Rent The Runway:将T台时装租回家,打造梦幻衣柜,无限期租用,按月支付费用。

[Runway]{T台时装}: a platform along which models walk in a fashion show

Logo

Jennifer HymanJennifer Fleiss,两位女士想要拥有最新款式的时装却支付不起高昂的价格,决定通过Rent The Runway的方式将其实现。

Rent The Runway,美国如今最受欢迎的时尚公司之一,成长速度令人惊叹,年收入上亿,有着1200多名员工。虽然它的核心产品是名牌服装,你会惊奇地发现仅有10名员工在其时尚部门工作,其他大部分员工都在技术部门工作,它本质上是一家科技公司。 顾客可以在网上或者APP租用时装。相较时装昂贵的价格,顾客只需要支付一小部分金额,然后就可以穿的美美的渡过一个愉快的夜晚,第二天整休后再将衣服邮寄回。

Business Model: Access Economy –提供商品或服务的暂时租赁取代永久售卖。同样商业模式的企业有Zipcar, Netflix, Airbnb。

Forbes:Jennifer

1. Junior analyst for the Hotel Company Starwood

附: Transcript(点击展开)
  • Enter Your Dream Closet. – Rent clothing and accessories for a date on your calendar.
  • Experience a Rotating Closet. – Unlimited rentals for work, weekends and beyond. One monthly price.

the famous fashion designer how two women wanted high-fashion couldn’t afford the price tag, decided to make it possible to rent the runway

one of hottest fashion companies in the US, growing like crazy it’s doing more than 100 million dollars a year Revenue it hires 1200 employees given that it’s core product is designer dresses you might be surprised to discover as i was, there just ten of it’s employees work in the fashion department most of the rest they work for technology company because that’s actually what rent the runway is. the way works is you go online go to the app and you rent the dress (might caused thousands of dollars to buy) you only pay a small fraction of that and you look fabulous for one night mail it back

The access economy is a business model where goods and services are traded on the basis of access rather than ownership: it refers to renting things temporarily rather than selling them permanently.

core founder Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss came up this idea when they were met at Harvard Business School in 2008 [ after she watched her sister overspend on a new dress rather than wear an old one to a party.]

2008年Jennifer Hyman和Jennifer Fleiss在哈佛商学院构想出这个创业项目。 challenges sexism harassment

graduates college Jenn Hyman job Junior analyst for the hotel company Starwood about a year 22 [specious we had enter the experience economy–Pine and Gilmore argue that businesses must orchestrate memorable events for their customers, and that memory itself becomes the product — the “experience”.] People were getting married later and starting to value experience like travel over owning things I had an idea to launch the first honeymoon registry in the world 22 years old passion about this idea I emailed the president of the Starwood I paged him on this idea to start a wedding business at Starwood where the corner will be the first honeymoon registry

keep quiet? one of the experiences that really impacted me was I had a female boss 35/36 I would often raise my hands in the meeting, speaking, make a point. grab me after meeting one day feedback important for your career you really need to shut up girl it would be much more becoming if you act sweet in conversations too confident, too bold, and it’s coming across the wrong way crying overflow a more senior man saw me credit this guy for my entire career he took me aside (I didn’t know office politics at that time) Jenn, you keep doing what you’re doing, because that women’s gonna be working for you one day
map out how this would happen? I start to work on it spent next 3 years working on it fun experience a) work on something that I loved and passionate about b)be part of the process of creation

why leave? I always thought that I would go to business school I thought the track was you work for 4 years(in college) go to business school I was at Starwood for 3+ years, I applied to business school

why business school? I have always had big dreams for my career Sara Blakely appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2006 amazing business/ also like a real person You had to make a choice between having an incredible career as women or having a family. I always wanted them both. a chance to think those things through think where do I want to spend my time? What am I most passionate about?

Jennifer Fleiss How did you guys meet? really funny story my sister Becky prior to me going to business school put a post note on my pillow one night with Jennifer Fleiss made a name on it which is Jenny “card” and she said that you had to meet this girl when you go to business school because a friend of hers knew Jenny “card” and my response to Becky at the time was you know I’ll meet her if I meet her. needless to say, Jenny was one of the first people I’ve met at business school because we were placed in the same section because her name had been on a post note for me I was like “Oh my god, you’ll never believe this, my sister told me we need to be friends” really fast friend the rest is history

