For most of us, Facebook has become a place to browse memes, stalk exes and educate ourselves on the most recent plight of the Kardashians.
There is, however, a select group of people who have managed to use the social platform for more industrious purposes.
Back when Facebook Buy and Sell groups weren’t a thing (and status updates were), 23-year-old Alex Osmond launched Her Wardrobe.
In just two and a half years, Alex has managed to take the dress rental business from a Facebook page to a fully-fledged business, including a Melbourne showroom and growing clientele. Her Wardrobe is now responsible for dressing 50 to 100 women per month.
It’s a pretty amazing feat, considering Alex was one of the first to take clothing rental online. We wanted to know a little more about her success, so we sat down with Alex to get some insight.
How did the idea for Her Wardrobe come about?
The year after I graduated from high school, I enrolled in a Fashion Business Course at the Melbourne School of Fashion in Fitzroy. During our final term, we were required to write a business plan for our 'dream business' and mine was a dress rental store. My Mum, who suggested I should be charging my friends every time they borrowed one of my dresses, sparked the idea.
I had a fairly expansive wardrobe that included a lot of designer dresses I had only ever worn once or twice. Renting seemed like the perfect solution to the age-old problem of a 'closet full of clothes and nothing to wear'.
How long was it between conception and the launch?
It was 2009 when I first wrote my business plan. Some five years later, after a couple of years of full-time work in fashion retail (and one failed attempt in the business world), I launched Her Wardrobe.
What steps were involved in getting it off the ground?
In 2014, I registered a new business name, uploaded 20 of my own designer dresses on Facebook and Her Wardrobe was born. For the first couple of months, I took orders manually via email and managed them in an excel spreadsheet. Then, with the help of a friend, I launched a simple Shopify store that would allow customers to place their orders online, and receive all the confirmation and tracking emails you would expect from an e-commerce store.
For weeks, I cold called designers in the hope of scoring a wholesale agreement so that I could offer customers more styles and sizes than what I had in my own personal collection. Aurelio Costarella was the first designer to say yes. I remember jumping for joy when he did (literally)!
How do you source the clothing?
We have wholesale relationships with some of the best Aussie labels. This allows us to offer a variety of styles each season and also a full size range in most of our dresses, so that anyone from a size 6 to a size 14 can rent a dress.
What's been the most challenging part about running a business?
Growth from year two to three. In my first year of business, I spent a lot of time experimenting and anything I did was low risk. Now, with anywhere between 50 to 100 orders going out each week, a lot of hours are spent packing boxes, managing stock and meeting customers face-to-face for fittings, leaving little time to spend on prepping the business for the next phase of growth.
What’s been the best part?
I love the Spring Racing season! Her Wardrobe was the first rental store to offer designer millinery for hire and give women the opportunity to rent their entire race day outfit (sans the shoes). Being located so close to Flemington, I get to spend a lot of time with passionate race-goers who really enjoy putting together a beautiful outfit for each day of the carnival.
What have you learnt about business?
It is really, really hard. And unless you’re in the thick of it, it's extremely difficult to describe to anyone else what it feels like to be on the clock 24/7. You're constantly worrying about whether that dress has arrived on time, whether you have bought enough stock, whether you’re going to have enough money in the bank account at the end of the month. It becomes all-consuming.
But it's also incredibly rewarding and for every low, there is another high to remind you that it's all worth it!
What advice would you give to others wanting to launch fashion business?
Write a business plan. It doesn’t have to be perfect (or 100 pages long), but it’s a great way to flesh out your dream on paper and begin exploring whether your idea is viable in a business sense. There are lots of great templates online and you can just choose to complete the sections that are appropriate for your business.
Secondly, read or listen. There are so many fantastic business books available, that won't only shower you with pearls of wisdom but keep you motivated and remind you why the dream is worth pursuing.
If reading isn’t your thing, events like Run the World by the League of Extraordinary Women or 9 to Thrive by Business Chicks will showcase some of the very best business operators and their tips for success.