If you’ve ever gone vintage shopping before, you’ll know that the best finds are usually the most unexpected. While this oftentimes leads to pleasant surprises and a collection of story-worthy vintage hauls, it also makes searching for something specific a nearly impossible task.
A bonafide vintage fiend and former fashion buyer based in Los Angeles, Samantha Kuntz understands that struggle. That’s why she founded Whurl, an interactive vintage shopping app that connects users searching for a specific item with sellers and fellow users alike. Built around buyers’ personalized requests, like Cher’s iconic yellow plaid kilt in Clueless, Whurl maintains the treasure hunt quality of a good vintage shopping trip, while also sparking engagement and connection within the online community.
With a strong sense of self, the raddest hair colors imaginable, and a fluid approach to business, Samantha Kuntz is converging two distinct worlds — that of vintage fashion and modern technology — into a fun, diverse online shopping experience.
What’s your personal vintage vision? Download the app and give it a Whurl!
- Age: 30
- Location: Los Angeles, CA
- Education: BA in Fashion Merchandising from FIT
- Field of Interest: Fashion / Technology / Puppies
- What’s Your Favorite Thing About Yourself? High levels of empathy
- What Inspired You Today? My new house! My boyfriend and I are in escrow on our first home and I can’t wait to get started on so many projects that are totally out of my comfort zone.
- What Are You Currently Reading? Finishing up Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. Planning to start Rising Strong by Brene Brown next.
- Are You Working On Any Projects That You’re Really Excited About? I’m in the very beginning stages of planning an event for later this summer. Also, having a small business is always like having a fun, exciting project in a way. For Whurl, I’m constantly sourcing vintage clothes to sell on my app, scouting out new potential sellers, going after partnerships with influencers, and trying to improve the in-app experience.
Questions + Answers
Can you tell us a little bit more about the Whurl app shopping experience? What sets Whurl apart from other shopping apps like Depop?
Whurl is first and foremost a request-based vintage shopping app. It was born out of my lifelong love of one-of-a-kind vintage pieces and the idea that something could catch your eye at a thrift store that someone else across the country had been lusting over for years but couldn’t find. My goals were simply to make that process easier on sellers and shoppers while also getting a more engaged online experience.
I also find the focus on vintage to be a really fun and interesting one. Vintage shopping is unlike any other because every piece feels like a rare treasure and the customer base is extremely dedicated. It helps create a strong and engaged community.
With Whurl, I’m not trying to be everything to everyone.
In fact, I often find marketplaces like those to be overwhelming and faceless for the most part.
From our own personal experience, vintage shopping can be either a frustrating nightmare or an exciting treasure hunt! How does shopping on Whurl highlight the joys of vintage finds?
Totally! I think the “frustrating nightmare” part really only happens if you go into a store looking for something specific and can’t find it. Which, to be honest, is a terrifying way to shop for vintage since there are often high odds you won’t find the exact thing you’re searching for.
On Whurl, you can post a photo and description of what you’re searching for and the community helps you find it. Requests range from super specific (the dress Suzy wears in Moonrise Kingdom) to really broad (looking for a cozy sweater for fall). It’s so exciting to watch the community pull from their closets, stores, or even head to the flea market to help fulfill a stranger’s vintage dream!
To us, there seems to be a connection between embracing vintage fashions and embracing your singularity, and even body positivity. Have you found that to be the case?
I see what you mean, though I feel surrounded by vintage-fiends constantly so it’s more of the norm for my life! I do think there’s a definite link between being unafraid to be yourself and shine and wearing vintage. By nature, you’re wearing something one-of-a-kind which almost guarantees extra attention, causing you to emanate uniqueness. That can be both empowering and annoying depending on how you feel about extra attention.
I don’t really agree with the link between vintage and body positivity, as many enthusiasts will lament that sizing can be a major issue. The older the pieces, the tinier they come. Many people who shop on Whurl are begging for sizes larger than the common 26” waist, as they should be. I’m constantly trying to cater to everyone, as I feel it’s my duty as both a human being and a business owner.