at what point did you say let’s do business when we leave this place? 我们在大学第二年的九月一起过生日。十一月我回家过感恩节,在Becky的公寓里看到Becky刚去商店买的一件衣服 higher cost her rent, as her responsible elder sister, I was remarking how she should probably wear one of the dresses in her closet again as suppose to be in credit card debt. Her response to me was you know everything in my closet is dead to me, I’ve been photograph it the photographs are on Facebook and I need something new. Becky仅仅只是一个住在纽约的普通女孩,并不是名人。而她正在谈论不能穿着同一件衣服照相。 It was a light table moment for me, cause I realized I was having a conversation with my sister about the experience of wearing an amazing dress of walking into a party feeling self-confidence feeling beautiful that’s what’s she cared about
she didn’t care about the actual ownership of the items in her closet the other things she care about was the photograph would exist after party that she could post on Facebook and kind of share with everyone she knew how awesome she felt/ how confidence she felt in that way. This idea happened on Saturday night, I go back to school on Monday have launch with Jenny we were talking about our weekend Oh, I had this idea like what if we rent dresses? She responded it, Oh, it sounds fun let’s work on this idea together who do you think we should call to figure out if it’s a good idea? I said we should call Diane Von Furstenberg the famous fashion designer
Jenny: Do you know Diane Von Furstenberg? I: Obviously I don’t know Diane Von Furstenberg, but we could probably figure out her email address. Jenny and I wrote an email that afternoon to many different versions of Diane Von Furstenberg’s email address and we basically said Hey we are two women at Harvard Business School. we have an idea. We’d love to come and talk to you about it. And this is where we are luck, place to the situation. Because she or someone from her office open that email. She respond it I’ll see you tomorrow at 5pm. We drove down to New York that next day Put down DVF dresses, and walked into her office and introduced ourselves cofounders rent the runway.
You had the name at that point? Yeah, we did everything very quickly. didn’t really have a structural idea iterating the idea by picturing it initial idea what if we could rent the dresses that she is selling on her website what if we powered the rental for her on DVF.com And when we chat with her, she was not “” the idea of renting cloth general, and thought that it would canibalize her retail sells, delute her brand she was ready to end the meeting with us after a few minutes I started asking her questions what she dislike about this idea? She scared about and by the end of what was almost an hour and half conversation we learned that a lot of her customers were in 50s/60s and that if we were to build business that could make her relevant to put her products into the hands of women in their 20s/30s/40s that might be interesting to her and she might want to work with us. was she warm? nervous? funny story at that first meeting I always learned when you in the first meeting scheduled the second meeting
when we in the first meeting we scheduled a conversation for a few weeks later with her fast forward few weeks We driving to the meeting and we get a call while we were in the car from her assistant. we are at Westside highway we are about forty blocks from her office. and her assistant called and says Diane no longer wants to see you and I said you know well we were on our way we were just coming to say hi. And her assistant like No She really doesn’t want to see you. She’s not interested in this idea I said OH Yeah We are just around the corner we are just drop by for a second. and again her assistant very firmly said She doesn’t want to you what do you not understand? I said OH…we are cutting off, we are cutting off. I hang up then I speed down the WestSide Highway and we were at her office we just showed up crash? cry a little bit upset about the situation much more natural reaction I was like, we were just gonna do this, what we have to lose what’s worst thing in the world we show up she doesn’t meet us? great then we have a story we can tell all of our friends Second meeting Diane agree to meet with them and giving them pretty good advice I don’t want you do this on my website you’re gonna have to sell this idea to other designers and get lots of people on board if I’ve gonna do this too. she give us permission to make it consumer facing business to approach the rest of the industry It sounds like she rewrote her business plan right there introduced us to one or two people in the industry we then would meet with those people so on and so forth but we continue to just called call people, so one of the next people we called call was the President of Neiman Marcus. HBS alumnus access his email address “Yeah, this is a really good idea, women had been renting the runway for my stores for decades. It’s called buying something, keeping tags on it and return it to the store.” Which probably cost them millions of dollars. dirty secret of retail

Jenn and her business partner built a web site where women could rent designer dresses for a fraction of the retail price. As the company grew, they dealt with problems that many female entrepreneurs face, including patronizing investors and sexual harassment. Despite these challenges, Rent The Runway now rents dresses to nearly six million women and has an annual revenue of $100 million. PLUS in our postscript “How You Built That,” how Dustin Hogard and his business partner designed a survival belt that’s full of tiny gadgets and thin enough to wear every day.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

JENN HYMAN: I said, you know, we should really call Diane von Furstenberg, the famous fashion designer. Fast-forward a few weeks, and we’re driving to the second meeting. And her assistant calls and says, Diane no longer wants to see you. She’s not interested in this idea. And I said, oh, yeah, we’re just around the corner, like, we’ll - we’ll just drop by for a second. And again, her assistant, very firmly, said, she doesn’t want to see you. What do you not understand? And I said, we’re cutting off - we’re cutting off. And I hung up. And then I sped down the West Side Highway, and we were at her office. And we just showed up.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GUY RAZ, HOST:

From NPR, it’s HOW I BUILT THIS - a show about innovators, entrepreneurs, idealists and the stories behind the movements they built. I’m Guy Raz, and on today’s show - how two women who wanted high fashion but couldn’t afford the price tag decided to make it possible to rent the runway.

So Rent the Runway is now one of the hottest fashion companies in the U.S. It’s growing like crazy. It’s doing more than a hundred million dollars a year in revenue. And it has something like twelve hundred employees. But given that its core product is designer dresses, you might be surprised to discover, as I was, that just ten of its employees work in the fashion department. Most of the rest, well, they work for a technology company because that’s actually what Rent the Runway is.

Now the way it works is you go online or you go to the app and, well, you rent a dress - a dress that might cost thousands of dollars to buy, except you only pay a small fraction of that, and you get to look fabulous for one night. And then in the morning, after you’ve recovered, you mail it back. It’s kind of like Zipcar meets Netflix meets Zappos - if that makes any sense.

Anyway the co-founders, Jenn Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss, came up with the idea when they met in business school. And, as you will hear, The path to building their company was fraught with all kinds of challenges - among them, rampant sexism and even harassment. Jenn Hyman has only recently been opening up about that. But her story begins just after she graduates college and gets a job working as a junior analyst for the hotel company, Starwood.

HYMAN: About a year into my time at Starwood, when I was 22, I had this thesis that we had entered the experience economy, and people were getting married later and starting to value experiences, like travel, over owning things. And so I had an idea at the time to launch the first honeymoon registry in the world, where couples could register for their honeymoons, and their friends and family could contribute by, you know, paying for scuba diving or paying for a massage or hotel night, as opposed to buying them pots and pans.

So, as a 22 year old, I was really passionate about this idea. I emailed the president of Starwood and I pitched him on this idea to start a wedding business at Starwood, where the cornerstone of it would be with the first honeymoon registry.

RAZ: Just stop for a sec. First of all, you’re 22. I mean, that’s - that’s incredibly precocious. But was there anybody around you who was like, hey, stay in your lane? Or, you know, was there anybody who was trying to tell you to keep your, you know, keep quiet?

HYMAN: Oh, yeah. Several bosses of mine were telling me to keep quiet. And one of the experiences that really impacted me was I had a female boss. And at the time, I think she was like 35 or 36 - so kind of about my age right now - and I would often raise my hand in meetings and speak and make points. And I remember her grabbing me after a meeting one day. And she said, you know, Jenn, I really want to give you some feedback. It’s really important for your career. And I said, oh, you know, I’d love to hear. What’s your feedback? And she said, you really need to shut up.

RAZ: Wow.

HYMAN: You’re a girl, and it would be much more becoming if you acted sweet in conversations because, you know, you’re too confident, you’re too bold and it’s coming across the wrong way. And, of course, I didn’t really know how to take this. I mean, I don’t even know how I would take this today, let alone as a 22-year-old. I started hysterically crying. I was in the middle of, like, an open floor plan, and a more senior man saw me.

