Introducing HandMeDowne

20 March 2024

Introducing HandMeDowne – a pupil-led initiative to improve the School’s sustainability with a second-hand uniform business which gives back to the Downe House community.

The entrepreneur

This project is the brainchild of Isabella in the Lower Sixth (Year 12) who has been working on the idea since Summer 2023. Isabella wanted to provide an option for the Downe House community to recycle their old uniform and to enable DH families to purchase cheaper and more sustainable second-hand uniform.

Isabella: “Not only does making use of second-hand clothing have a fantastic impact on your pocket and on strengthening the community, but it also plays an essential role in sustaining our precious environment and protecting our natural resources. A win-win situation for everyone!”

The initial idea

The initial idea for the project was inspired by Isabella’s choice to study Business as one of her A Level subjects combined with her own personal experience.

Isabella: “As I went through the School, there were various points where I grew out of my uniform quickly. My mum had no alternative to buying a new uniform at full price, as there was no second-hand shop facility. I decided to set up HandMeDowne to make a difference at School and also as a business venture to accompany my A Level in Business Studies.”

The process

The process started with Isabella collecting excess uniform from each of the boarding houses – boxes and boxes worth! Then the hard work began of cleaning, de-staining, ironing and unpicking name labels.

Isabella notes that: “There is a quality control process in which we choose the uniform to sell and make sure it is in the best condition possible. If they are not of the best quality, they will not be sold.”

The shop

The next challenge that needed tackling was where to display and sell the uniform. For this, Isabella created a branded website for the business and dedicated time to photographing and cataloguing the inventory.

The Marketing Team have been offering support to Isabella through the site’s development and have been consistently impressed by Isabella’s professionalism and work ethic.

In line with the sustainable ethos of the business, HandMeDowne will not contribute to emissions with shipping. Instead, the purchased uniform will be able for in-person collection by pupils through the year or by parents on exeat weekends.

You can explore the HandMeDowne shop here.

The proceeds

At the heart of this project is the Downe House community. HandMeDowne was founded by Isabella and her supportive family with the intention of helping other parents search for specific clothing items at reduced prices. As such, it felt fitting that the proceeds from every purchase should be returned to our community, with all profits going to the Downe House Foundation.

Ms Litvack, Development Director for the School, had this to say: “Downe House is so proud of Isabella’s initiative and delighted that we have a sustainable, second hand option for your uniform. All profits are going to the Downe House Foundation, our charitable trust, supporting bursaries, restoration and campus development projects. Thank you so much in advance for your purchases and supporting this wonderful project!”

Click here to discover more about the work of the Downe House Foundation.

The future

In the spirit of pupil entrepreneurship, the business will remain student-led once Isabella graduates from Downe House in 2025. She is keen for any pupil in the Upper Fifth (Year 11) or above to take the reins, gaining valuable business experience and continuing to provide a worthwhile service to the whole Downe House community.

If anyone in the DH community would like to donate uniform to the shop or has any queries, they are able to contact Isabella via email:

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