For this month’s Disruptors feature, Sheffield-based entrepreneur Darren Forde tells unLTD the story behind Samdai, an innovative shopping app that promises to deliver local fashion to your door within a mere two hours.
My background is not in business; it’s teaching and rugby. I was a professional rugby player and played for a host of clubs, including Sheffield Eagles. One day, we’d trained in Sheffield and were traveling down to Hemel Hempstead for a game the next morning when my friend’s boots broke. We realised that there was no way to get a replacement pair of boots in good time; the shops were shut, and even if he ordered some for the next day, they wouldn’t come before the match. We started talking about how good it would be if you could order clothing and footwear online as a service and have it delivered almost instantly. It sowed the seed of an idea in my head.
Fast forward a couple of years to 2019. My now-wife would have university friends around before a night out, and sometimes they’d struggle to find something to wear or would want a last-minute addition to an outfit. Again, it made me think about how useful it’d be to have a service where you can buy an item of clothing and have it at your door within an hour or two.
I originally wanted to set up my own business in offering a meal prep service, and this was before it became the massive industry it is now. After seeing how it boomed, I regretted not driving forward with that idea at the time. It gave me the motivation to go with the next idea that I thought had potential – that was Samdai.
We were originally meant to launch Samdai as a delivery service in April 2020, but the country went into lockdown in March 2020. The first few businesses we signed up had to close, and it was a case of ‘what do we do now?’ We had to delay things and pivoted into Samdai VIP, which saw us working with a wide range of local businesses to offer discounts through an online membership service. That side of the business proved popular and has remained after launching the delivery service; we see it as providing people with the places and experiences to wear their fashion out to.
How it Works
Even before the pandemic, we saw that the local high street was declining rapidly. More and more people were used to ordering clothes online, so I asked myself how could we offer a service that brings products from local clothing stores to people’s homes almost instantly.
For our delivery service, we partner with local stores and retailers in a certain location. The app will determine a radius, and anyone within it can order items which will be delivered by our courier service. When an order’s placed, the store will receive a notification, pack it up, and a courier will bring it directly to the customer within two hours. Items can then be returned using the same service, and we’re currently working on introducing a ‘try before you buy’ option.
Fashion that’s fast (but not fast fashion)
We work and operate with sustainability in mind. When you look at last-mile logistics in e-commerce, it’s responsible for 300,000 tonnes of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere each year in the UK. We want to do better, so by the end of 2024, we’ve pledged to have all our couriers using e-vehicles or bicycles. We also make sure we pay our couriers fairly, meet with them personally, and ensure we trust them to deliver the service. They’re the lifeblood of what we’re offering, so we ensure to treat them with the deserved respect.
The Growth Plan
We want to get to 75 retailers in Sheffield by the end of next year. Then, over the next five years, we want to be in a place where we can branch out to other cities; so we are looking at Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham and Bristol. After that, hopefully, we’ll be able to go beyond the UK and launch in other countries.
Did you know?
Samdai won High Street Startup of the Year for Yorkshire, North East and the Humber at the Startup Awards 2023. They also came in first place for Founders Live London 2023 and second for the Europe-wide leg of Founders Live!
The Samdai app is available to download on Google Play and the Apple Store. For more informtaion visit www.samdai.co.uk