How one international student created a business with a difference during lockdown

Layana Franco founded Swap-A-Porter

Master of Business Information Systems student Layana Franco joined a panel of speakers at the State Library Victoria’s Future Founders Festival.

“A purpose brought me here and it keeps me here.”

In July, one of our postgraduate business students presented at The Future Founders Festival, held online by the State Library of Victoria.

Hosted by State Library Victoria’s StartSpace, The free and online festival gives international students and budding entrepreneurs a platform to learn, gain confidence and have fun with their entrepreneurial ideas.

Meet Layana Franco

Founder and CEO of Swap-a-Porter (SAP), Layana Franco holds a degree in fashion and is currently pursuing a Master in Business Information Systems at Torrens University. She is an international student from Brazil passionate about living meaningfully and sustainably.

Layana presented at the Future Founders Festival in a segment called ‘Five Minutes: Five Founders.’

The segment followed five founders of startup companies as they each gave ‘lightning talks’ of their story, their business, and any tips they could share with future business owners.

It was a delight listening to Layana share her passion for eco-fashion and how her studies at Torrens University spurred her exciting and creative venture, Swap-a-Porter (SAP).

"For one assignment, we had to study a problem we cared about and I chose ‘fashion for consumption,” says Layana.

“I fell in love with the problem, or solving it, and this obsession turned into my first business venture, called Swap-a-porter."

During her 5 minutes, Franco shared a staggering figure that every 10 minutes, 6 tonnes of clothing go to landfills in Australia.

Swap-a-Porter is a business that helps people maintain a fresh style whilst saving money and the environment. In a world where people rapidly dispose of clothes, this second-hand fashion swap was the solution to Layana’s problem.

Having attended fashion swap events in the past, Layana identified a way to turn them digital, allowing people to swap anytime, anywhere.

Passionate team at Torrens University

Having just started her studies at Torrens University, Layana has been impressed by the support from teachers and success coaches and suite of online tools available.

“The main reason I have chosen Torrens University to carry on my studies is positive feedback on the institution tuition from good friends who are alumni. Furthermore, its location in the heart of the CBD makes it convenient to commute either from work or home as we come back to face-to-face classes,” Layana says.

“The Torrens University team works passionately to keep us motivated and achieve our career goals.”

Sandra Smith, Learning Facilitator in Foundations of Information in the Master of Business Information Systems has been teaching Layana and celebrates the work she has done.

“Layana has an enthusiastic and open approach to all aspects of learning. She is curious with her peers to challenge ideas and develop a global understanding of how our world operates. Her passion for a more sustainable approach to consumption has encouraged all of us in class to consider the choices we make every day.”

Sandra explains that her class explores the structure and influences of information systems – from social media to large enterprise systems in complex organisations.

“Layana has demonstrated a creative approach to help think through how these systems can support a more sustainable approach in the future. Her social media branding has at its heart an important message about how to make sustainability important, practical, and fun.”

Commitment and resilience pay off

It did not come easy though.

Layana, like many other international students, bared the brunt of Victoria's lockdowns last year. She lost her job, her income and was unable to go to classes.

Having no money or IT skills to set up Swap-a-Porter, Layana turned to Instagram.

During the lockdown, Layana took that time to plan and launch the SAP program through Instagram and within 6 months Swap-a-Porter:

  • gained 1000+ followers
  • hosted four virtual swap events
  • swapped 91 items out of 283 items received

Layana estimates that by swapping second-hand clothes rather than buying new ones, in environmental terms, she has saved the amount of water used in six years' worth of showers or 3 return flights from Melbourne to Sydney for one person!

Through all the struggles of last year, Layana continued to pursue her dream.

In the final moments of her presentation, Layana shared one of her favourite quotes:

“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” – The Alchemist.

Though there have been challenges and obstacles, against overwhelming odds, Layana continues to work toward launching the SAP App.

“This is something I want to see through and see where it is going to take me.”

As an off shoot for her work, through the SAP launch and networking, Layana has been considered for a position as a Content & Support Coordinator.

Her commitment and resilience to this project has allowed for more opportunities where Layana can share her creative, hardworking spirit.

“Don’t let other people’s assumptions and bias on your ideas affect what you do,” Layana shared as she reflected on past mistakes.

“Learning by doing is key, it’s better than study. Just do what you want to do.”

Congratulations on your successes Layana, we cannot wait to hear what you do next!

Check out the Swap-a-Porter website and follow them on Instagram

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