Shilla Kim-Parker: Making Vintage Online Shopping Easy

Revolutionizing the way local second-hand clothing stores sell online

Browsing local clothing stores can sometimes feel like searching for hidden treasures, so Shilla Kim-Parker launched an online platform to help connect more customers to the gold.

Kim-Parker is the co-founder and CEO of Thrilling, an online marketplace for vintage and second-hand items from boutiques across the US. The idea behind Thrilling came from Kim-Parker’s experience growing up in New York and second-hand shopping for clothes. 

Shilla Kim-Parker

Thrilling

"Part of the joy of this kind of shopping is getting lost in the treasure hunt. It’s all about the journey," Kim-Parker said. "For Thrilling, we are thinking about how we can help popularize vintage shopping and make it accessible to more shoppers around the world."

Launched in 2018, the Black-, Asian- and woman-owned company runs a platform featuring indie apparel businesses, 95% of which are stores owned by women and people of color.

A big part of Thrilling’s mission is to "shop sustainably," so the company prides itself on being environmentally friendly since buying vintage and second-hand clothing can help reduce waste. The company currently plays host to more than 300 stores across 100 cities on its platform.

Quick Facts

ame: Shilla Kim-Parker

Age: 39

From: New York City

Random delight: "I have a lot of guilty pleasure TV that I watch, I love a good bath, and I love naps."

Key quote or motto: "Nevertheless, she persists."

From a Personal Desire to a Thriving Business

Before launching Thrilling, Kim-Parker worked in various service-oriented roles in the finance, arts, media and entertainment, and nonprofit industries. She said she had a realization when she was pregnant with her second child that she wanted to launch her own company, despite the risks that come with entrepreneurship. 

"I had been an aspiring entrepreneur most of my life, and I’ve had a very non-linear career," Kim-Parker said. "I think I had always been yearning to be in the arena of building something that helps further our community to give back in some way."

Launching Thrilling was a leap of faith for Kim-Parker, but she said she knew it was "now or never after meeting her co-founder, Brad Mallow. She comes from a family of small business owners in apparel, so Kim-Parker pulled inspiration from her family mixed with her interest in tech to bring second-hand boutiques and diverse clothing to the forefront of online shopping via Thrilling’s platform.

"Because most of these stores are offline, the thing that you do need is time," she said. "Becoming a working mom, I still wanted to shop in that way and support small business owners. One of the motivations for launching was my own personal desire to be able to shop and support these stores from my phone."

Examples of the Pride-related clothing featured on the Thrilling website.

Thrilling

Becoming a Premier Online Clothing Marketplace

Thrilling’s team is composed of 15 employees, with Mallow acting as chief technology officer. Black women founders receive less than 1% of venture capital funding, so Kim-Parker said she’s been feeling more than grateful that Thrilling recently closed an $8.5 million Series A funding round.

Since its inception, the company has raised a little over $12 million in venture capital, and this latest funding will expand the Thrilling team and further develop its online platform. 

While Thrilling has had much success in the venture capital arena, Kim-Parker said the journey to this point was not always smooth. 

"I had my share of unpleasant and condescending conversations. It’s definitely about brute force and quantity. You have to meet and talk to a lot of folks to find the aligned souls who believe in you and are willing to support you and take a leap of faith with you," Kim Parker explained. "I’m fortunate that we were able to do it, but it took a lot of time, a lot of energy, a lot of picking yourself up and getting prepared and energized for the next conversation."

Thrilling has continuously operated online, but Kim-Parker said she didn’t know how well the business would do through the pandemic. Hence, she focused on helping the companies listed on the platform. Thrilling launched a fundraiser to support its struggling store partners and even brought in business experts to advise business owners on tough decisions through the unprecedented time.

"...it took a lot of time, a lot of energy, a lot of picking yourself up and getting prepared and energized for the next conversation."

"At the beginning of the pandemic, we were all extremely worried about our store partners," Kim-Parker said. "We decided to suspend our commission on sales through Thrilling’s platform so that they could take every dollar that they could."

Thrilling’s revenue over the past year has grown by 1,700%, Kim-Parker said, and the company had helped its store partners replace the income they lost when storefronts had to close last year.

Over the next year, Kim-Parker said she’d like to see Thrilling become the premier online marketplace for boutiques and second-hand clothing stores, helping them expose their businesses to customers in new markets. The company will be expanding its offerings to include on-demand deliveries and more curated shopping recommendations for customers.

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