Every month, we catch up with one of London’s brilliant startup founders. This week we chatted with Anna Bance, the co-founder of Girl Meets Dress, an e-commerce website where you can rent dresses and other designer wear.
Q: How did you come up with your business idea?
The Girl Meets Dress story began in 2009 when I was working as UK PR Manager for French luxury brand Hermes – and like my previous roles in the fashion industry, it involved lending the collection of dresses and accessories out on a daily basis to fashion magazines, shoots, celebrities and journalists… I thought to myself “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?”. When my co-founder and I looked into the market we saw that no one was doing it. We were the first company to rent luxury fashion online and it is wonderful that Girl Meets Dress is now pioneering the way for rental as a new and exciting e-commerce category of its own. I am really happy with the fact that we’ve created a fantastic product for all women to have their Cinderella moment. We all need to feel amazing for life’s special moments and Girl Meets Dress democratizes fashion, enabling millions of women to afford luxury every day.
Q: What have been your biggest challenges so far as an entrepreneur?
Self funding the business: When we started, ensuring we have a full team in place while bootstrapping was no easy feat. We were lucky to find so many hard working and ambitious staff to stick with us and the vision. Becoming knowledgeable in so many different areas is challenging but it definitely helps to have 2 co-founders with complimentary and different skill sets. When launching we found that many women wanted to try on dresses before their big night out which lead us to create the extremely popular service called the “Advance Try On”. If a customer’s event is over 1 month away they can receive and try on the dresses ahead of time to choose their favourite. That dress is then re-delivered for the event date free of charge. For Girl Meets Dress to work we also needed to get PR through the door: When launching a new company, 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 (as UK PR Manager for Hermes).
Q: On the other hand, what have been your biggest accomplishments?
Becoming the first company in the UK to rent luxury fashion: When we looked into the market, we saw that no one was doing it. We wanted to create a concept that enabled us to provide a timely and innovative fashion solution during the recession which is why we turned to rental. We think it created a new way for women to shop: Girl Meets Dress is a fun concept and hopefully I have answered women’s prayers by giving them a new way to shop – a fun and affordable way to wear the best dresses in the world. 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.
Furthermore, having the largest selection of dresses and accessories from 200 designers from over 50 countries: Girl Meets Dress is very attractive to designers because many women will typically only have tried a few high end designer brands in their lifetime, if any. With rental, designer labels get to be introduced to potential customers on a regular basis. 98% of our customers try a new brand they have never worn previously in their life. That is a huge marketing opportunity for designers trying to reach new customers + the next generation on a mass scale.
Q: What are your thoughts on the future of women in technology?
The beauty of business is that any woman with a passion for making things happen can be an entrepreneur. There are no rules and launching online means you can test the concept while keeping costs very low, and stay in your current job if you need to until you are ready to commit fully. Women should just go for it. Don’t over think it. There will never be a perfect time to leave your secure job, risk your salary decrease, take a chance on an idea which might not work – but what’s the worst that can happen? You’ll go back to your previous role until you come up with the next idea!