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Matt Kaness, CEO of GOODWILLFINDS – Live from NRF 2023

This episode of the RETHINK Retail Podcast was recorded live at the NRF Big Show 2023 on January 16th, 2023.

In this episode, host Julia Raymond Hare sits down with Matthew Kaness, CEO of GoodWillFinds, who leads the expansion of the Goodwill Network’s recently launched e-commerce site.

Together they discuss the retail and sustainability trends that will dominate 2023 as well as how Generation Z has helped the non-profit expanded into the digital world.

If you enjoyed this episode, please let us know by subscribing to our channel and giving us a 5 star rating us on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

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Host: Julia Hare
Produced by Gabriella Bock

Post Transcript

Julia Hare:
Hi, I’m Julia Hare with RETHINK Retail. I’m here with Matt from GoodWillFinds, and we are going to talk a little bit about the circular economy, the resale market, and all things retail in general. So Matt, first let’s start off with how you’re liking the show.

Matt Kaness:
Always love to see friends, who I haven’t seen in a while, but also the latest innovations – what people are excited about. So, I am happy to be here.

Julia Hare:
Happy to have you. And Matt, I just wanted to ask in general: what is GoodWillFinds for people who aren’t as familiar with that site of the business? 

Matt Kaness:
Yeah, so, uh, GoodWillFinds is the latest online venture from the Goodwill Network, founded by six of the 155 independent Goodwills across the country.

They came together to launch this independent new venture, , about a year or so. And we launched in early October at GoodWillFinds.com. We are selling now close to 200,000 unique items, all secondhand, all donated to four of the Goodwills across the country. So we are scaling the catalog really quickly. And what’s great about it is we are a 5 0 1 nonprofit, just like the Goodwills across the country.

And so we are supporting the same exact mission. The, the mission of Goodwill is to transform lives from the dignity. And by selling on our platform every purchase@goodwillfinds.com, the net proceeds go back to the location where the item was donated. And those dollars fund social services programs at the local level, that retrain and job place hundreds of thousands of people every year.

And in aggregate, the Goodwill Network is able to divert over 3 billion pounds. Of items outta landfills by getting it back into the economy, which we call the circular economy. 

Julia Hare:
Thank you, Matt. That is very surprising that you launched not that long ago and you’re already so established and the brand is, is, um, really getting out there.

I knew about it, but I’m also a thrifted and a Goodwill shopper and I cover the space. But I wanna say congratulations. It looks great. I think that the cause is amazing. I wanna talk a little bit about the consumer. Do are, what are you seeing from your market research? Are consumers more interested in the e-commerce side?

Because part of thrifting is the, the thrill of the hunt. But do you think that’s also accomplished online?

Matt Kaness:
Yeah. So there’s a, a number of things at play. The first is that last year I would say Gen Z took the stigma off of secondhand. Thrifting has always been cool, but it’s been more store-based.

And I’d say in the last year or two, especially coming out of the pandemic, lockdowns, secondhand has taken on another life because consumers, especially younger consumers who are always looking for a deal, always looking for something on trend, are now realizing that buying secondhand is great for the planet as well as great for supporting local communities and keeping the circular economy going.

So absolutely the consumer is driving this. At the same time, what we’ve found is that more and more segments of customers are discovering secondhand online than before. It’s not just deal shoppers, it’s not just, value seekers, but it’s also folks that care about conscious consuming, about purpose-driven consumption.

And so what we see at GoodWillFinds.com is we have the in-store customer who wants to thrift and looks for the. We also have the younger customer, the Gen X customer, who is into vintage and into, you know, what’s the latest trend. But we also are finding that there’s an older conscious consumer that really cares about the environment.

They care about where they put their dollars, and so we’re trying to aspire to serve all three. And you put all that together with a looming recession and with inflation, and everybody’s coming into the value channel. And I think that’s driving a lot of the, the surge demand that you’re seeing in the.