I literally credit this guy for my entire career. He took me aside. And because I didn’t even understand office politics at the time and, like, what I should and shouldn’t say, I kind of just blurted out, oh, my God, like, this woman just told me X, Y and Z. And I repeated the entire conversation to him. And he said, you know, Jenn, you keep doing what you’re doing because that woman’s going to be working for you one day.

RAZ: Wow.

HYMAN: And he, in a sense, gave me permission to just act like myself. And who I was as a 22-year-old is the same person as who I am today. It’s the person who had a creative idea about the experience economy, and I wanted to share it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RAZ: So what did you end up doing with the idea? I mean, you pitched this to the president of Starwood.

HYMAN: Yeah, I think he thought I was so - a little bit crazy…

RAZ: Yeah.

HYMAN: …For going in and pitching to him that his response was, like - yeah, yeah, yeah. Sure, whatever. And I took that as a yes.

RAZ: Wait - he said - he didn’t say yes? He just sort of said, yeah, that’s interesting, and you went back to your desk, and you started to map out how this could happen?

HYMAN: I started to work on it. I spent the next three years working on it. And, you know, Starwood still participates in the honeymoon registry to this day - and has taken it to a whole other level since I left. But it was such a fun experience for me to - A, work on something that I loved and was passionate about, and B, be part of the process of creation.

RAZ: So you are obviously on the fast track to - like, if you were still at Starwood today, you might be running the place. I mean, you were doing this at such a young age. Why did you decide to leave after - after a couple years?

HYMAN: Well, I always thought that I would go to business school. Both my parents had gone to business school. And so I thought that the track was, you work for four years between college, and then you go to business school. So when I was at Starwood for three plus years, I applied to business school, and I got into Harvard Business School.

RAZ: So here’s a question for you about - because we’re going to get - I want to ask you about, of course, what happened at business school, which is key and critical to Rent the Runway. But, you know, the vast majority of the entrepreneurs that have been on this show did not go to business school. And you had all this incredible experience, and you were really ambitious and you were entrepreneurial already. Why did you think you needed to go to business school?

HYMAN: Well, first, I have always had big dreams for my career, but I didn’t exactly know what those dreams were. You know, Sara Blakely was a guest on your program, and she is someone who has always been an inspiration to me. I remember being a younger girl and seeing her on Oprah.

And she had this amazing business, but she also, like, seemed like a real person who cared about getting married and having kids and having friends and having a social life. And that was really important to me. I was still fearful that you had to make a choice between having an incredible career as a woman or having a family. And I’ve always wanted both.

RAZ: So, in a sense, going to business school was a chance for you to really think those things through?

HYMAN: To think it through, to get that kind of extra - potentially - stamp of approval that I thought that I needed. I had lots of opportunities that I could go into - different kinds of companies in different fields - but I really wanted the time to think about, like, where do I want to spend my time? Like, what am I most passionate about?

RAZ: Yeah. You - while you were at Harvard Business School, you met the person who would become the co-founder of Rent the Runway, Jennifer Fleiss?

HYMAN: Yes.

RAZ: How did you - how’d you guys meet?

HYMAN: So it’s a really funny story. My sister, Becky, prior to me going to business school, put a post-it note on my pillow one night with Jenny Fleiss’ maiden name on it, which was Jenny Carter. And she said that you have to meet this girl when you go to business school because a friend of a friend of hers knew Jenny Carter. And my response to Becky at the time was, you know, I’ll meet her if I meet her.

Needless to say, Jenny was one of the first people I met at Harvard Business School because we were placed in the same section. Because her name had been on a post-it note, for me, I was, like, oh, my God. You’ll never believe this. Like, my sister told me we need to be friends.

RAZ: Wow.

HYMAN: And we became really fast friends, and, you know, the rest is history.

RAZ: And at what point did you say, let’s do a business together when we leave this place?

HYMAN: So we were friends. We actually threw our birthdays together in September of that second year of business school. And in November of the second year of business school, I went home for Thanksgiving, and I was in Becky’s apartment. And Becky had just gone to a store and bought a dress that was higher cost than her rent. And as her responsible older sister, I was remarking how she should probably wear one of the dresses in her closet again, as opposed to being in credit card debt. And her response to me was, you know, everything in my closet is dead to me. I’ve been photographed in it. The photographs are up on Facebook, and I need something new. And, you know, Becky was a 25-year-old, like, normal girl who lived in New York. She wasn’t a celebrity, but she was talking about being photographed and not being able to wear something again.

And I - a light - it was a lightbulb moment for me because I realized I was having a conversation with my sister about the experience of wearing an amazing dress - of walking into a party feeling self-confident and feeling beautiful, and that’s what she cared about. And she didn’t care about the actual ownership of the items in her closet. The other thing she cared about was the photograph that would exist after the party that she could post on Facebook and kind of share with everyone she knew how awesome she felt and how confident she felt at that wedding.

So anyway, this idea happened on a Saturday night. I go back to school on Monday. I happened to have lunch that day with Jenny. We were talking about our weekends. I was like, oh, I had this idea, like, what if we rented dresses?

RAZ: Yeah.

HYMAN: And she responded, oh, this sounds fun. You know, let’s, like, work on this idea together. Who do you think we should call to figure out if it’s a good idea? And I said, you know, we should really call Diane von Furstenberg and…

RAZ: (Laughter) The, like…

HYMAN: The famous fashion designer. Jenny said, do you know Diane von Furstenberg?

RAZ: Yeah.

HYMAN: And I said, obviously I don’t know Diane von Furstenberg, but we could probably figure out her email address. You could, at this point, figure out anyone’s email address in the entire world.

RAZ: Right.

HYMAN: So Jenny and I wrote an email that afternoon to many different versions of Diane von Furstenberg’s email address. And we basically said, hey, we’re two women at Harvard Business School. We have an idea. We’d love to come in and talk to you about it. And this is where luck plays into the situation because she, or someone from her office, opened that email. She responded, I’ll see you tomorrow at 5 p.m.

