The Levo League Feature

I’ve been working hard with my business partner to get publicity for ShopRagHouse and so far we are so excited about all the love we have been getting from fashion bloggers and journalists. We have some exciting features coming down the pipeline that I will be keeping you guys up to date on. We’ve learned so much about startups in the last few months that  we started writing article sharing our wealth of knowledge with other people with an entrepreneurial spirit. We are so excited that we’ve teamed up with The Levo League (the go to spot for professional women looking for career advice) to publish our articles for the readers.

Check out our first post below!

 

ShopRagHouse

Author : Joana Florez

Joana Florez and Bridgette Hylton were former roommates at Harvard Law School who left legal practice to launch ShopRagHouse.com, a fashion tech startup. Since launching their site in beta, they have amassed a wealth of knowledge about social media, marketing, lean startup principles, and coding. You can follow their journey on Twitter at @TheRagHouse.
read other articles by Joana Florez

It was in the throes of launching our own fashion line — taking a huge detour from legal practice — that the concept of ShopRagHouse.com was born. ShopRagHouse is an online platform that hosts competitions where everyone from emerging designers to fashion lovers with no design experience compete to have their designs produced and sold for a share of the profits. Only winning designs that receive sufficient pre-orders are produced and shipped to buyers.

The dream of starting our own business began back during our time in law school, when we would stay up late in our apartment tossing around ideas for potential startups in between our case law readings. Finally, after years of pitching back and forth, we knew we had found “the one,” and within a month, we were in the same city working out of our apartment around the clock on getting ShopRagHouse off the ground.

Even convinced that this idea would work we were well aware of the risk involved in the launch of a startup. In an attempt to minimize these risks, we implemented the Lean Startup concepts invented by Eric Reis. The idea behind the Lean Startup concept is not about being cheap, but rather avoiding waste in order to minimize financial loss.

Cutting Costs

We knew having a fantastic web platform was essential to capturing the market, so we were extremely discouraged when we got quoted six figures for building our dream website. Even if we pooled our savings and begged our parents to help us, that price tag just wasn’t feasible. So instead, we learned as much as we could about coding and web development and we budgeted $1,000 to see us through the first three months of doing business (excluding the costs of business formation) and we vowed to stick to it until we were ready to open for business officially. This mere $1,000 afforded us several coffee meetings, a down payment on our first dress sample, gas, buying our domain name, a few copies here and there, one business lunch, and, of course, building our website. Because of this early practice of penny pinching, at this point a business cost over $100 seems like a splurge to us. It’s almost become an obsession of ours to stay within budget — at least in part because one of us has a small child to put through college one day!

Speed Over Perfection

In true Lean Startup fashion, we decided to focus on speed rather than perfection. Getting our name and concept on the market as soon as possible was of paramount concern. Rather than working on ironing out all the kinks of our website, we chose to launch in beta, asking our early members to provide feedback and suggestions on how we can make the user experience more enjoyable. So far, this approach has been well received by members and has provided us invaluable information about the desires of potential customers and designers.

Testing the Business Model

One of the primary premises of the Lean Startup concept involves determining the viability of a business concept by putting the product/service before potential customers early on. Only if the product is well received should the business model be scaled. This helps us test our two most fundamental hypotheses: that people have a desire to design their own clothing and that there is, in fact, a consumer market for beautiful limited edition clothing designed by the everyday person and emerging designers. We do this by consistently requesting feedback from and interacting directly with our membership, which includes fashion bloggers, friends and family, and our Twitterfollowers, in order to gauge their interest as a metric for whether SRH should be scaled in the future.

It’s been several months since the formation of ShopRagHouse and our Lean Startup practices have already started to bear fruit. Earlier this month we were contacted by our first potential investor — someone who saw our website, understood our vision, and was willing to make the kind of investment in us that we know we deserve. While we don’t think we are ready to accept investments just yet, it is nice to know that dreams can still be built on a shoestring budget, determination and hard work.

Building Dreams