April 22, 2021

USD Students and Hult Prize Global Finalists Create App to Transform Fashion Industry and Simplify Thrifting Experience

Three University of South Dakota students have found a way to help make fashion more sustainable and second-hand shopping more accessible through their app and website, Fomeno. 

Fomeno, set to launch this summer, was created by Brigit Blote, Payton Ryz and Ashlynn Atwood to simplify and personalize the online thrifting and second-hand shopping experience. By allowing thrifters to shop all second-hand online thrift shops in one place, the team hopes thrifting and second-hand clothing becomes as attractive and convenient as traditional retail.

“I want Fomeno to be the first place people go to look for clothes,” said Blote, a junior majoring in sustainability and innovation and entrepreneurship and Fomeno’s CEO. “Thrifting is the most sustainable way to purchase clothing. The most sustainable way to shop is to not shop at all, unless you’re buying clothes that already exist. We want people to know that the clothes they buy matter, so let’s make sure that purchases are ethical and doing good. Fomeno is a way for people to do that.”

“Having a positive impact on the environment is what it’s really all about,” added Atwood, ’20 B.S., Fomeno’s chief of design.

Fomeno started as an idea between friends, but it quickly developed into a business idea. They submitted their idea and business plan in the 2020 Hult Prize Campus Competition at USD. The Hult Prize, known as the “Nobel Prize for Students,” is a worldwide competition in which university students create solutions to global issues such as food security, water access, energy and education. 

“When we heard that the prompt was to create a sustainable enterprise that could impact millions of people, we knew our idea could fit so perfectly within that,” Atwood said.

After winning the USD Hult Prize, they advanced to the regional competition in Boston and won first place, qualifying them to represent the nation in the World Hult Prize Accelerator. 

The team was set to travel to the UK in December of 2020 and compete for the $1 million prize, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization divided the prize among the global finalists. Fomeno was a top recipient, securing the team $100,000 in seed capital to start their business.

They also won first place and a $2,000 prize from the USD Beacom School of Business Invent-to-Innovate (i2i) Business Model Competition.

“Our advice is to pursue what you’re really passionate about, find it and drive for it,” said Ryz, a junior majoring in medical biology and Fomeno’s chief of communications.

“Believe in yourself. That’s all you need.”

“The strength of the coyote is in the pack,” added Blote. “We had a great team going into the competition.”