StyleBank is an online fashion rental service offering women the opportunity to rent trendy clothes from around the world instead of buying them.
Founders – Bhavna Suresh, 27, and Aina Barker, 31, (co-founder)
Launch Date – February 2016
Country – Bangalore, India.
Success Story – Has crossed over 1,000 transactions within four months of launching in February.
Tell us more about StyleBank (Bhavna’s response)
StyleBank’s vision is to be an extended wardrobe that enables users to consume by renting and not buying because the world is heading to being consumption focused, and not ownership driven.
StyleBank allows the user to rent fashion at 10 to 15% of the maximum retail price and offers handpicked pieces from across the world, which can be delivered to the doorstep in four hours. Customers keep the outfit for 48 hours and we then send someone to pick it up.
There’s no worry about cleaning the garment because we work with the best dry cleaners in town to ensure each garment is 100% hygienic.
How Did You Discover Your Venture
My co-founder, Aina, and I spend our salaries at stores the minute a sale is announced. We were victims to the High Street shopping addiction, and realised we were spending too much of our hard earned money on clothes.
We wanted to back pack around the world, and invest smartly to do all the things we enjoyed doing, but dressing and looking our best made us feel good and confident.
We wanted to find a solution, hence StyleBank as an idea was born. We wanted to consume fashion, look and feel great, but we wanted to do it smartly.
Between the both of us we had the skill sets to establish the venture, and envision it’s growth – I have an MBA from HEC Paris business school and Aina has a strong background in fashion and lifestyle brands in India.
We worked on the idea for five months before raising money from angel investors and registering our company in August 2015.
What were you doing before starting StyleBank
I have six years of work experience in business development, operations and sales strategy across different sectors but, since StyleBank happened to me during my early days at business school, midway through the MBA at HEC Paris, I had decided I wanted to take the leap, and went ahead with launching the venture.
What sort of support have you received for your business
We raised a round of angel funding to launch the business. This was at idealisation stage but we had already worked on business pitch decks, financials and projections for five months before we closed the round of funding. As first time entrepreneurs, we needed to work a lot harder and focus on the right measurement triggers for a viable business foundation.
We have been making revenue from day one, so we can stay bootstrapped for a few months. We’ve been contacted by investors, and have reached out to a few who we believe will be strong partners for this venture.
We are looking at partnering with investors who understand and believe in the collaborative economy, and understand that the future is in a consumption based venture like StyleBank.
The Challenges Faced While Building Your Business In India
Renting is a blossoming concept in India and getting a woman to accept a new form of consumption and trying it is a challenge – one that we enjoy dealing with. Once the user has used our service, she understands the need we are fulfilling and returns to become an evangelist.
We have a 35% to 45% return rate, which is a very positive reflection, and we would continue to push to do what it takes for this level of customer satisfaction.
The more time we spend in the eco-system, the more we realise how male-dominated the start-up environments is. We pitch to middle aged, male investors who do not seem to have a need for this service and it makes it difficult to get them to connect with the concept.
A B2C business is always a difficult one to crack in a developing market like India. Our customer acquisition costs are high, and customer loyalty is low. The most effective solution we have found is to build our venture with customer satisfaction and experience being the primary focus.
We are growing at 30% to 40% on a monthly basis but with a very strong foundation. I strongly believe this will be what defines our success story.
Why The Attraction To Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship is a journey with highs and lows – There are good days and bad. Being a first time entrepreneur, most of these experiences are new and the fear of the unknown is always overwhelming, but I have learnt to enjoy it.
We know that the highs are really high, and good enough to make up for most of the lows so we enjoy every small high, and celebrate it. We are learning each day, and learning to deal with doubt and the unknown is one of the most significant lessons you learn as an entrepreneur.
Failing is not a fear I have anymore, I am teaching myself to try different things, and pick myself up after every failure to move on, try something different, and succeed.
Starting up is the fastest and best process to learn. You learn quick and in the most efficient way. You learn to do multiple things at once, and the room for error shrinks with each passing day.
I’ve chosen to continue learning – it’s what attracts me about being an entrepreneur.
The Future Of StyleBank
We have concrete plans drawn out for this year. We know our audience, and what they need. By December 2016, we will be the dominant players across Bangalore, and will be significant contributors to two or three other cities.
Five years from now we will be catering to both women and men, as well as focusing on all their fashion needs including personal styling and recommendations.
We know renting is going to be the primary medium of fashion consumption 10 years from now, and we will be significant players across India.