Anna Bance shares with TheNextWomen her top tips for a successful start-up, drawing on her experiences of co-founding GirlMeetsDress.com, a disruptive eCommerce business which provides millions of women the ability to rent designer dresses and accessories for a fraction of the retail price.
Back in 2009, my co-founder Xavier de Lecaros Aquise and I started Girl Meets Dress with a clear vision in mind: to provide millions of women the ability to rent designer dresses and accessories for a fraction of the retail price, allowing them to look and feel beautiful for all of their special occasions. We are now growing and have exciting plans ahead.
I knew it was just a matter of time before I started my own business. It was something I had always wanted to do when the right idea came along. Launching a business is always going to have an element of risk, but I believed in the idea, my co-founder and the market potential.
There will never be a perfect time to leave your secure job, risk your salary decrease or take a chance on an idea which might not work. When launching a start-up, I recommend choosing an area that you know something about.
There are exciting ways to pioneer every market, whichever field you love. Of course, you can learn about any new topic, but will you be able to compete with people with years of knowledge and expertise?
The very first steps in setting up the business are very simply putting a basic website live and confirming demand for your product. Once you know the market potential exists and customers are excited, you can build on that and expand further. The early days are all about testing. The trend for fast fashion phenomenon over the past few years has been fueled by trend-led low cost retailers and celebrities, so we have ended up consuming at such a rapid rate that women now buy four times as much clothing as they did thirty years ago, and the average woman now has twenty two garments in her wardrobe that she has never worn.
One of the most important and impactful skills to have is the ability to promote and market the product and brand to get that all-important traffic through the doors.
PR for us was a huge element in growing the awareness of Girl Meets Dress, so I couldn’t have wished for a more suitable previous career (I was UK PR Manager for Hermes).
Also, find a co-founder with different skill sets to you. This is a brilliant way to launch without needing to hire a full team on day one.
If you can split the main areas of the business between you, you can then launch with minimal cost and test the product at market, which is the first step to seeing if there is demand.
When we started, ensuring we had a full team in place while bootstrapping was no easy feat. We were lucky to find so many hardworking and ambitious staff to stick with us and the vision. Fulfillment and logistics is an area which has to evolve and improve all the time as the company grows and orders increase. New processes and staff roles have to adapt to demand for the product to maintain efficiency.
Retail and consumer habits are changing significantly, both in terms of expectations and in terms of value. The growth in rental is testament to that change. Rental is a way for consumers to extract all the value without none of the headaches; women can now easily wear more relevant, trend led, time-sensitive fashions, while continuing to invest and buy only in those classic pieces which will stand the test of time. Celebrities have always been borrowing dresses for special events, and now that everyone is a mini-celebrity in their own world, all women can have access to this luxury.
There is no doubt that launching when we did was perfect timing for the concept, and it enabled us to provide a timely and innovative fashion solution during the recession. We have built on this, and now Girl Meets Dress has the potential to be huge.
When creating your start-up don’t overthink it – what’s the worst that can happen? You’ll go back to your previous role until you come up with the next idea!
Anna Bance is the co-founder of eCommerce business GirlMeetsDress.com, the designer dress hire destination allowing all women access to their dream wardrobe. Anna has spent the last ten years working in the fashion industry and it was whilst she was in her previous role as PR Manager for luxury brand Hermes that she had her eureka moment. Her job involved lending the collection of dresses out on a daily basis to fashion magazines, shoots and celebrities, so she thought to herself, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could all borrow dresses for just one event, and wear a different designer for every event in our calendar? And so GirlMeetsDress.com was born.