The Owner & The Brand: Meet Chelby Gill of Boummeringue
Raise your hand if you have ever been personally victimized by returns.
And by “returns,” I mean retail. I mean those pieces that we find out only after we’ve bought them that we really don’t love; that we now have a window to take back into the store we ordered them from.
Lately, this process has brought about a learning curve for not only customers, but retailers as well. In January of this year, CNBC reported that retail returns have jumped to an average of 16.6% in 2021 versus 10.6% in 2020, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation and Appriss Retail, which ultimately means that more than $761 billion worth of merchandise will wind up back at stores and warehouses.
Which is a lot.
And this spike has only increased since the lockdown and onset of COVID. Online shopping has become so normalized that it has completely shifted buyer behavior, even after brick-and-mortar stores have fully reopened.
“As online sales increase, the return rate has also increased significantly, and I don’t think it’s a secondary problem anymore,” says Mehmet Sekip Altug, Associate Business Professor at George Mason University.
Which means that there is more of a need now for reverse logistics in the fashion supply chain.
Reverse logistics involves returning goods from the consumers to the retailers or manufacturers and handling those items accordingly, which is often overlooked despite the volumes of textiles pumped out each season by some of our favorite fast fashion retailers.
As a personal shopper and stylist, who is often filling wardrobes with capsule collections and carrying clothes around for others, I understand that reverse logistics provide multidimensional touch points for consumers. And in the world of Amazon, where returns have been made not only easy, but complimentary, this is one of the glaring reasons why reverse logistics are not only a necessity for turning consumers into repeat buyers, but attracting them in the first place.
So, it was a pleasure to be introduced to Chelby Gill–Owner and founder of Boummeringe, a new third-party logistics provider and return management software designed specifically for returning our unwanted apparel; namely that from our favorite fashion eCommerce sites.
Which I love.
Because not everyone is Nordstrom’s, or Amazon, or ASOS, where returns are easy and labels are pre-printed and there are multiple drop-off locations placed for easy access throughout the city. For some of my favorite boutiques to patronize–some smaller businesses with higher quality clothing but less streamlined processes for returning purchases–getting clothes back in the hand of the retailer is a lot easier said than done.
But, that’s what Boummeringe is established to do–make returns easy.
“So, anytime you're returning things from Zara or from your local boutique, you know, that's online, we specialize in returning, quality assessment, and making sure that the item can be resold as quickly as possible.”
Which is important because, this not only streamlines the process for the customer, but retailers themselves. A software like this helps retail giants plan their inventory recalls, repairs, and, as more fashion giants sign on to sustainability pledges, recycling. Boummeringe is the third-party managing this process so others don’t have to. Boummeringe is quite literally the answer we’ve all been waiting for.
As a stylist, as a shopper, as a consumer, as a brand owner, this is exciting.
And what’s even more important is that it is helmed by a young Black woman with a background in and passion for disability rights and disability studies, having graduated from San Jose State in just 2019. There, she was focused on the lack of resources and life care for those who were intellectually disabled–which ultimately became the catalyst for her work.
“And,” she says, “that was my focus.”
And Chelby was fortunate enough out of college to have a position where she was immersed right back in her field, working with the logistics of multiple residential care homes during COVID 19.
And it was during this time she claims to be like “a startup experience in itself,” although it provided her with necessary experience in creating different logistical systems and people management.
“There were such high stakes at the moment as we were managing the very vulnerable life situations of our clients [during the pandemic], as well as maintaining like the upbeatness and the morale of our staff; essential workers who were, you know, putting their all into making sure that the technical and tangible logistics kept it all afloat.”
Boummeringue came about during this time because, just like the rest of us, Chelby was also doing a lot of online shopping.
And, she says, “throughout that process, I'd always been afraid of shopping online because it kind of just seemed like this black hole of, okay, I can enter my card information, they'll send me the dress, but if I don't like it, what do I do? So, I created a really organized system of how I wanted to return those clothes. And I felt like, okay, why isn't there a service available to do this for me?”
Lucky for us, now there is a service available.
And it’s hers.
1. In typical ClothesPetals fashion, would you mind providing a bit about your background?
My name is Chelby Gill and I’m originally from Sacramento, CA. I’ve always been interested in fashion whether it was studying what celebrities wore on the red carpet to reposting fashion editorials onto my old Tumblr page.
Problem solving is a key component of entrepreneurship, and that's what really piqued my interest, but the people in my life who inspire me like my friends and family are all problem solvers.
2. What was your career path prior to starting your own business? Did you always know you that wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Prior to becoming a founder my career path was focused on disability advocacy and public policy. Before Boummeringue, I was an administrator for supportive living service for the intellectually disabled community.
I was not planning on being an entrepreneur but I always had ideas around fashion and creating a community and using clothes to connect one another. I get such a thrill whenever someone compliments my Telfar bag, I know it’s because they understand the importance of that bag whether it’s cultural or the actual difficulty of securing the bag. Each item we wear connects us to a larger community and ideal that others want to acknowledge. I was always thinking of solutions to better facilitate that sense of camaraderie around fashion.
It’s very special when you are able to wear clothes that make you feel good and align with your favorite version of yourself. In an image driven age where every IG/Pinterest is an ad either directly or indirectly, no one should feel like they have to sit on the sidelines and not participate in creating their own image.
3. We don’t often see Black owners disrupting the fashion world highlighted in Vogue. What has your experience as a Black female founder been like?
It’s been exciting so far! I’m constantly talking with people whether it's a customer, mentor or fellow founder. Everyday I’m learning something new.