February 22, 2024

Think if TikTok and Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) had a baby. That’s how Raleigh entrepreneur Meka Knepley describes ReUp, the social shopping app she’s funneled $1 million into so far – and counting.  
Knepley is originally from Birmingham, Alabama, but identifies as a North Carolinian through and through, having spent most of her life in Winston-Salem. Moving to Raleigh was a decision she attributes to her husband, Pete Knepley, a principal programmer at Epic Games in Cary credited as one of the creators of Fortnite Battle Royale.
Meka Knepley, like her husband, has a gaming background, having studied simulation and game design at William Peace University. The pair met at a gaming conference, and had a six-month whirlwind courtship. As Knepley remembers it, her then-boyfriend wanted her to move to Raleigh.
“I can’t move to Raleigh until I get married,” she said.
So get married they did – and soon Knepley would become part of the Triangle entrepreneurship ecosystem, bootstrapping her startup with $1 million of her own money.
But it was hardly a straight line.
From gaming to coding
Knepley went to school for game design, even made a VR game through startup For Loop Games before deciding she might want to broaden her expertise. She found gaming “very finicky,” and went back to school, attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for full stack web development. That’s when it clicked. She realized that she was a coder – and began to look at everyday activities, such as Instagram (Nasdaq: META), as opportunities.
The idea for ReUp came from Instagram. Knepley liked to shop. She would see an influencer modeling a handbag and had to have it – “but I had to dig.”
“Why do I have to dig to find a product?” she said.
She loved the idea of Instagram, following influencers, watching their testimonials. But the line between the customer and the actual product could get complex.
“I like building things, so I said, ‘well, let me prove the concept,’” she said.
Knepley didn’t go into the idea cold. She went to popup shops. She started meeting sellers, asking them about platforms they used and how it was going. She found they were struggling – and saw a need, one she could fill by coding.
Knepley put up a landing page to gauge interest and within a month had 400 vendor signups. She spent about a year coding and building out the actual product.
Finding qualified developers capable of developing such a robust system was a challenge.
If TikTok and Amazon had a baby
“Think if TikTok and Amazon had a baby and it’s catered to you,” she explained. “Once you start looking at the feed, you start seeing clips. We call them commercial clips … You’ll start seeing more that you like, what you want to see.”
You look for shoes, you’ll see more shoes. The platform has a live shopping feature, too. It’s complex AI technology that she and her 5-person team built deliberately, by having conversations with vendors all along the way – part of her obsession over one of the number one entrepreneurship challenges, product-market fit.
Knepley runs things by her husband, but he isn’t directly involved in the company.
The buying platform launched this month. The plan is to raise a seed round later this year to augment the $1 million of her own money she’s already spent on the firm.
Knepley said the entrepreneurship process has been exhilarating.
“I’m nervous at the same time,” she said.
She calls the concept “social live shopping.” ReUp allows shoppers to join the app and shop brands that support community, as many are created by local entrepreneurs. The initial focus is on beauty, personal care, lifestyle, fashion, personal grooming and relaxation.
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