Student startup seeks to streamline thrift shopping

A seemingly empty closet and an empty wallet — this is the harsh reality of many a typical college student. A new startup in the works named Forage, though, might be a solution to this ever-present problem.

Foraging for a cause · Freshman business administration major Ethan Mezrahi (above) and Alex Zhang launched Forage two weeks ago. - Courtesy of Ethan Mezrahi

Foraging for a cause · Freshman business administration major Ethan Mezrahi (above) and Alex Zhang launched Forage two weeks ago. – Courtesy of Ethan Mezrahi

Created by freshman accounting major Alex Zhang and freshman business administration major Ethan Mezrahi, Forage is an online virtual thrift shop specifically for USC students. It offers the quirky, trendy finds of thrifting without the hassle of rummaging through packed racks looking for that one diamond in the rough. The site launched officially two weeks ago, and Zhang said developments and refinements to the website are ongoing.

Inventory depends entirely on donations, and the goal of the site is to be a medium for USC students to communicate and exchange clothing.

Zhang first came up with the idea through his experiences at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival this past spring. While at the festival, he noticed the various styles of concertgoers.

“While sitting on the grassy slopes listening to The xx, I noticed all the trendy hipsters prancing around and wondered where they all shopped,” Zhang said. “That immediately sparked my interest in forming some sort of answer to this dilemma of being unable to find out the answer.”

And with that train of thought, Forage was born. Zhang realized that his freshman year at USC would be the perfect time and place to carry out his concept of an online virtual thrift shop, as he was joining “such a forward-thinking, innovative community” that could use a site like this on campus.

This “virtual thrift shop” concept sat on the backburner until he met Mezrahi at orientation over the summer. As members of the Marshall School of Business, the two connected over their interest in business, and Zhang knew Mezrahi would be a valuable addition to the Forage team.

“Ethan has turned out to be one of the most persistent and tenacious people I know. I knew that as my business partner, if he wanted to get something done, he would be able to accomplish it,” Zhang said.

Similarly, Mezrahi saw great promise in working on this project with Zhang a friend he met at orientation.

“Alex is a fantastic partner. He is incredibly innovative, but knows the quality of teamwork, which is key in creating a startup,” Mezrahi said.

Together, the two made this concept a reality shortly following move-in day. Through countless hours of decision-making, the website was up and running. In the process, Zhang and Mezrahi decided that though it was important to create a convenient, user-friendly company, they wanted to use Forage as an opportunity to give back to the community.

“We decided that social change was to be our eternal focus with a more personalized form of charity,” Zhang said. “Forage will allow the user who wants to be a part of something greater than themselves actually see and sympathize with those who they are donating to.”

Currently, they are on the lookout for a local nonprofit to partner with. Their plan is to donate a portion of the proceeds from their site to whomever they choose as a way of giving back to the community that so actively helps to keep their project running.

Zhang and Mezrahi are hoping to find a nonprofit that is their philanthropic counterpart whose main focus is providing clothes to the less fortunate — something like Planet Aid, but smaller so that they could see the tangible impact of their efforts.

Though the project is still in the beginning stages, as it has only been up and running for about a month, Forage’s short-term progress has been tremendous. The team is currently gathering inventory that they frequently upload to their website, and they have gone to various sororities advertising the website with donation boxes for each house.

“Reaching out to the Greek community has been a great help in getting our name out there,” Mezrahi said. “We want the Forage community to grow and span across campus.”

For students who are interested, there are many ways to get involved. For starters, sort through that closet for an underappreciated dress, or those too-small shorts that you forgot to return in time. Forage depends on students’ donations and participation. The site will be having on campus donation centers set up every few weeks so that students can bring their clothes as well as pick up new pieces for their wardrobes.

For more information on Forage, view their inventory and find instructions to donate clothes to the project, visit their website,