Next time you have a black-tie event and think that wearing a red-carpet worthy dress is unattainable, look forlornly at your bank account no more. Lisa Delorme, CEO and co-founder of Rent Frock Repeat saw this problem that plagued many women, rolled up her sleeves and did something about it. Her company, that allows women to rent designer gowns for special events for just a fraction of the cost, was at the eve of the ‘sharing-culture’ that we see has been highly popularized now by companies like Air-BNB, and Uber… you may have heard of them…
It would be easy to be overwhelmed by the vast selection of glamorous dresses on hand, if it wasn’t for their unbelievable service. The stylists on the floor really take the time to uncover their guests’ needs, from paying close attention to the event they are shopping for, to any insecurities that just the right sparkly frock could assist in hiding. The Stylist on the showroom floor during my visit, Abby, seemed to whisk customers away with her knowledge of the inventory on hand, paired with the truthful feedback on every gown that the women in the store were trying . The worst feeling is shopping for something is knowing that the associate is lying to get the sale. It seemed that the staff at RFR are instead focused on creating strong relationships with the women that shop, and diminishing any opportunities of ‘renters-remorse’ of the ladies who visited Rent Frock Repeat’s Roncesvailles location.
How do you create a team that loves their customers and the company that they work for? I would say its the sweet perks like attending Fashion week and heartfelt surprises that Lisa gives her staff. I noticed this letter on their instagram a couple days after my visit at their open concept lofty space.
Good vibes all around. Happy clientele stems from happy employees and Lisa has seemed to have learned and honed that secret.
We got a chance in our interview to learn from Lisa herself, some of the secrets and lessons she took on that allowed her to take her company from just a dream, to a company that is helping women around the country feel beautiful.
My name is Lisa Delorme and I’m Co-Founder and CEO of rentfrockrepeat.com where we have a mission of helping women look forward to all of life’s special events. When an invitation to a wedding, black tie gala, birthday party or high school reunion arrives at her door, we want her to look forward to the process of getting ready for it and not trying to figure out how she can wear something beautiful without maxing out her credit card or stuffing her closet with a dress she will most likely wear once or twice.
I’m proud that we are offering a service that makes sense for everyone, the designers (not having to water down their quality to make it cheaper), the RfR member (great price for a fabulous designer dress and a chance to wear something other than an LBD) and for our company – we get to employ great people, reduce our collective fashion footprint and run a successful business. I’m most proud of the fact that my business partner, Kristy, and I, decided to stop talking about opening a business and actually did it. It is all about starting.
I’m most proud of the fact that my business partner, Kristy, and I, decided to stop talking about opening a business and actually did it. It is all about starting.
Tell me a little about what you are doing now?
I’m working on expanding the business out West. Although we ship across Canada and women take advantage of our Skype and phone consultations, many want the opportunity to work with a stylist and try on some of our great frocks so now that we have our Toronto and Ottawa showrooms open, we are heading west to Calgary.
What inspired you to start RfR?
Kristy and I were invited to a wedding and dreaded spending money on another dress that might only see the light of day once. Although we are happy to wear a dress a second time, sometimes the dresses are too small/big, might not be right for the occasion or the weather (a strapless yellow chiffon number might not be perfect for New Year’s Eve in Canada). So when the wedding invitation arrived, we wanted to put an end to this vicious circle. We opened Rent frock Repeat for ourselves really and realized other women would appreciate this new way of dressing as much as we did.
How did you get started?
We drew on our 15 years of business experience but also picked up “How to Start a Business for Dummies” and wrote our to do list of what needed to get done. Then we assigned each “to do” with a completion date and just kept doing until the list was done.
What inspired you to start on this journey?
Personally, I hit a mid-life awakening. Although I had a great job, I was restless and couldn’t imagine devoting the next 20-25 years to the same old thing. I like challenges and I knew opening up a company would be a challenge. I also wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.
What keeps you going?
That I know what I am doing is a privilege. Although there are rough days, it is a pretty spectacular opportunity. I learn something new each and every day, I meet super interesting people and have had so many experiences I would have never imagined prior to opening Rent frock Repeat. I get to work with my best friend and we get to build our own team, set our own vision and well, come on – we get to NYC a few times a year to pick out amazing frocks. How can I not keep going?
How do you stay motivated?
On my worst day, I think about my worst day in my previous roles and they don’t even compare. We also have members that now rely on us to provide this great service and employees that count on us to continue to give them a great place to work. I also made promises to our investors. They believed in us so I owe it to them to do my best. I also take a day every once in a while to binge on chocolate and Netflix. A good dose of the Mindy Project or 30 Rock while eating Mini Eggs is great medicine for what ails you.
What makes you different from the rest? What is one key factor of your business that makes you stand out successfully?
We really look at everything from an RfR member’s perspective. Even if a process would make our lives easier, if it doesn’t enhance the customer experience then we don’t do it. We also treat women like we want to be treated. Shopping for a great dress for a special event is actually pretty stressful for some women. We have so much pressure to look amazing all the time and somehow we are expected to have unlimited budgets and Gisele Bundchen’s body to boot. Who needs that kind of pressure? Women know when they walk in the showroom that we aren’t there to judge. As a matter of fact, we understand their pain and have experienced the same anxiety. Most women leave saying “I actually hate dress shopping and this was actually fun.”
What are 3 things that someone who wants to be an entrepreneur and start their own business (especially such an innovative concept like yours) should keep at top of mind:
1. You don’t have to have a background or experience in business but if you don’t, be prepared to put in the extra hours. Even if you are a programmer and can whip up an ecommerce site like it’s nobody’s business, you still need to know about Human Resources, Marketing, Finance etc. (especially if you don’t have the money to hire people for those positions or you don’t have 4 other partners each with an area of expertise).
2. No one knows all the answers so don’t stop yourself from getting started because you don’t know it all. Just get started…
3. Ask yourself why you want to open your own company and then try and figure out if opening your own company will actually let you attain that goal.
What were you doing before you started this?
I was working at a for profit education company out of the US and was a VP in their admissions (sales) department for a number of years but was in Talent Management just before I left developing an Executive Development Program. I learned the most in my two years in that position. It was all about growing leaders which is very helpful as we grow our RfR team.
Tell us a point in your life when you didn’t ever think you would make it.
Every second month since we started RfR. To be honest, starting and growing a company is challenging and just when we think it might end something amazing happens and we get to keep growing. Even largely successful companies know they can’t rely on what they did last month or last year. Having said that, it shouldn’t stop you from having fun and remember, failure just means you gave it a try. As the saying goes, “I’d rather try and fail than to never try at all.”
Who told you no?
The list is too long. We were told by numerous people this wouldn’t work. The real question should be “should you listen to people who say no?” A great man once said, “obstacles are there to see how much you really want it.”
Did you always have a dream to become what you are now?
Nope, so if you are 20 and think you should know what you want to be for the rest of your life, stop worrying about it. I didn’t know I would be doing this until I turned 40. I also think I will be doing something completely different 20 years from now and I’m excited to see what that will be. Hopefully it involves surfing or living in some exotic land.
What was your yes supply moment?
One time that sticks in my head is when we went on Dragon’s Den and after 6 months of due diligence they decided not to go through with the deal we made on air. I picked up Kristy, we went out for lunch, had a good cry and then said OK, looks like it is time for a new plan (but we agreed that we would take 24 hours and load up on Mini Eggs and Netflix and then come up with our plan). Fast forward 3 years and we ended up with more money from investors and had to give up much less of the company. Sometimes getting a no s the best thing that can happen to you.
Did this spark some questions about becoming a CEO? Let us know in the comments.