Dell Entrepreneur Spotlight Series: Anna Bance

Sarah Shields speaks to Anna Bance about co-founding the luxury clothing rental startup Girl Meets Dress.

Anna Bance credits her background in public relations for helping her promote and market Girl Meets Dress. Credit: Anna Bance

When is the right time to leave your secure job and gamble on a business idea that might not work? There isn’t one, according to Anna Bance, co-founder of the innovative ecommerce business Girl Meets Dress.

“What’s the worst that can happen?” she asks. “You’ll go back to your previous role until you come up with the next idea!”

 

Thankfully, Bance was onto a winner, seeing the economic recession as the ideal opportunity to launch her fashion solution, which aims to democratize luxury clothing.

From funding to building publicity for the business, Bance has relished the challenges posed by raising a business that started from her kitchen table.

I caught up with Bance to find out what other entrepreneurs can learn from her success story.

How was Girl Meets Dress born?

The Girl Meets Dress story began in 2009 when I was working as the U.K. public relations manager for French luxury brand, Hermes. The job involved lending out a collection of dresses and accessories on a daily basis to fashion magazines, shoots, celebrities and journalists.

It dawned on me that it would be amazing if we could all borrow dresses for just one event and wear a different designer for every event in our calendar. And when my co-founder, Xavier, looked into the market, we realized no one else was doing this.

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.

How does it work?

Renting a dress is like any other online shopping experience. Shoppers simply select their dress, event date, and length of hire, and then we will deliver to wherever they want.

All our customers have to do is have fun and send the dress back once they’re done — we even take care of the dry cleaning. We refund for anything unsuitable, and returns are free and very easy.

What was most daunting about quitting your steady job to launch a startup?

I knew it was just a matter of time before I started my own business; it was 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.

What was the toughest challenge you overcame in the early stages?

When we started, ensuring we had 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 and different skill sets.

What top PR tips would you give a startup?

When launching a new company, one of the most important and impactful skills to have is the ability to promote and market the product and brand to get that all-important traffic through the doors. PR for us was a huge element in growing the awareness of Girl Meets Dress, so I couldn’t have wished for a more suitable previous career.

We decided to launch at the perfect time — during the recession — which allowed us to provide a timely and innovative fashion solution during the economic crash. We found luxury rental was a concept that women really responded to.

As a new startup, you need to first confirm demand for your product. The early days are all about testing. 

How are you using technology to support business growth?

With my table and phone I’m portable, as is our staff, which is very important with a growing e-commerce company. As with anyone running their own business, no two days are the same. Some days I am popping in and out, going to meetings with designers, a marketing partner or a supplier, or interviewing a potential new GMD team member.

Some weeks are very hectic, particularly if I am speaking at an all-day ecommerce event or attending fashion week, so I need to have portable technology readily available so I can manage everything.

And last but not least, which dress is your personal favorite?

My current favourites are Alice + Olivia and Rachel Zoe for versatile party dresses to wear in the day, and then straight out at night.

Follow @AnnaBance_GMD and @girlmeetsdresson Twitter, and be sure to check out the Facebook page.

Sarah Shields

Sarah Shields

Dell Contributor at Tech Page One
Sarah Shields is the executive director responsible for direct and channel sales for Dell in the UK and Ireland for Dell's consumer and small business organizations.
Sarah Shields
Tags: Business,Entrepreneurship