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Why did you start Her Wardrobe?
I originally had the idea when I was studying fashion business in 2008. Five years later I decided to actually give it a go so I started by advertising my personal collection of dresses and making them available for other girls to rent, just on Facebook. Then I had the Her Wardrobe website up and started to purchase stock wholesale from designers and sort of phased out my own dresses and started bringing in new collections every season.
How did you get that first designer on board?
It was very tricky. designers are a bit hesitant to come on board with rental stores because they fear that it might jeopardise the relationship they have with traditional retailers. In fact, it encourages women to become loyal to particular labels and once they experience a great designer dress they fall in love with the quality. Once I explained that and my passion, I managed to get Aurelio Costarella to come on board, and then it was easier then to get the next few.
How does it work? Do they send you a range of dresses in different sizes?
So just like any store, each season I’m invited to go and look at the collection in the flesh and order from it. I’ve just started placing orders for Spring/Summer 2016, for stock that won’t arrive until September this year. I started out by ordering a few different styles and sizes then as time has gone by I’ve expanded the size range from six to 14 offering a lot of different sort of styles and colours.
How did you fund it in the beginning?
The biggest things that I had to spend money on was the stock and the web development and I took a loan from my parents to do that. It’s a really expensive business to run so I buy stock every season and for minimum orders you’re looking at anywhere between $5000 and $10,000 for each label.
And I guess it’s not an immediate return is it?
Exactly so where a normal store gets that money back as soon as they’ve made one sale, it takes me on average renting a dress three to five times before I start to make money back on that item.
Where do you keep all the stock?
I started off in my spare bedroom then moved into a shared warehouse space in Melbourne and I’ve set it up as a bit of a showroom. That’s where I pack all the orders but I’ve also got a change room and another lounge area where girls can come in and try dresses on.
How do you compete with some of the other online rental stores?
When I started there were maybe five in Australia. Now my competitor spreadsheet is up to 46 rental stores across Australia. The positive is that for every rental store that’s out there they’re spreading the message that dress rental is an option. But it is a small market and to have that growth in competitors means I have to keep on top of my game and constantly be growing. I’ve learnt over the year and a half of doing this what rents well and what doesn’t. I’ve also got wholesale agreements with some really great designers whereas a lot of the rental stores are buying dresses just like off the rack at full price.
What would you say your biggest challenge is?
I feel like I’m in my terrible twos. I’ve proven that the concept works, but I’ve got to push now to get the range of stock so that I can attract a broader audience. If I’ve only got three size 12 dresses available I’m not really servicing the size 12 market. I’m at the stage now where I have to seriously start thinking about external investment, and how I’m going to fund rapid growth.
What’s your best advice is for other aspiring entrepreneurs?
Starting isn’t the hardest part. I think you need to be prepared for the fact that it’s tough and there’s times where you really feel like you’ve got nothing left to keep going. It can be hard at times to maintain the same level of enthusiasm and motivation you have when you start a business. It’s about really pushing and having the constant motivation to keep the dream alive. Always go back to your why, and always surround yourself with people that can offer advice and resources to help stay focused and motivated.
What keeps you going?
I am very passionate about financial intelligence among women and using my business as a vehicle to really promote those learnings. I created a video to show how much money I’d spent on dresses, and hopefully someone sees it and decides to stop spending all their money on clothes. If I had that $20,000 I spent on clothes in a rainy day fund I’d be in a much better position than I’m in now.
I’d really like to introduce some overseas labels and also some other Australian labels that I’ve had my eye on for a long time. I’ve got the showroom here in Melbourne and I’d like to open more in other states.
Every day, KBB’s Dannie Doughan chats with an entrepreneur and features their story on our website. If your business wants a ‘Date with Dannie’, email us a quick bit about your biz!
All pics: Supplied.