Julia Hare:
Well, I love that you touched on multiple generations and how it’s appealing to them. Slightly differently, but still appealing to them because I think it speaks to a general broader shift in consumers mindsets when it comes to how much we consume and how it affects the planet. Let’s talk a little bit though on the business side, what are some of the challenges you’re facing when you have these unique items?

You don’t know what necessarily you’ll be receiving and getting those online and priced correctly — what’s that process been like? 

Matt Kaness:
Great. Yeah. It’s every, what we work on every day, on the team. Yeah. I joined Goodwill Fines pre-revenue. I was, uh, officially employee number two and we’re now, uh, close to 20 and we’re scaling our team right now.

But it’s all been because of the work and support of the Goodwill Network, Goodwill has been around for over a hundred years. I like to refer to them as the OG of thr. Everybody loves Goodwill. It’s, uh, the place where you donate goods and also, do some cool thrift shopping. But what I find is that by bringing all of these Goodwills together, together, online, in an integrated catalog, it just takes the thrifting experience to the next level because now you can shop Goodwills from across the country on your, your mobile phone or on your, desktop.

And so that just brings a ton of value for us. In order to do that, our business model has to be distributed. So we are partnering with today four Goodwills, and we are, deploying technology and software. We’re building proprietary tools and data sets that they’re leveraging in their selling. Uh, we’ve gone from zero to nearly 200,000 unique items in the catalog in three.

Which is scaling very quickly. And, and what that means is that we have to enable each goodwill to be able to integrate with our platform, to be able to build out processes for taking donations, sorting the items for e-commerce, and then being able to accept third party orders that we send them for pick, pack, and ship.

But from the consumer’s perspective, it’s one website, it’s, it’s one shopping experience, it’s one brand. So we really feel like it’s a win. It’s different than a lot of the other secondhand marketplaces that are managed marketplaces where you’re  sending in items to one centralized location.

And so the unit economics are very different for our business versus theirs.

Julia Hare:
Very interesting. And it sounds like that could be more helpful because it’s more curated and there’s more control in that sense of what goes onto the online channel. , amazing job getting all of those SKUs up and running.

What would you say is something you’re most excited about? Are there retail partners in your network that you’re, you have on the horizon or is there anything in the works you can speak to? 

Matt Kaness:
So I’m so excited about getting the world more aware of the goodwill, mission and social impact at scale. First and foremost, it’s incredible the legacy of this nonprofit network, being able to.

Over 3 billion pounds last year alone from landfills, as well as the social impact locally through job placement. And training is such an important brand message that leveraging that purpose, I call it a love brand and affinity brand, really makes our job easier because we’re not trying to create a new community.

We’re activating community that already exists, but we’re, but we’re doing it first through. And online versus in the store. And so over time, our roadmap includes integrating more closely with our Goodwill selling partners to help them digitize their in-store and cross store experience for their shoppers and their donors alike.

So that’s something that we’re really excited by, is our aggressive roadmap as far as the point technology. And then the last thing I’d say is, , we are a hundred percent focused. On enabling the other Goodwills to come on the platform, but we’ve gotten a lot of interest from the industry. Mm-hmm. , brands and retailers alike who wanna partners with us both on the supply and the demand side, in part because we can be an objective third party authenticator.

 We also are an ESG partner, , for corporates who can, partner with us on measuring the impact, but, Companies now have to care not just about where they source products, but what’s the end of life, cycle for their products. And so we’re eager over time to be able to take on some of those partnerships.

And then of course, as a nonprofit, we can share a, a tax advantage for a lot of these partners in the future. So we have a big vision, we have a aggressive roadmap, and we’re just excited that we get this opportunity.

Julia Hare:
Well, Matthew, I really appreciate your time today. I’m excited for all the partnerships that you guys announced over time retailers could really use your.

You guys are the expert in that space and ESG and all those initiatives. So in order to help them, uh, speed up theirs, I think that it just makes a lot of sense. Matthew Kaness of GoodWillFinds great to have you on the show.