item is sold we take a ten per cent commission.


How did you come across your idea?

To me, the vision is a virtual marketplace where I can show my clothes to friends and other people as well as browse their wardrobes. I think every girl knows those fashionistas where you’d just love to get access to their closets and buy their things.

width="200"Who are the founders and how did you find each other?

My cofounders are Peter Ambrozy, he’s the CEO of Edelight, and Thorsten Lückmeier, who is the Head of Marketing at Edelight. They worked together for seven years at Edelight (an online social shopping platform) so have a lot of online marketing and eCommerce experience. I used to work at Edelight on another project called Styles You Love.

Last year, Peter came up with the idea of Mädchenflohmarkt and asked me if I wanted to work on the project. It was my first experience working on a startup. Now, Thorsten is transferring from Edelight to Mädchenflohmarkt. Peter doesn’t operate fully for Mädchenflohmarkt, he is more on the advisory board and there for strategic planning.

Peter and Thorsten did the first Mädchenflohmarkt offline in 2010, which they did with Edelight as well to acquire users. The flea markets were a huge success, but they couldn’t transfer the people to the platform, so they gave up on this.

It’s interesting that the initial idea came from a man…

It’s a philosophy at Edelight that all of the product managers are female because it’s also very woman-oriented. Peter knows women and what kind of products we want. I also had a lot of freedom to create Mädchenflohmarkt as I would like to shop on the internet.

How many users do you have? How many of them came organically?

We have 250,000 registered users on the platform. To be honest, we don’t have a huge marketing budget but we do a lot of curation through Facebook. This works for us because people then tell their friends about us. Another way we attract users is by working with fashion blogs – so you can really shop the closets of popular fashion bloggers who you’re probably following anyway.

At the moment, aside from our main market in Germany, we have a lot of buyers and sellers from Austria, Switzerland and Spain.

Who is financing you?

We are funded by ourselves – all the founders invested in Mädchenflohmarkt, and recently Gerald Heydenreich also invested in us. But we are looking for more investors, we now know how to scale up and we need money to be able to do this.

Is there something that you’re missing?

We’re always looking for talent. Especially for fashion but also logistics know-how. We’re hiring a lot at the moment.

width="200"Who would you like to have a lunch with and what would you talk about?

I’d like to have dinner with Carine Roitfeld to teach me everything about fashion and Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki to teach me about everything else.

Any advice you’d give for fellow startups? 

I think we still have a lot to learn. We made some mistakes, but we had to make them to learn from them. I would say that, for me, probably the most important thing as a founder is to really love the product. I tried to create a product that I would love to use and hope that I can pass this love and inspiration to the community.

And listen to the community – our first users really helped us a lot in shaping the product and providing feedback, they had a lot of patience with us. We were very thankful to them.

But come back to me in a few years – then I’ll be much wiser!

Where will you be in a year’s time? 

We’d like to reach one million users on the platform and keep working on the platform itself. We definitely have to add more functions, such as a profile, personal feed and more curation – so more technological features.

Who is your main competitor?

Most people would think of eBay, but we actually like what Kleiderkreisel is doing because they’re already quite established in the German market. But the big difference between them and us is that they have a much younger audience and don’t have as many premium products.

Image credit: Flickr users Two for Fashion – Das OTTO-Fashion-Blog and Jason Hargrove

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