RAZ: Tomorrow at 5 p.m.?

HYMAN: Yeah. And we drove down to New York that next day, put on our DVF dresses, and walked into her office and introduced ourselves as the co-founders of Rent the Runway.

RAZ: You had the name at that point? You came up with a name?

HYMAN: Yeah, we just - we did everything very quickly. Now, we didn’t really have a structured idea. So, you know, we were kind of iterating the idea by pitching it. And the initial idea actually, which, you know, we’ve never really told - the initial idea was what if we could rent the dresses that she is selling on her website? So what if we powered rental for her on dvf.com? And, you know, when we went to chat with her, she was not too thrilled about the idea of renting clothes in general, and thought that it would cannibalize her retail sales, and it would dilute her brand. And she was ready to end the meeting with us after a few minutes.

And I started asking her questions about what she disliked about the idea - what was she scared about? And by the end of what was almost a, you know, hour and a half conversation, we learned that a lot of her customers were in their 50s and 60s and that if we were to build a business that could make her relevant - to put her products into the hands of women in their teens, 20s, 30s and 40s - that that might be interesting to her, and she might want to work with us.

RAZ: So was she warm? Was she nice? Were you guys nervous? I mean, you - you’re still business school students. I mean, I can’t imagine, like, what that would feel like to walk into that room and try to, you know, keep her attention and get her excited.

HYMAN: Well, it’s a funny story. So at that first meeting, I’ve always learned, you know, when you’re in the first meeting, schedule the second meeting. So when we were in the first meeting we scheduled a conversation for a few weeks later with her. Fast-forward a few weeks, and were driving to the meeting. And we get a call while we’re in the car from her assistant. And we’re on the West Side Highway, we’re about 40 blocks from her office, and her assistant calls and says, Diane no longer wants to see you. And I said, oh, you know, well, we’re on our way. We’ll just come in and say hi.

And her assistant’s like, no, she really doesn’t want to see you. Like, she’s not interested in this idea. And I said, oh, yeah, we’re just around the corner, like, we’ll - we’ll just drop by for a second. And again, her assistant, very firmly, said, she doesn’t want to see you. What do you not understand? And I said, oh, we’re cutting off - we’re cutting off. And I hung up. And then I sped down the West Side Highway, and we were at her office, and we just showed up.

RAZ: Wait - most people in that situation would have just been, like, crushed - would have felt so dejected. Like, I know - I know I would - and would have just said, well, forget it. Forget Diane. Let’s just move on. How did you not feel that? How did you - how were you able to just say, we’re going? We’re just going to do this. We’re going to walk in there.

HYMAN: Well, Jenny initially was - actually started to cry and was a little bit upset about the situation, which I think is the…

RAZ: Like most people would.

HYMAN: Yeah, which I think is the much more natural…

RAZ: Yes.

HYMAN: …Reaction. And I was, like, we’re just going to do this. What do we have to lose? Like, what’s the worst thing in the world - we show up and she doesn’t meet us?

RAZ: What if you walked in there and they were, like, security, please escort these women out?

HYMAN: Great. Then we have a story that we could tell all of our friends.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RAZ: When we come back, what actually happened when Jenn and Jenny finally showed up at Diane von Furstenberg’s office. I’m Guy Raz, and you’re listening to HOW I BUILT THIS from NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RAZ: Hey, welcome back to HOW I BUILT THIS from NPR. I’m Guy Raz. So before the break, Jenn was talking about how she and her co-founder, Jenny, basically busted into Diane von Furstenberg’s office to have a second meeting. And amazingly, Diane agreed to meet with them. And, in fact, she wound up giving them some pretty good advice.

HYMAN: Actually that was the meeting where she told us, you know, I don’t want you to do this on my website. You are going to have to sell this idea to other designers and get lots of people on board if I’m going to do this too. So in a sense, in that meeting, she gave us permission to make a consumer-facing business and to approach the rest of the industry.

RAZ: Wow. So, I mean, it sounds like she kind of rewrote your business plan right there.

HYMAN: Yeah.

RAZ: So did you walk out of her office with, like, names or contacts? Or did you just walk out of her office saying, all right, cool? This is - this is clarifying. We now know where to head next.

HYMAN: Well, we did ask her for some introductions, and I think that she introduced us to one or two people in the industry. We then would meet with those people and we’d ask them for introductions, and so on and so forth. But we continued to just cold call people.

So one of the next people that I cold called was the president of Neiman Marcus because he was both a HBS alum - so I had access to his email address - and I thought that, you know, if this whole Rent the Runway thing falls through, like, maybe I could work for Jim Gold at Neiman Marcus.

RAZ: And what did he say?

HYMAN: He said, yeah, this is a really good idea. Women have been renting the runway from my stores for decades. It’s called buying something, keeping the tags on and then returning it to the store.

RAZ: (Laughter) Which probably costs them millions of dollars.

HYMAN: Yeah, it’s kind of the dirty secret of retail. The return rate, especially of dresses and special occasion attire, is extremely high.

RAZ: Can I just pause for a second and ask this question, which is - so I’m wearing - the outfit I’m wearing today, like, I’ve worn this in the last few days. I have no shame about it, and obviously there’s different - society has different standards for men and women - but what is this about? Like, what’s this thing where - where women feel like they can’t wear the same dress at, you know, two different functions?

HYMAN: I really think that there is a value that women place on self-expression and that clothes make you feel a certain way about yourself. You put on an amazing outfit in the morning, and it makes you feel powerful, or beautiful, or sexy, or relaxed - or however you want to feel that day. There’s just a general value in our society right now around individuality and self-expression. And so the way that you’re going to achieve that, with fashion, is via variety.

So I had seen, at the time, and it’s even more true today, that the way that women were accessing variety and individuality was through fast fashion and off-price. Because the only place that you could buy a quantity of items was at a place that was selling them for a very cheap price.

RAZ: Like Forever 21 or H&M.

HYMAN: Exactly. So I think that when you don’t have to buy something, it allows you to try new things, to constantly be playful, to experiment, to try things that are in colors or in trends or, you know, different kinds of styles that you never would purchase because they’re irrational.

