Berlin Clothing Swap, Jenna Stein

It’s ok to say no with Jenna Stein

As I get ready to launch this podcast, I am trying to take a deep breath. As multiple parts of the podcast got cut, I try and not to get frustrated about some amazing bits of conversation we lost. We all had a fair amount of unpredictable events in the last year or two. So I will add this one to the list and stay grateful for all that Jenna shared with us, her experience of moving countries, founding a movement, seeing it halt and having the energy to do it all again. Let’s hear about Berlin Clothing Swap.

Moving continents

Jenna moved to Berlin in 2013 after a few visits to the city. She found Berlin offered so many possibilities and opportunities and, like me, she originally moved for a year! Well, for her it has been 8 years but she is still passionate about the city. When she first arrived, she did not know many people or had much money to spend. As her parents instilled circular fashion concepts into her through her childhood, she decided the same was needed in Berlin. With that, she created the Berlin Clothing Swap – an opportunity for people to swap clothes (and meet friends).  So how did she go from an idea to the first event?

The first Berlin Clothing Swap “event”

Jenna admits she had a hard time calling it an event when only one person showed up. Looking back, she knows what went wrong – no advertising, no signs. Luckily, that one person that showed up allowed her to realize she was onto something but had to put a different effort into it. For a while, she struggled with the direction she should take – what format, what model, what rules. It was not until 3 years later that she put together another event (courtesy of a broken foot). The pause in her life allowed her to really put time into it, study social media and really think through the different dimensions that would make Berlin Clothing Swap successful.  And BCS started to grow.

Hit by the pandemic

As Jenna told me about the clothes people can try at events and swap between them, I could not help but think of what a distant reality that was.  Large events, people swapping clothes, I don’t even know where to start. Jenna was planning a swap event at the time the pandemic hit but had to cancel.

To keep the movement going, she created a Facebook group where people could swap directly in terms mutually agreeable. That way, they could keep it going, even if they did not get a chance to try it on in advance. She was not afraid of being disintermediated because, in the end, she is very passionate about the circular fashion cycle continuing.

Founder’s Syndrome

One of the greatest challenges Jenna faced as an entrepreneur was to delegate. She was used to managing everything on her own, and as Berlin Clothing Swap grew she had to give some out. She started with the social media management and always has volunteers for her events. She also had to find additional founding members to register as a non-profit, and that has also caused some worries.

“This is my baby and the idea that someone can come and take it away from me at some point is difficult”

Letting go to grow is definitely something I have reflected on before. At the same time, it comes with the added responsibility that no matter who helps you, the responsibility is all on you if something fails.

Looking forward

Jenna is excited about the re-opening. As she is planning a new event for this Summer she has many plans looking forward. She wants to have smaller events, thematic or by size and really go after what people are asking for. In an ideal world, Jenna would like to even convert this passion into her full-time occupation. She is happy she did not do that pre-pandemic though! And if you hear her talk, you can see Jenna has multiple dreams and is open to multiple possibilities. I can’t wait to see what is on the cards.

Lockdown in Berlin

Jenna was on holiday when the pandemic hit. On her return to Berlin, she found that working for home actually worked out for her. The pause in life helped her take stock and actually invest more in her work and achieve an even better performance. At home, she kept painting by numbers, started yoga and even received a care package from her parents with different games. Jenna missed out on meeting friends, putting on some make-up, going out!

“I missed life!”

But like me, she also found the introvert in her that enjoyed spending time with her partner, watch movies, take walks with friends in a more personal 1-on-1 experience. She also found that there was power in the ability to cancel plans and say no in the moments where she needed to take care of herself.

Genuine emotions

Jenna was very open about what her difficult points were through this pandemic. She has not seen her family in a long time (though she now has flights booked) and that has made her extremely sad. In the low moments, cycling has been a great way to manage her emotions and make her feel better. But she also admits to indulging in reality tv to just have a good laugh. That is allowed too!

What will the new normal be?

As the re-opening is here, Jenna is finding herself exhausted from all the events. She hopes to be able to find more balance in the future and really embrace the fact that she won’t be able to be there for every party and will listen to her body more

“There will be other parties, there will be other birthdays, there will be other dinners. It’s ok to say no”

That is a key learning she is bringing into her life from this pandemic. One that I found myself struggling with as well.

Jenna’s List

  • 2020 Advice: Not to have any expectations, that way you won’t be disappointed
  • 2020 Challenge: It felt like my life has been on pause
  • 2020 Lesson: Patience and empathy
  • Book for 2021: Fashionopolis and Daisy Jones and the Six
  • Word for 2021: Tolerance

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Produced by Alice Stansfield

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