It never ceases to amaze us how many times a month, a week, or a day busy girls everywhere will look inside their closets and think, “I have NOTHING to wear!” Mind you, their closets are full of luscious lacy dresses and dripping with juicy jewels, but nothing will suffice.
Although you may have already heard of this website, you might not have fully grasped its problem solving potential. Interviewher.com is proud to better acquaint you with RenttheRunway.com, allow us to also introduce you to the masterminds behind its birth: Jennifer Hyman (Jenn) & Jennifer Fleiss (Jenny).
The Meeting of Jenn & Jenny
“We met at Harvard Business school, where over frequent girls nights, we became friends. We both have very similar personalities, both outgoing, creative thinkers with an interest in entrepreneurship and fashion,” explains Jennifer Fleiss who received her MBA from Harvard, as did Jennifer Hyman.
The Birth of a Fabulous Idea
“The idea originally started when my co-founder Jennifer Hyman was home during Thanksgiving break and her sister had a “closet full of clothes but nothing to wear moment.” We started RTR so that women everywhere can have the rotating closet they’ve always dreamed of and access to designer brands that otherwise would have been unattainable,” shares Jennifer Fleiss. Now, these two entrepreneurs get to do what they want day in and day out.
Some Excellent Business Savvy
“Our advice would be to not hesitate in taking risks and testing out a concept that you are passionate about. So many people think about great ideas but don’t move forward in executing them. Our backgrounds are in finance and marketing. As much as we love clothes, we needed a pro with fashion industry experience, so we hired a buyer to head up our fashion team. We also hired key marketing roles and brought on an external tech team to start building the website,” the girls also share how they raised $16.7 million in funding from both Bain Capital Ventures and Highland Capital. This is what set their company a float.
More For Less
When asked how the girls are able to rent their items for such affordable prices and still make profit, they replied: “We have two venture capitalists – Bain Capital Ventures and Highland Capital – who invested in the company early on. That allowed us to buy very deep into all of our styles and buy a full size range of each style to accommodate all customers. We also buy our inventory at wholesale prices directly from the designers.”
“When you log on to www.RenttheRunway.com and pick a dress you love. We currently have 140 designers to choose from! You select the dates you need it (you can reserve it for 4 or 8-day periods). We ship it to you in two sizes to ensure the perfect fit. You can also add a backup style for just $25. Once you’re done wearing the dress, you send it back to us in pre-paid postage in any blue mailbox and we handle the dry cleaning! If you damage the dress while you have it, don’t worry! We understand that some wear and tear may be inevitable and beyond your control. Our dry cleaner can take care of most minor damage, and only $5 insurance charge on each dress rental will cover these types of situations.”
Rent to Buy
“We buy our inventory directly from the designers at wholesale. The quantity of the buy depends on the particular style and how popular we anticipate it being. In some styles we have hundreds of units. Many of our styles are dresses that are actually on the spring and fall runways during fashion week. If a RTR member falls in love with one of our styles they can purchase the dress directly from the retailer. We also have occasional sales on our site with retired merchandise so keep checking back!”
“There was a healthy dose of skepticism when we were initially approaching designers about retail cannibalization. But we were committed to building a business that introduces the next generation of women to designer brands. We have found that 90 percent of women who use RTR rent a brand they never owned before, and 80 percent report purchasing something from the brand they rented from. RTR is a true gateway to retail.”
Then and Now
“When we were first starting RTR we met with many people in the fashion industry – from designers to retailers – to get their thoughts on the concept. Their feedback was always incredibly helpful and allowed us to continually adjust our business plans. It is great to have confidence in your idea but you need to be open to opinions, if everyone rejects your idea you reassess. We launched RTR in November of 2009 and now have 51 employees. We plan to grow the company exponentially so that renting clothing is part of women’s everyday lives.”
It Just Takes Two
“Going into business with a close friend and business school classmate has been great. We already knew each other’s strengths, and our backgrounds brought different skills to our team therefore we were able to jump right into testing our concept. Having a partner allows you to bounce ideas off of someone else. We started testing our concept together (prior to even having the website) by taking several dresses to the Harvard campus to see if girls would rent them. When we saw the first girl try on her dress and twirl around in the mirror, we knew we had something successful.”
There’s No “I” in Team
“Our team at RTR is one of my biggest motivators. Being surrounded by such an amazing hard working team that share the same goals as we do has been a dream come true.”
One Million Strong
“We’re about to reach one million members, so that will be a very proud moment for the RTR team as everyone has worked incredibly hard to reach this milestone.”
Written and edited by: Bridgette Larcada
RENT THE RUNWAY