So with Rent the Runway, it’s like a Willy Wonka land of fashion. You could have whatever you want whenever you want it. Let’s say you have a job interview. You have a party. You have a wedding you’re going to. You’re saying, I want it to arrive at my home on September 15, and I’m going to wear it and use it for a few days, and then I’m going to return it. And it’s about 10 percent of the retail price.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RAZ: So how did you know for sure that, you know, that women will be interested in, like, doing this? I mean, did you - did you guys do any research?

HYMAN: No, we never did research in an academic sense. We did real-life research, which was we went to Bloomingdale’s. We bought about 100 dresses, all in our own sizes so that if this whole experiment didn’t work out, we would have an awesome new wardrobe. We spent a lot of our savings on this. And we hosted a pop-up at Harvard undergrad. And we invited different groups of Harvard undergrads to the pop-up.

And the idea behind this was to learn - A, will women rent dresses? - B, what do they rent? How much will they pay? What brands do they want? And most importantly, if they do rent, what happens to these garments after they rent?

RAZ: Yeah.

HYMAN: Do they get destroyed?

RAZ: Right.

HYMAN: Can you send them through the mail? How do you dry clean these items? - and so on and so forth.

RAZ: This is, like, still, like, I mean, today this seems like an no-brainer, but this is - what, 2008? 2009?

HYMAN: This - our first pop-up was in April 2009.

RAZ: So, I mean, at that time Netflix was, like, mailing DVDs through the mail. So that was going on. I guess Zappos - you could get shoes and you could mail them back. But still, it wasn’t like what it is now. I mean, it was still new.

HYMAN: It was. And it feels both so long ago and also yesterday.

RAZ: So you got the sense right away that this - that this could work because these undergraduates - these women were like, yeah, I want to rent this?

HYMAN: I got the sense that it would work because I saw the emotional effect. So in this pop-up, I saw girls, you know, stripping down, trying on these amazing dresses and feeling beautiful.

RAZ: Yeah.

HYMAN: And you saw their facial expressions change. And they threw their shoulders back. And they tousled their hair, and they walked with a new sense of confidence. And, you know, I really thought, wow, this could be a business that isn’t just about offering her a rational or smart choice, but it also can be a business that is delivering something emotional to her, making her feel beautiful every single day.

RAZ: Jenn, a lot of founders choose to do it on their own, like, you know, like Gary Erickson from Clif Bar, or even Sara Blakely from Spanx - she owns a hundred percent of her company. But you guys went for venture capital pretty quickly - pretty early on. Why?

HYMAN: We had to raise money because we needed to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in inventory to even launch a business, or to assess whether it was a viable idea. And I don’t come from a family that has hundreds of thousands of dollars of savings, especially, you know, savings that they’re going to invest in their daughter’s crazy idea.

RAZ: And so when you were pitching venture capitalists, how much money were you looking to raise in that first round?

HYMAN: We raised $1.75 million.

RAZ: Wow. So, I mean, with that money, what could you do? I guess build a website, right?

HYMAN: You could buy initial inventory in various size runs with some depth - because we knew we needed many different designers. We needed a selection, right? You weren’t going to come and start renting if there were only five units of inventory on the site. We could hire some people. We could launch a website. That was about it.

RAZ: And take photos of the dresses and put them on the website.

HYMAN: Yeah, that’s another funny story. Until two weeks before the website launched, we didn’t realize that we would have to take photos of the inventory. We thought, of course, in this industry, there’s some centralized place that takes photos of this. How ridiculous is it that every retailer would have to photograph this inventory over and over again?

Needless to say, we figure out, like, right before the website’s meant to launch that we have no photos. And we put together an impromptu photo shoot, where we found a photographer on Craigslist, who ended up working with Rent the Runway for six years.

RAZ: Wow.

HYMAN: And we bring our own shoes and our own accessories to this photo shoot. And our, you know, initial team of five employees and many interns at the time kind of figure out how to do it.

RAZ: So once you launch, how do you get the word out? How do you get people to even know what this is?

HYMAN: Hustling.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RAZ: So what was the hustle?

HYMAN: The hustle was we wanted to build a list of as many women as possible. You know, the “Sex And The City” movie had come out that summer, and we would go to movie theaters with women who were attending that movie and we would get their email addresses. We would convince friends to send us email addresses of other friends of theirs. So, like, we were really doing anything and everything. So one of the names that was on this list that we had built at Rent the Runway had a @newyorktimes.com.

And I was like, oh, like, someone who works at the New York Times on this email address. And I looked her up and I saw that she was a 22-year-old technology reporter. I was like, oh, let’s invite her in. Maybe she could write about Rent the Runway. So we met with her, and we decided we were going to give her a story. And I thought that if Jenny and I were photographed for this article, potentially we could be on the front page of the business section.

RAZ: If there was a photo of the two of you.

HYMAN: Yes, because it was a technology reporter, and no women are ever covered in the technology section.

RAZ: Oh, wow. Yeah.

HYMAN: So I say to this reporter, oh, maybe, you know, you should - maybe you could take a photograph of us at the, quote, unquote, “warehouse,” which was a dry cleaner at the time. So we put on, like, these crazy dresses, and we showed up when the photographer showed up to the dry cleaner, and we stood on ladders and we told the photographer to take a photo of us on ladders in front of kind of the array of dresses that were on the kind of dry cleaning machine.

And because the photo was so utterly absurd, it ended up on the front page of the business section - and the headline, A1 photo on nytimes.com. So we had 100,000 people sign up for Rent the Runway off of that story.

RAZ: Wow. So you had - did you all of a sudden have people making orders?

HYMAN: Yes.

RAZ: Did you have the inventory to handle all the orders?

HYMAN: No.

RAZ: So what’d you do?

HYMAN: We raised more money. So because of hustling to get this story and the luck of ending up on the front page of The New York Times, we met our first-year sales projections in three weeks. And we had a clamoring of venture capital investors who were kind of coming into our office pitching us on Series A. So we got - we had gone from, you know, a very undesirable investment to, like, people showing up at the elevator in our building to meet with us unannounced…

RAZ: Wow.

