Arina Ponomareva
Arina Ponomareva, co-founder of Flashee. (Credit: Courtesy of Flashee)

Arina Ponomareva understands the allure of fast fashion: It’s far more affordable than designer and sustainably made clothing. However, Ponomareva is also acutely aware of the ways in which fast fashion exploits humans, as well as animals, and the planet itself. To solve the problem, she set about creating a way to connect consumers with smaller fashion brands – all from one convenient location. And what’s more convenient than your phone? That’s why Ponomareva ended up building an app, Flashee, that connects customers with small, eco-friendly sellers. Though Flashee is still in its early days, Ponomareva is driven by her commitment “to helping small businesses flourish, regardless of their budget and reach.”

Here’s our lightly edited Q&A, from The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project.

How is your business different from others in your industry?

We’re not just another online clothing store. We’re a social shopping platform offering products made by independent designers and small boutiques.

Tell us about your biggest success so far. 

Even though we just recently launched, we have already have 25 brands on board. 

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?

Pitching to male investors. I found that I was not taken as seriously because I am a woman – male founders and their businesses always seemed to be a priority to investors. I believe we need to continue to speak up about the hurdles and challenges that female entrepreneurs face. 

Have you experienced any significant personal situations that affected your business decisions? 

I had a depressive episode during the height of the Covid pandemic, after we had to end our partnerships with two manufacturers in China. Humans are impatient creatures who find it difficult to accept the fear of the unknown. However, uncertainty is part of the entrepreneurial journey. So it’s extremely important to learn how to deal with that, in order to adapt.

What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs? 

Have self-confidence, and a belief that what you are building is more valuable than the amount of money in your bank account. Set up a great team from the beginning. There is no surefire recipe for success, but clarity, diversity, trust and purpose are the building blocks of an unbeatable team spirit.

How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?

Through the support of my team, and through introspective moments alone. By taking time to reflect, I can more easily identify areas for improvement and change. 

What is your go-to song to get motivated on tough days?

“Stronger” by Kanye West. 

Who is your most important role model?

Female founders and investors like Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova, inventor Sampriti Bhattacharyya, entrepreneur Christine Tsai and tennis champion Maria Sharapova.◼

Instagram: @flasheeapp

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