Do not enter an industry where you have no experience. I believe that it is because Jenny and I didn’t have experience in the fashion industry that we’ve been able to rethink some fundamental assumptions about the way it works and create an entirely new category of rental. Coming from outside the industry gives you a certain degree of naivety that enables you to blindly reach for the stars. A few months after we had the idea for Rent the Runway, we were introduced to Andrew Rosen. At the time, we had little idea who he was, how Mr. Rosen almost single handedly has transformed contemporary fashion and how many brands he directs. Had we known this, we might have been too scared to take the meeting or pitch him our idea. Naivety led to a better meeting where Andrew gave us the idea for our stylist team who could educate our younger customers on what to wear to every occasion.
Write a business plan. This one is the stupidest of them all. There is no reason to write a business plan – EVER! Strategizing for months is a complete waste of time and will likely give competitors ample time to start whatever you thought was such a genius idea and beat you to the punch. The better strategy is to just go for it, make mistakes, analyze quickly and make the appropriate changes. You can learn a lot more from buying dresses at retail, running trunk shows on college campuses and testing whether women will rent dresses (they did!) than by ‘brainstorming’ or ‘market sizing’. Professors at Harvard Business School call this the minimum viable product approach. I just call it smart and way more fun.
You’ll find the best talent when you hire a recruiter and look beyond your own network. When I
look at the amazing team at Rent the Runway, I am absolutely amazed by how many of our very best people came through connections (albeit, some of them quite loose). For example, we met our Vice President of Brand Marketing Lara Crystal through a woman who I had interned with the summer before at McKinsey. People from your broader network are often pre-vetted and may exhibit more passion for your concept because they also feel a deeper connection to you personally. If you’re starting a business, start first with people you trust. You’re going to spending a huge amount of time with your team so select people who speak the same language as you (figuratively, but I guess literally too!).