HYMAN: …Because they wanted to pounce on the deal.

RAZ: Did you - I mean, both you and Jenny - are, you know, unfortunately still rare in the startup world in that you’re two women leading a huge company and - but at the time, when you were raising money, did you ever get the sense from venture capitalists, who presumably most - were mostly men, that - I don’t know - they were like, a little bit dismissive or condescending, or, you know - I don’t know - treated you differently?

HYMAN: Yeah, we had several different very condescending conversations - one in which a partner at a very prestigious firm took my hand into his and he said, you know, this is so adorable. You’re going to get to wear such pretty dresses. This must be so fun for you.

RAZ: How did you react?

HYMAN: We both froze a little bit. I - we were very polite and we walked out and we said, you know, thanks for the feedback. Now, of course, we never interacted with this firm or this investor again. We never pitched them on any subsequent round. We were, like, kind of good riddance to these people. So there’s an element of, you know, we had access to capital. We had choices because the business was growing, and that’s a privilege.

RAZ: I read in an article about you that one investor said something like, oh, you know, let me talk to my wife about this idea.

HYMAN: Well, that’s something that we heard all the time. That wasn’t one investor, that was most. Let me talk to my wife, my daughter or my admin. Those were the three, you know, target customers that we would hear. And let me tell you why each is problematic. No. 1, the wife of a venture capitalist is a billionaire. So the wife of a venture capitalist is not my target customer.

RAZ: (Laughter) Right.

HYMAN: The daughter of a venture capitalist, in most cases, is about 12 because most venture capitalists are - when they’re in the prime of their careers, they’re kind of 45 to 50. So, you know, their daughter’s not a great target, either. And their admin - the admins who work in the venture capital industry, because it’s such a prestigious job, are often women who are in their 50s and 60s - again, not women who were in my target demo.

So we would preempt that by showing videos and inviting these investors to some of our pop-ups, show them who the customer was so that they really got a sense for who we were catering to.

RAZ: There’s been a lot of attention recently to the bro-ish culture of venture capital and Silicon Valley, and how women are finally, you know, publicly being able to come out and talk more about their experiences. Did you experience some of that culture in this process?

HYMAN: I, through the process of building Rent the Runway, was sexually harassed by one individual. And I’m happy to share that experience. However, I will say that I’ve had interactions with dozens and dozens of venture capitalists at dozens of firms, and this was just one individual. So the far, far, far majority of my interactions have been incredibly positive. But I was in a situation once where I was kind of propositioned, sent sexual text messages.

RAZ: This is while you were trying to raise money for Rent the Runway.

HYMAN: …While I was building the company, yes - from someone in the investor community…

RAZ: …Was sending you text messages like, let’s go on a date or whatever it was.

HYMAN: …That, and things that are more explicit than that.

RAZ: Wow. Were you shocked to see - to get those?

HYMAN: I was. I thought that it was inappropriate and fairly bizarre, given that it was happening over text message. So there was evidence created. Now, there was also, you know, conversations that were happening in person that were also threatening and very bizarre.

RAZ: Yeah. Did you just ignore it? Was there anything you could have - did you feel like you couldn’t really do anything about it except just ignore it?

HYMAN: So I initially ignored it. And that was the plan. I was planning on ignoring it and, you know, decided, you know, I was going to keep it silent. And then this person decided to call one of my board members up on the phone and say, you know, Jenn never responds to me. And I think that this is a real problem, and she’s a really unresponsive CEO. And she’s probably - if she’s doing this to me, she’s probably doing this to other people. And he really challenged my behavior as a CEO.

RAZ: Wow.

HYMAN: And actually, that board member came into my office to give me feedback and say I need to be more responsive, which was - my instantaneous reaction was oh, my God. I can’t believe that this person, after being rejected by making these sexual advances, is now trying to ruin my career.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RAZ: And just a minute, how Jenn handled that very tricky situation. I’m Guy Raz, and you’re listening to HOW I BUILT THIS from NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

RAZ: Hey, welcome back to HOW I BUILT THIS from NPR. I’m Guy Raz. So in those early days of Rent the Runway, Jenn Hyman faced this situation where one of her investors was harassing her. And when she ignored his advances, he took it out on her. He actually complained about her to a member of her board. And so when that board member asked Jenn about it, she decided to be totally transparent about what was going on.

HYMAN: I showed this board member the text messages at that time and basically, you know, asked my board member how they’d like me to respond.

RAZ: What’d the board member say?

HYMAN: I mean, the board member was shocked.

RAZ: I bet.

HYMAN: And I proceeded to tell everyone else on my board, as well as some key executives who were working with me at Rent the Runway at the time. And the board was unbelievably supportive. And we decided that we were not going to do business anymore with this individual or his firm.

RAZ: Wow.

HYMAN: So there’s that form of sexual harassment. And I think that that’s a lot of what’s been getting recent media coverage.

RAZ: Yeah.

HYMAN: And hopefully, by nature of a lot of very brave women speaking out right now, that sort of sexual harassment will be stamped out of the industry. And one way that I think, over time, that it needs to be stamped out is by diversifying the sources of capital, making sure that 50 percent of investors are women. But let’s put that aside just for a second.

The second form of sexual harassment/gender discrimination is way more subtle. And it’s way more difficult to prove. But for instance, overall, I have seen male founders receive, you know, sometimes more mentorship or more chances to be successful. They get more strikes against them before their investors kind of pull the plugs. In a lot of cases, women are only given - you know, it’s a one strike or you’re out as the CEO and founder.

There are situations where - I’ve now come to understand that a lot of how deals get done and how companies, let’s say, get acquired, is someone is saying something like, oh, you should really meet this guy. He’s a visionary. He’s incredible. You should get to know him. And I think across the board, more of those comments are being made about male entrepreneurs than they are about female entrepreneurs.

