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Chic Interview: Jenny Fleiss, co-owner of Rent the Runway

4.24.11

Jenny Fleiss, co-owner of Rent the Runways tells us how she got her start!

What is your startup story? Where were you living what were you doing for work, etc?

I met Jenn (Co-founder, Jennifer Hyman) at Harvard Business School, where over frequent girls nights, we became friends. During a trip home to New York City, Jenn watched her sister Becky struggle with a ‘closet full of clothes but nothing to wear’ moment. Becky had an upcoming wedding and wanted something gorgeous but her modest salary meant that everything high-end was out of reach. What if, Jenn thought, the "Beckys" of this world could have access to their dream closet – a new dress for every occasion? It seems that Facebook has killed many wardrobes as you wear a fabulous outfit once and there are pictures of it up for all to see…meaning you can’t wear it again to the next function. 

Cut to: Cambridge, Massachusetts, several days later. Jenn told me about Becky’s dilemma, and, this being business school, we started creating a company. Many business plans later along with formative meetings with top designers and retailers, Rent the Runway was born in New York City a few months after we graduated from business school. 

 
 
Thinking back to your launch – was it what you expected?
It was so much bigger and greater than what we expected! We were featured on the front of the business section of the New York Times, which lead to 60,000 initial memberships. We had to start a waiting list until we were able to sign on enough brands so that we wouldn’t constantly run out of product. It was a great problem to have. 

 
 
Now that you've gotten your business off the ground, what do you wish you would've known before you got started?
What a success it would be – maybe would have bought more inventory too. I also wish I would have come to the table with more technical ability. Our web development is a huge part of our business and having had those skills myself would have been very useful!

 
 
What advice can you give to other Chic CEO's to help them on their entrepreneurial journey?
Go for it if you haven’t made the jump! It’s been a dream come true for us. I would also suggest that you network and meet with as many people as you can – you never know what will come from it. Listen to your customers; happy customers are the most important part! 
 
 
To learn more about Rent the Runway, visit www.renttherunway.com
 
 
 
 

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