Like it or not, what you wear makes an instant impression. As an entrepreneur, your image is an extension of your brand, and it sets the tone for how you're perceived by employees, vendors, investors and people at networking events. I’ve always loved fashion, and I even chose to begin my career in the wholesale apparel arena before starting my first company in credit card processing.
In this line of work, I support many fashion companies with their electronic payments, and because of our interactions, I've come to notice significant innovation in the industry. The innovations vary from the idea of collaborative consumerism (maximizing the downtime of the things in our lives -- in this case, clothing which is rarely worn), to using technology to improve on the clothing we wear each day, to designing algorithms to better understand our sizing needs and style preferences.
I also know that as a bootstrapped entrepreneur, we don’t always have the budget to keep our wardrobes fresh with the latest fashions, best-fitting items or name brands. Here, I’ve curated a list of some of my favorite companies who are making it simpler and more cost-effective for you -- man, woman or child -- to look good for all occasions on an entrepreneur’s budget.
1. Le Tote
Co-founders Brett and Rakesh explained that they saw the women in their lives were always shopping but never happy with what was in their closets. They’d see them swapping clothes with their friends and saw an opportunity to help women share clothing on a larger scale with more variety by creating a national shared closet.
“People care more about access than ownership.," they said. "Our customers care about looking good on a budget and don’t want to own a lot of stuff.” They also pointed out that one’s closet is dormant most of the time -- most people use 20 percent of their closet regularly and 80 percent less than twice per year.
Need a wardrobe refresh or some items to spice up what you already have, but don’t have the time or interest to shop? Head to the StitchFix website, fill out a style survey and get paired with a stylist who will curate looks based on your tastes, items you’re seeking and budget. You pay a monthly fee of about $20 and get a “fix” sent to you with five clothing and accessory items curated for you. Keep what you want, and deduct the monthly fee from it. Or, send it all back.
For the guys: suit and tuxedo rentals. Menguin has a proprietary algorithm that will get your sizing right and if it’s not to your liking, they guarantee to ship a new item (suit, tux, shoes, belt, cuff links -- whatever you ordered) to you in time for your event. "Having been through incredibly awful experiences when renting tuxedos for weddings we were in, my co-founders and I searched for something that would be easier, less time intensive and offer us the same convenience we were already used to from online shopping," so-founder Bogdan Constantin said.
4. Rent the Runway
Weddings, showers, fundraisers, galas… Buying a dress for each of these events is generally prohibitive for most of us. But on Rent the Runway, you can rent designer dresses, gowns and accessories from their site, and they’ll ship right to you, generally in two sizes to be sure it fits. Now you can look like a million bucks -- but for something closer to $80 on average.
5. Mizzen and Main
Guys: how much do you hate ironing, sweating through your shirt and taking your clothes to the dry cleaner? Thanks to the innovative work of Mizzen and Main, that’s no longer an issue. Founder Kevin Lavelle explains their incredible dress shirts: “I wanted to bring innovation to traditional menswear and solve a problem faced by every man. Our performance dress shirts are a guy’s dream: moisture-wicking, wrinkle-free, four-way stretch, and they require no ironing or dry cleaning. These characteristics have been incorporated in workout gear and polos -- never dress shirts. It was time to bring these advanced performance capabilities to this everyday men's staple.”
Guys hate trying things on. Thanks to 2Maven, that’s no longer a problem. Founder Chrissy Liu said, "A more traditional upbringing led me to work in corporate finance after college. After a few years, I decided to go to business school to combine my passion in fashion and knowledge in business. While in school, I learned there was a huge opportunity to cater to how most men like to shop -- which is, they don't. I was also fascinated by the fashion technology space where many companies were disrupting the industry with new business models. Our vision is to make guys' lives easier by providing the easiest way for them to get clothes they want. We get to know them, shop, and deliver straight to their door. They never have to step inside a store or shop online again.”
Ever been to a thrift or consignment store and loved the prices, but hated sifting through the racks? Thanks to ThredUp, they’ve moved that experience online so you can do it from the comfort of your home. They’re the largest online consignment and thrift store and have options for women, kids and baby. Here’s a chance not just to buy what you like, but also to clean out your closet and possibly net zero spend on items for your wardrobe if you’re simultaneously selling yours.
You’ll want to accessorize all of these new wears, so check out Rocksbox, which offers a $19/month jewelry subscription of three pieces per delivery.Think Netflix for your jewelry.
Twice is an online resource for secondhand clothes boasting up to 90-percent off of retail prices. Another opportunity to buy as well as sell your old items. You can set custom alerts for daily new arrivals and get flexible 30-day returns and free shipping on orders more than $49. This is a great site for those want to be alerted when they get new inventory in your favorites brands in women’s, men’s, shoes and handbags.
Created by two guys who simply couldn’t find T-shirts they liked that also felt great, freeclothing.co was born. Head here to buy casual graphic tees or subscribe to their “tee tubes” for a $25/month subscription service of a shirt each month.
“I honestly got into fashion on accident during my quest for the perfect T-shirt," co-founder Tim Trad said. "My now business partner and I would always find either tees that fit and felt amazing with the worst graphics ever or the raddest-looking tees that were simply unwearable. We had a lot of stories to tell and wanted to combine the perfect fit and feel with simple, quality, design as well as a reason for that design. I wanted to make the purchase of something as simple as a T-shirt a memorable experience. I think we've done that and are still continuing to improve the experience as we grow.”
Why stop at looking great all day and not extend that to your workout? Fabletics offers affordable activewear through their subscription program which designs your monthly outfit based on your workout, color, fit and coverage preferences.
This is my favorite little secret for stunning jewelry that looks like it’s worth a fortune -- at the cost of costume jewelry. Never underestimate the power of jewelry to completely change the tone of an outfit.