We, as a society, feel uncomfortable using the words visionary or brilliant to describe women. That’s not always intentional. I think it’s just ingrained in people. I would say in a lot of different instances, people have actually genuinely been trying to be helpful to me. Like, there was a time early in my career where an investment firm, you know, said to me, oh, Jenn, you know, you should really meet these other entrepreneurs. They’re around you’re your own age. They’re brilliant. You could learn a lot from them. They’re building incredible companies. They’re going to change the world.

Now, all of those entrepreneurs were men. And they were kind of prefaced as being geniuses, brilliant, et cetera. And this same firm never introduced me in that same way to those same entrepreneurs, even though we were at similar tenure and similar stages in our company. The irony is a lot of those guys - their businesses, you know, aren’t around anymore.

RAZ: Yeah.

HYMAN: And, you know, I’m the one who’s still chugging. Now, I don’t think that they were trying to be intentionally sexist. It’s just that there’s a shade to which we all operate that puts women at a bit of a disadvantage.

RAZ: Yeah, that’s really amazing. I mean, you - it speaks to the - this, like, perception of power dynamics that’s so prevalent in the venture world.

HYMAN: I think that those power dynamics exist in so many different industries.

RAZ: Yeah.

HYMAN: And I don’t think that it’s just a Silicon Valley or technology problem. And that’s why I think that the more egregious, sending you a text message in the middle of the night asking to sleep with you sort of sexual harassment, hopefully, can be stamped out via just being more vocal about it. I think, though, that the more subtle form of harassment/discrimination, or just lack of opportunity, is actually the harder problem to solve.

It’s the more pernicious problem. It’s the reason why only 4 percent of venture capital dollars are going towards women. And, you know, very, very few investors are women. So, you know, we need to fundamentally diversify who has access to power, who has access to capital, in order to get a diversity of ideas and entrepreneurs out there.

RAZ: Yeah. And you obviously - you have had incredible success despite the challenges that you faced and that women in tech face. And as you sort of began to develop as a leader, as a CEO, how did you sort of make that transition? How did you figure out how to, you know, manage lots of people?

HYMAN: I think that it is a continuous work in progress. I had never managed people across the diversity of functions that we have at Rent the Runway. You know, Rent the Runway is primarily a technology and logistics company.

RAZ: Yeah.

HYMAN: We have 1,200 employees. 10 employees are in my fashion department. And, you know, hundreds are in my logistics department. Hundreds are in my engineering department. And these are areas in which I had had no experience. And, you know, one thing that I’ve learned is that leadership evolves over time.

First of all, being a leader of a 1,200-person company is different than being a leader of a hundred-person company. And so I have to really evolve. Even though I’ve had the same title for eight-plus years, like, there are so many things that, you know, I’ve done wrong along the way. And I think that the thing that has made me grow and develop is the recognition of failure, and the desire to improve and the desire to get better.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RAZ: I don’t want people to have the impression that this was all, you know, you just fleeted from success to success. And it was easy, and there were no low points because there have been, like with any company.

And in 2015, you got some tough press about some people who left the company. There were quotes in newspapers calling it a mean culture and things like that, from some of these employees who left. Did that - were you hurt by reading that stuff? - because some people were criticizing you, and your management style and leadership.

HYMAN: It was the most difficult experience of my life, actually. It was such a difficult time because - as a woman - there’s two things they could really call you as a woman.

RAZ: Yeah.

HYMAN: They could call you the B-word.

RAZ: Right.

HYMAN: Or they could say you’re an idiot. And I’ve never really had a - had a fear of someone calling me an idiot. But I do value myself for how I treat others. So to be called mean and to, you know, be quoted as having a “Mean Girls” culture at the company was so unsettling and sad and horrible to me because it’s the thing that’s the most important to me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HYMAN: You know, what had been happening at the time was the company was going through a quite painful and difficult transition from being a, you know, one phase of a startup to trying to develop some sense of entering our teen years or our adolescent years. And I started to realize that I needed to make the tough calls and fire some people. That was very unsettling to people because we give men permission, as leaders and as CEOs, to make the tough choices.

RAZ: Yeah.

HYMAN: You know, with women we don’t give them as much permission to make those tough decisions. And we often, when we do make those decisions, we’re often labeled as the B-word, or, you know, et cetera. So it certainly was a low point, but it led to the biggest outpourings of support I’ve ever had. It led to more courage around my own decision making because I led the company into the best place it’s ever been. And, in a sense, it makes the future less scary.

RAZ: Yeah.

HYMAN: Because that article, or a version of it - it will come out again. And the next time it comes out, it’s just not going to have the same impact on me.

RAZ: You mentioned earlier in the interview how you always wanted to run a successful company and - or start a successful company, but also have a family and a kid. And you did that. You - you have a child and a partner. And how have you figured out how to - to do it in the way you wanted to do it.

HYMAN: Well, first of all, let’s backtrack to being 28 and having the idea for Rent the Runway. And I just want to tell the real story, here. Because I think that a lot of women go through this, and they don’t talk about it.

One of the major considerations that I had in starting Rent the Runway was - is this a smart idea for me? Because if Rent the Runway is successful, will I ever be able to get married? I was always confident that I would turn Rent the Runway into a consumer behavior that millions of people did, and that I would build a - you know, I still believe we’re going to build a multibillion dollar company.

But at the very, very beginning when Rent the Runway launched, I had been dating someone from Harvard Business School, who I was very much in love with. And the day that Rent the Runway came out and we were on the front page of The New York Times, he broke up with me shortly thereafter. And he told me that he realized that he didn’t want to be with his equal.

RAZ: Wow.

HYMAN: So that was really sad and disheartening because I was very in love with this person. And that’s what led into this fear. Now, it ended up that this fear was completely unfounded and I had no issues, you know, falling in love while building Rent the Runway. I just think that it paralyzed me.

RAZ: Wow.

HYMAN: Because the No. 1 priority in my life has always been having a family and having kids. So the amount of happiness that I have, now having a daughter - I just got back from maternity leave last week - I am engaged to the love of my life. I can’t even describe to you the level of joy that it brings into my life on a daily basis to truly have - all of my dreams have come true.

RAZ: I guess last year you guys had - you became profitable, which I should point out is exceedingly rare so quickly. And, I mean, your revenue is over $100 million, according to public reports. The valuation of the company is - I don’t even know what it is. Do you know what it is?

