Trendly: From Private Equity to Reselling Dresses

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Less than two years ago, I was working as an associate in a large cap Private Equity fund. Fast forward and I am now an EC at HBS founding a startup to collect women’s fashionable clothes and resell them online. Here is the story of how I plan to change my life, and that of others. It all started in February this year when we studied the Rent the Runway case in the TEM class. For the first time, I was really fascinated by a case (I even read the exhibits …)! Listening to the two co-founders opened my eyes. I realized that a new way of consuming clothing is emerging, which will transform forever how we dress. We buy way too many clothes and wear only a fraction of what we own. That day was my Aha moment. I found a purpose and decided to enable the change, not wait for it.

But it is hard to switch from the Matrix to the real world. Entrepreneurship is to finance what ballet dancing is to American football. My operational knowledge went only as far as my excel models and I realized I needed a transition. I needed to test myself in a startup environment. I was talking the talk, but could I walk the walk?

My path to redemption started this summer at Rent the Runway. I worked in business development alongside co-founder Jenny Fleiss. For the first time of my life, I was doing something real, something palatable, picking up the phone and trying to convince firms to partner, generating revenues, not creating expenses. Of course it was quite destabilizing at times, discovering a new world, sometimes learning a new language (A capsule collection, are we in space? A cowl-neck , isn’t that just a sweater?). Overall I learnt a ton there about ecommerce, fashion and collaborative consumption and decided to double down.

When the internship ended in August, I eventually made the move from joiner to founder. I crossed the chasm, the point of no return. Since then, I focused on building Trendly, an online retailer for women’s preowned fashion. We buy your fashionable clothes from mid/high end brands and resell them online. It’s like Net-a-Porter but with preowned items. You wonder how it works? We send you a prepaid bag; you fill it with your quality clothes and send back to us for free; we propose you a quote and buy the accepted items; we send the rest back to you or to charities, we authenticate, dry clean and repackage all clothes and sell them on our trendy website, where you can shop great brands at mini prices!

There are amazing resources at HBS for building startups. Trendly got into the Rock Accelerator, which provides $5K funding and some very helpful mentors. This program has been really useful, especially as a solo founder, to share and learn from others. I dedicated the first semester to customer development and lean-driven MVP tests. It was precious to discuss with tens of potential customers and hear their needs and suggestions. Recently, we started learning by doing . There are now four Trendly buyers seeking to purchase items and reselling them through existing online channels. Although the business is mostly in the UK, we do a lot of testing in the Boston area, mostly out of necessity. While it is not ideal to work from overseas, the methodologies and the learnings should hopefully be recyclable on both sides of the Atlantic.

On December 8th , Trendly is organizing a Fashion Closet Sale in Boston. We hope you can join (! Each of the 100 participants will bring some nice clothes and everyone can sell and buy from each other. So if you go home for Thanksgiving, don’t forget to bring back some quality items!!
Of course it is still early to know how everything will play out. But the one thing I learnt at HBS is that the biggest risk is not to risk! So I am all-in. I don’t know where it leads, but I know it will be fun.

Stay tuned. Trendly Yours