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Rent the Runway CEO On Lessons Learned Building A Closet In The Cloud

‘Through listening, I learned that while [designers] were fearful of rental they were also fearful of fast fashion,’ says Jennifer Hyman, the CEO and co-founder of the New York-based company.

Eleven years ago, Jennifer Hyman discovered her younger sister had been purchasing and collecting dresses from New York City department stores that she had only worn once.

“So I had come up with this concept with my sister: what if the closet were a living thing? What if it could adapt to you as your life changed,” said Hyman, who spoke recently at The Channel Company’s Women of The Channel Leadership Summit East 2019 conference.

That concept, clothing rental startup Rent the Runway, has taken off as it’s been disrupting the $2 trillion fashion industry with its focus on building a closet in the cloud.

As the idea evolved, Hyman faced industry backlash when she first introduced the concept of clothing rental.

“Through listening, I learned that while [designers] were fearful of rental they were also fearful of fast fashion,” said Hyman, the CEO and co-founder of the New York-based company. Understanding that, “I was able to convince some of the designers that we were going to open up the total addressable market for their product to a new audience.”

Hyman also shared some of the challenges she’s encountered building a company that targets female consumers.

“Even though the industry claims to be data driven that data tends to come from singular sources as it relates to female driven businesses, [such as] the venture capitalist wife or their daughter, and unfortunately, the billionaire wife of a venture capitalist is not my core customer,” said Hyman. “So I had to preempt with a lot of the investors the fact that I was targeting the 99 percent of women who cannot afford to fill their closet with hundreds of thousand dollar per item pieces of apparel.”

Watch CRNtv to learn more from Hyman, this year’s WOTC East closing keynote speaker.

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