HYMAN: I do know what it is.

RAZ: But you can’t say what it is.

HYMAN: Yes.

RAZ: But it’s it’s probably higher than you ever imagined. Even though it may still be on paper, this thing that you built - that you and Jenny built - has made both of you rich. I mean, you are, even though it may just be on paper, you are rich. You’re a rich person. You did not grow up that way.

HYMAN: Well, being rich on paper is very different that being rich in reality. So let’s talk in a few years.

RAZ: OK.

HYMAN: Because I didn’t grow up saying, I want to found a company. I had this idea for Rent the Runway. I saw that it was mission-driven. I saw that it was driving self-confidence and making women feel incredible about themselves. And I knew that I had to commit my life to that. And I’m really proud that we have had many different women leave Rent the Runway and then raise their own venture capital and start their own companies and go after their own dreams.

And Jenny and I - two years ago - decided to start a foundation where we’ve raised millions of dollars to support other female entrepreneurs scaling their companies. And we’ve now helped thousands of women throughout the United States in scaling their organizations. So this mission of empowering women and making women feel confident is the actual thing that I care about. Now, if it happens to be that Rent the Runway brings me the ability to provide for my family, and to thank my parents, that would be wonderful. But honestly, if it amounts to nothing, it is the absolute best experience of my life, and I would do it over a million times.

RAZ: Jenn Hyman, founder of Rent the Runway. By the way, her co-founder Jennifer Fleiss recently left the company. It was amicable. Both Jenn and Jennifer each own 13 percent of the company, and it’s put them on Forbes’ list of the richest self-made women to watch. Rent the Runway isn’t just profitable, it’s also become America’s single-largest dry cleaner. Dresses from 500 different designers, including though it took a while to convince her, Diane von Furstenberg. And please do stick around because in just a moment we’re going to hear from you about the things that you’re building.

Hey, thanks for sticking around because it’s time now for How You Built That.

DUSTIN HOGARD: My name is Dustin Hogard. We live here in Seabrook, Texas. It’s southeast Houston Texas.

RAZ: Dustin grew up on a ranch and so he spent a lot of time outdoors. And around the age of 10 or 11, his parents started to let him hike in the woods by himself.

HOGARD: And since I was a little kid I was obsessed with survival kits. When I would go to any store anywhere, I would always go immediately to the survival kit section.

RAZ: And as he got older he started to design some of his own survival gear, and eventually, he got a job with the Texas State Guard.

HOGARD: And this story that you hear all the time when you do these case studies of people who are in survival or emergency accidents is that they were never expecting to get into it. So you need some tools on you just in case something happens, whether it be a natural disaster or an emergency that happens while you’re out doing an outdoor activity. You need to have those things on you at all times.

RAZ: But most people just don’t have those things on them at all times. I mean, most people do not want to carry a bulky survival kit around on a daily basis.

HOGARD: They don’t in the morning go - when they’re going to work - put on their survival kit. It’s awkward. It’s weird. And people don’t like to think about that.

RAZ: So two years ago, Dustin started to design a survival belt that you could wear every day, whether you were heading into the woods or, you know, just going out to walk the dog.

HOGARD: So when you think about a belt you think it has to be comfortable, and it has to still be fashionably appealing. So the number one goal is to make sure that everything fits comfortably and does not weigh too much or doesn’t look weird.

RAZ: So as Dustin started to research how to make this belt, he found out that someone else was working on virtually the same thing, and that person lived about 15 minutes away. So Dustin contacted him and he said, hey, you know, let’s work together. And it turns out that other guy was a former engineer at NASA. So they decided to partner up. They called a bunch of mills, they found a military grade webbing for the belt, and then they had to figure out how to make survival tools small enough to fit into it.

HOGARD: We had to invent every single small part, almost. So the foil is a custom foil. The duct tape is a custom duct tape. The water container’s a custom water container. All of the parts and pieces required us to go out and test the heck out of it.

RAZ: Dustin and his partner worked with almost 30 manufacturers to custom design every miniature gadget that goes into the belt.

HOGARD: We also have a ceramic knife, a high quality button compass, purification tablets, safety…

RAZ: So even with all of this here on the belt it doesn’t weigh a ton.

HOGARD: It’s really hard to believe. But if you put it on, you would know you’re wearing a bunch of survival stuff.

RAZ: Last year, Dustin and his partner Nick decided to launch a Kickstarter to get the whole business going. They were hoping to raise $15,000, but they raised a quarter of a million dollars. So right now they are extremely busy fulfilling preorders and getting them shipped out. But they’re still experimenting with the belt and testing it out. And Dustin says he wears it every single day.

HOGARD: We wear it every day the only days I don’t wear it is on laundry day, when I don’t have belt loops because I’m wearing (laughter) shorts or pajamas or something. But otherwise we are - we are our biggest testers.

RAZ: That’s Dustin Hogard of Seabrook, Texas. His company is called Wazoo Survival Gear, and this product is called the Cache Belt, which is available online. And you can read more about Wazoo Survival Gear on our Facebook page. Just search How I BUILT THIS on Facebook and, of course, if you want to tell us your story, go to build.npr.org. We love hearing what you’re up to.

And thanks for listening to the show this week. If you want to find out more or you want to hear previous episodes, you can go to howibuiltthis.npr.org. You can also write to us. That’s hibt@npr.org. And if you want to send a tweet, it’s @howibuiltthis. Our show is produced this week by Rachel Faulkner, with original music composed by Ramtin Arablouei. Thanks also to Neva Grant, Sanaz Meshkinpour, Claire Breen and Jeff Rogers. Our intern is Lawrence Wu. I’m Guy Raz, and you’ve been listening to HOW I BUILT THIS from NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREGORY WARNER, BYLINE: Gregory Warner here to tell you about NPR’s new international podcast called Rough Translation. Each week, we’re going to take you to a different country to hear a story that reflects back on something that we are talking about here in the United States. Maybe get a perspective shift. Travel with us Rough Translation is on NPR One, or wherever you get your podcasts.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.