Bridesmaid dress rental company Little Borrowed Dress is giving the $40 billion wedding industry a run for their money.
By Betsy Mikel (Contributing Writer, Women 2.0)
The tagline on the homepage of Little Borrowed Dress speaks to a pain point many women face. “Friends are forever… but their bridesmaid dresses don’t have to be!” When standing up in a friend or family member’s wedding, women are often required to spend on average of $230 to buy a dress they will likely only wear once. With Little Borrowed Dress women can instead rent their dress for around $50.
It turns out that renting bridesmaids dresses was more than just a good idea. Last wedding season, more than 80% of Little Borrowed Dress’s inventory was being rented by customers at one time.
As demand for Little Borrowed Dress rentals has increased, investors have taken note. The startup just announced $1.25 million in seed funding led by Index Ventures and a16z. Launch Capital, Neu Venture Capital, NYC Seed, Charles Smith, David Tisch (BoxGroup), Rett Wallace and Joanne Wilson also contributed to the seed funding to fuel Little Borrowed Dress’s growth.
Founder Corie Hardee bootstrapped the business herself with her personal savings. Now with more funding, she has been able to expand her team, launch a new site and expand the collection of dress styles. Little Borrowed Dress also plans to invest in customer acquisition, further build out their technology and operations and continue to scale the team to keep up with demand.
“What has been validating is that our service is appealing to all types of brides — from those planning a fancy black tie soiree to a smaller backyard DIY affair,” said Hardee. “We're appealing to a consumer mentality versus a budgetary decision.”
When she first launched Little Borrowed Dress in July 2012, Hardee knew she had to create a product that was better than what the market already had to offer. With her scrappy bootstrapped startup, she did just that and brought something new to an already competitive market.
“The wedding industry had been historically slow to innovate, but like nearly every sector over the last few years, it is starting to experience significant disruption from technology driven companies,” Terrence Rohan, principal at Index Ventures said in a press release. “We’re thrilled to partner with Corie and her team to help ensure that Little Borrowed Dress is a meaningful part of that disruption.”
The Little Borrowed Dress line features a curated collection of 12 dress styles in 18 colors. The designer-quality dresses are designed with built-in adjustments that not only flatter different figures, but also prevent the need for pricey alterations.
What industry do you think most needs new technology to better serve its market?
Betsy Mikel is a freelance copywriter and content strategist who helps brands, businesses and entrepreneurs tell their stories. A journalist at heart, her curiosity drives her to find something new to learn every single day. Follow her on Twitter at @betsym.