DoHow to....Style

How to…become an ecommerce mogul

Anna Bance GMD

Wouldn’t it be great if your best friend had the most amazing wardrobe of the hottest designer dresses and you had free-range access to her wardrobe? That’s the thinking behind leading luxury designer rental destination Girl Meets Dress. Clever, eh? We asked co-founder, ecommerce mogul-in-the-making Anna Bance, to tell us more…

Anna started out on the other side of the industry as a fashion assistant. Many moons ago, my first job was at InStyle (where Alex and I met). During the time I spent there, a lot of chic fashion assistants whisked through the glass doors. Anna was one of them – but, my goodness, she has come a long way since then.

[To hire a dress via Girl Meets Dress, simply head here: you can shop by occasion, try on up to three dresses (there’s free next day delivery) and they’ll do the dry cleaning for you.]

How does Girl Meets Dress work?

Girl Meets Dress allows you to hire designer dresses at a fraction of their retail price. We can lend you over 4,000 designer pieces from over 150 designer brands. We will deliver the dress to you – at your home, at your office, wherever you want it – and all you have to do is have fun in it and send it back to us when you’re done. It’s like we’re your new best friend with the massive designer wardrobe who is cool enough to let you borrow whatever you want!

What’s your CV history?

After completing my degree at The London College of Fashion, I worked at InStyle magazine, The Telegraph magazine, Harpers Bazaar, and then joined Hermes as UK PR Manager where I stayed for 3 years before launching Girl Meets Dress.

What inspired you to set up Girls Meets Dress?

The Girl Meets Dress story began in 2009 when I was 29 and working as UK PR Manager for French Luxury brand Hermes – and like my previous roles in the fashion industry, it involved lending the collection of dresses and accessories out on a daily basis to fashion magazines, shoots, celebrities and journalists…I thought to myself “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 ecommerce category of its own.

anna bance lifestyle

What made you think the time was right?

I knew it was just a matter of time before I started my own business.  Something I had always wanted to do when the right idea came along. Launching a business is always going to have an element of risk, but I believed in the idea, my co-founder and the market potential. There is no doubt that launching when we did was perfect timing for the concept and it enabled us to provide a timely and innovative fashion solution during the recession.

How did you research the sector – establishing that there was a market for your idea?

The trend for fast fashion phenomenon over the past few years has been fuelled by mass market retailers’ abilities to manufacture and retail in very short time cycles. Similarly celebrities are promoting ever more products at every opportunity; so much so that consumers have ended up buying at such a rapid rate that women now buy four times as much clothing as 30 years ago and the average woman has 22 garments in her wardrobe that she has never worn. Designer dress rental is the evolution from this and it means that by spending the same…a woman can always be on trend AND in a different dress for every event. This is the perfect retail cocktail for the customer which the fashion industry has been unable to provide until now.

What were your first steps in terms of setting up the business? How did you fund it?

Very simply putting a basic website live and confirming demand for your product. Once you know the market potential excists and customers are excited, you can build on that and expand further. The early days are all about testing. We have 100% bootstrapped the company, self funding until the summer of 2013 when we raised our first round of investment funding.

What have been your biggest successes? 

The biggest ones are yet to come I hope and 2014 has a lot of potential for exciting news for the business! I am really happy with the fact that we’ve created a fantastic product for all women to have their cinderella moment. We all need to feel amazing for life’s special moments and Girl Meets Dress democratizes fashion, enabling millions of women to afford luxury every day.

And have you experienced any setbacks?

When we started, 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 2 co-founders with complimentary and different skill sets. Fulfilment and logistics is an area which has to evolve and improve all the time as the company grows and orders increase. New processes and staff roles have to adapt to demand for the product to maintain efficiency.

If you did it again, would you do anything differently?

I would have delegated certain areas sooner in the early days. There are many things as a founder you get used to doing yourself, or think you can do it best. But it is important to trust, and let go.

Anna headshot

How many people are on the team now?

We’re a fantastic team of 10 –  the wonderful thing about an ecommerce  company is the exciting variety of team member with extremely different skills/backgrounds, all working together each day to make our customers happy. Our customer service team is currently the largest section. We also have Marketing, PR, Graphics, Buying, IT, Social media, Content etc. We are growing fast!

What are your plans for the next year/3 years?

Without giving anything away, Girl Meets Dress is proving the potential to be huge! We have ambitious and exciting plans for the year ahead. We want to continue to grow the collection of stock, the team, and to innovate within the wider Fashion space. We will continue our leadership of this emerging space and be in a position to wow our customers in every way possible and to forge a brand and quality of service which women will wonder how they managed without, giving women access to the biggest closet in the world!

What are your top 3 tips for women who have an entrepreneurial yearning and want to set up their own business?  

1. Although not 100% 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.

2. 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 1. 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.

3. 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!

Thank you, Anna! Completely inspiring.

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