This Austin startup wants you to make money off your closet

Tessa McLean
If you’re an Austin resident, there’s probably no need to own an expensive winter coat, let alone a designer one. But what’s a girl to do if she’s invited on a ski vacation but doesn’t have the budget to blow on something she’ll only use once or twice a year?
 
A new Austin service is hoping to fill that void for women with a clothing rental service that goes beyond what’s out there currently. And for the women that find themselves with a collection of unique clothing that might otherwise sit in a closet most of the year, it’s a way to make some extra cash.
 
You’ve probably heard about Rent the Runway, or maybe even sites like Le Tote. Garment ExchangeGarment ExchangeVisit their siteView company profile+ Create Job Alert takes the clothing rental concept closer to home, enabling everyday women to rent out their clothing as well as rent from other users across the nation. 
 
Founder Kaleigh Wiese (pictured left), who also runs Meldeen, a wedding design business, saw a void in the marketplace and wanted to fill it. 
 
“Sometimes, I want to feel like a New York girl, and I’d love to search for girls in New York and see what their wardrobes have,” Wiese said. “Sometimes I want to dress like I live in California, since I’m going on a certain vacation.”
 
Wiese saw flaws in current services that cater to a certain style but have limited inventory. Not only can women who live in more rural areas have access to a wider variety of fashion options, but those who are looking to broaden their wardrobe can also do so on a tighter budget. 
 
Additionally, with the prevalence of fashion bloggers on Instagram or emerging designers who want to get their name out there, followers can borrow from their favorite icons. Shoppers can build up a wish list of items or people whose fashion they admire to make shopping an easier and more curated experience. 
 
The revenue model is simple: Renters keep 80 percent of the transaction, allowing for a generous profit and a margin to cover the cost of cleaning. If items are damaged in the process, Garment Exchange will pay to repair the item or cover the cost of a replacement. Shipping is a flat rate and return postage is included. 
 
In the future, Wiese is considering offering promoted, paid advertisements for fashion bloggers or those that want to build up a business, like small fashion designers or boutique owners with excess inventory. 
 
Wiese is working with a team of five, including her husband who has an engineering background. While the duo considered moving to New York or Silicon Valley during product development, they ultimately saw the value their hometown tech community had to offer. 
 
“There’s such a sense of community here and it’s one of the reasons we love living here,” Wiese said. “The acceptance and helpfulness from everyone are really what the city represents. We definitely want to build our company culture around those same characteristics, so when we put those things together we knew this was where we wanted our roots.”
 
The service has a planned nationwide launch date of February 17 and has been accepting pre-signups since December (in addition to the members they added during their private beta). Wiese said they already have 500 people signed up and are averaging about 20 signups per day.
 
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