The aspect I hated most about working as a buyer in the fashion industry is the idea of exclusivity: “Here’s this fun and glamorous world and you can’t be in it unless you look like this.” Hell no! I don’t believe in that.
In ModCloth’s “Hot Tub Round Table,” you spoke about the need for female entrepreneurs to define their own metrics of success, and we wholeheartedly agree! Throughout your journey with Whurl, how have you defined success on your own terms?
I think it’s really important to focus on your own metrics for success and I’m glad this was the soundbite they included in the video! I think it’s just far too easy to compare and despair with other businesses or people or whatever you see on a pretty little square on Instagram, and that’s not the reality of life.
The same way my life isn’t the same as yours, my business isn’t the same as anyone else’s, and that’s not a bad thing.
So I try to remember that when I see stats on other tech businesses or see people raking in money and I’m just not there yet. And that’s okay!
I’ve always thought that overnight successes are scary because it’s more of an indicator of a fad or trend business and not a sustainable one. Not that it’s bad, it’s just not my goal! And just because I know that and type it now, it doesn’t make it any easier. I have to work constantly at reminding myself that I’m exactly where I should be.
When you work for yourself, there’s this sort of endless abyss of work to be done. No one is there to tell you when it’s enough, so you just have to figure that out on your own.
The most important thing to remember is that there’s always more to be done, and that’s okay. You don’t have to do everything everyday in order to be successful.
As the saying goes, success comes only after failing repeatedly. What was the most instructive failure you’ve experienced, and how did that experience impact your entrepreneurial endeavors?
To be honest, I don’t have any huge failures to note, yet! But I do strongly believe failure is inevitable and all part of the process. What fun would it be if you knew everything already?
On a smaller scale, I’ve had tons of failures, mostly around expectations with Whurl. Like “oooh I can’t wait to see what everyone thinks of this feature!” but then in reality no one used it, haha. Which is great! Then I realized, “oh, I didn’t need to invest all that time and energy into building that, got it.”
Just about died when I found this on my computer desktop 😂 one of my first wireframes I made for Whurl based off of a search @thefineartofdesign had for fruit themed items! It also reminded me of when I showed this to someone in the very early stages of my idea for Whurl. It was someone I once considered a mentor, and she said "oh so you're boyfriend helped you with this right?" No. I did this. Almost all of it entirely on my own with the help of a hired engineer. I owe so much to the community and my friends for their support, but I still can take credit for all my personal hard work and ideas 🙌🏽 please! If you haven't, fill out the survey in the bio link! So important for helping shape what Whurl does next ❤️❤️❤️
Before I launched Whurl, I strongly embraced the idea of an MVP (minimum viable product) which just means that if you have an idea for something, keep it very simple and test it. Then, release that feature and wait for feedback and iterate on that in a similar way.
Basically, never think you have the answer, your customers do. If you ask them for it, they’ll give it to you.
Do not under any circumstances spend a year building a multi-faceted app that you’ve never done consumer testing on. I realize that may sound silly, but I think many people (men mostly, ha) believe they know what’s best and just build off of that without any testing. For instance, when I first had the idea of creating an app where people posted photos of what they were searching for to a community of similar people, I immediately wanted to get right into hiring an engineer to make it happen. After some super helpful guidance, I realized that I could test the theory on an existing platform, so I made a private Facebook group and invited everyone I knew that bought and sold vintage and invited them to do the same. I got to watch the community and learn from everyone before I did all the work, and more importantly, spent the money to build Whurl.
For anyone out there that has a cool idea, find a way you can test it for free or for cheap. It’s more than likely possible!
Fellow vintage hoarders & sellers: ever wondered what shoppers are actually lusting for BEFORE you do all the work of posting items for sale online?? Check out my app @shopwhurl (link in bio or search Whurl in the iPhone App Store) to fulfill shoppers' dreams & fill up your bank account 😘😘😘 (ps this dream closet belongs to @susangkoger 😍)
Who inspires you?
Amina Mucciolo of @studiomucci
Lacey Micallef of @bigbudpress
Susan Koger of @modcloth
Kira Cook of PBS’s Islands Without Cars (@flamelikeme)