Entrepreneur focus: Anna Bance
PUBLISHED: 11:41 18 November 2014 | UPDATED: 11:41 18 November 2014
The St Albans co-founder of online luxury clothing rental destination Girl Meets Dress describes her journey from fashion magazines to 'collaborative consumption' guru
Describe your background Originally I’m from St Albans and moved to London to complete a fashion degree at The London College of Fashion. I then worked at InStyle magazine, The Telegraph magazine, Harpers Bazaar, and then joined Hermes as UK PR Manager where I stayed for three years before launching girlmeetsdress.com
What is Girl Meets Dress? It’s a disruptive e-commerce business with a mission to democratise luxury – believing that everybody deserves a ‘Cinderella experience’. We 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 their special occasions. The idea of collaborative consumption is now making a big impact around the world, whether it is somewhere to stay, such as Airbnb or transport, like Whipcar – and now designer clothing.
How did the idea of the business come about? The story began in 2009 when I was working as UK PR manager for French luxury brand Hermes. Like my previous roles in the fashion industry, it involved lending dresses and accessories out on a daily basis to fashion magazines, shoots, celebrities and journalists. I thought ‘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 Xavier 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.
What occasions do you cater for? Almost every occasion, from black tie events to birthday parties, prom to graduation, a day at the races to New Year’s Eve! We even have a maternity section and a wedding boutique where you can rent bridesmaid dresses and bridal gowns. We are growing at over 100 per cent and our customer demographic is very varied and exciting.
What was the biggest challenge when starting up? Ensuring we have 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. Becoming knowledgeable in so many different areas is challenging but it definitely helps to have two co-founders with complimentary skill sets.
What advice would you give any aspiring entrepreneurs? Although not 100 per cent necessary, 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?
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, then you can launch with minimal cost and test the product at market – which is the first step to seeing if there is demand. And 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!