Tinder for kids school uniforms gets ready for launch
23 February 2022 at 2:18 pm
Hand-me-downs are a prerequisite for most people’s childhood but what about eldest or only children? What if you live miles away from anyone? High End Hammy Downs might just be the answer.
Natasha Lam describes her school uniform-swapping business idea as “Tinder for your kids’ school uniforms”. And while it might be an amusing bon mot, there’s also some truth to her wit.
Lam’s business is called High End Hammy Downs and is essentially a website where you sign up, get matched with a family with a child of a similar age (and clothing style) who is up for swapping/receiving hand-me-downs. Lam acts as a matchmaker, hence the Tinder-comparison, and helps set up a time and place for users to meet and swap clothes.
The aim of the business is to make secondhand clothes and school uniforms more accessible while reducing the impact on the planet.
Lam is an accountant by training and High End Hammy Downs is somewhat of a side hustle for her. Her day job with an AI and automation company has given her access to a team of developers who are helping her bring her uniform-swap idea to life.
While the idea of handing down kids’ clothes isn’t particularly new, being able to get a school uniform that fits (and is inexpensive) is something Lam is passionate about.
“We moved around a lot when I was a kid, and I was never in one school long enough for my mum to think it was worth buying a uniform, “ she told Pro Bono News.
“It was hard and I don’t want anyone to have to go through that. Making school uniforms accessible is where the idea for High End Hammy Downs really came from.”
Any parent, guardian or carer with school-age children will appreciate Lam’s thinking. School uniforms are expensive and kids grow quickly, meaning every year a new one’s needed. And if you’re a one-child family, need to buy for your eldest child or live remotely, finding good quality hand-me-downs can be tricky.
“I was the eldest sibling and so I never really got hand-me-downs but all my brothers and sisters got each other’s clothes,” Lam says.
“We also didn’t live close to family so we couldn’t even swap with, say, cousins. That was another thing that dawned on me — not everyone has family close by or has regular contact with kids the same age. What about the families that live in regional areas?”
Being able to make uniform swapping accessible to everyone is why Lam launched her idea late last year as a digital proposition rather than, say, a shop front, and High End Hammy Downs currently has customers in Australia, New Zealand and the UK.
While the everyday clothes swapping side of the business is going well and Lam is kept busy matching families, introducing them to each other and, by researching the local area, gives advice on best places to meet up and swap clothes, she’s the first to admit that getting the uniform swapping off the ground is proving harder.
“It’s proving tough to get into schools because of all the red tape, which makes getting access to the school’s leadership team to explain the idea really difficult,” Lam says.
“The interest from the parents is there but we need the schools to start listening to those requests.”
Lam is currently using her children’s school as a case study to demonstrate how the concept works and just how popular it is. The more schools she can get access to the more parents she can help.
How it works at the moment is that parents interested in their school running a uniform swap log onto the High End Hammy Downs site, and register their school.
Lam is then contacting each individual school, showing them the numbers and demonstrating that there is a need. But she says it’s tiring and somewhat frustrating that the affordability, and sustainability, benefits aren’t immediately apparent to the school itself.
“I’m getting more responses when I mention that the parents are keen, rather than when I point out that it would show that the school is doing something for the circular economy,” she says.
Lam admits it’s a work in progress, but she believes the idea is sound and something that could have a big impact on both the planet and a parent’s pocket once it gets off the ground.
“Once the app is created, which should be in a couple of months, we’ll roll it out and are thinking of charging $10 to $20 for access to six years’ worth of uniforms,” she says.
“Half of the proceeds will go to the school because they don’t make a lot from selling uniforms, especially government-funded schools because the markup is so high. I’m hoping that by offering a financial incentive more schools will give it a go.
“I also think it can act as a way for mums to meet and make friends. We travelled so much as kids that it was hard for my mum to make friends and then immediately ask for a school uniform for her children. I’m hoping that High End Hammy Downs can also help to remove awkward conversations, and perhaps someone will make a really good mate from simply swapping clothes.”
Find out more about High End Hammy Downs here