"Be a Woman; Wear a Dress"
By: Amelia Cheikhali
On April 9th at 5:45 pm many young men and women poured into the Katie Murphy Amphitheater chattering away, checking phones and even knitting but as soon as Jennifer Hyman, CEO of Rent the Runway, stepped on stage with nude heels in her leather and linen A-line dress and all were silent as she introduced herself as simply: “Jen”. She exudes everything the woman CEO should.
“I see myself as someone who has a vision and someone who is very mission driven so my vision is transforming the retail industry,” Jennifer Hyman said. “Democratizing it.”
Hyman started off with a short presentation entitled, “Experimental Marketing: The New Frontier” covering the idea of how we went from a material economy to an “experience economy”. Anyone who has been outside lately, especially those in AMC, should have taken notice that stores and brands are going above and beyond to grab us and reel us in as consumers. Hyman contributes this to the “shift in ownership”, where we are so used to renting or gaining access illegally (books, music downloads, movies, etc.) that with her company she is just “legalizing the rental behavior”.
Rent the Runway launched in 2009 with only 28 designers; now in 2013 the company has 200 designers and 3 million online members. And even with the huge leap in numbers in just a few years it was no easy task. Some opposition from the opposite sex and getting people to believe in her and work for her without having her “likability” going down was difficult but she equates her success to hard work and being nimble with a changing environment.
“I think that’s the great thing about being an entrepreneur, you believe in so much in what you’re doing that sometimes, you don’t let distractions like how difficult this mountain is going to be to climb distract you.”
She also believes you have three responsibilities as an entrepreneur you must one, have a vision of your company two, hire the right people to create a culture and lastly, set your priorities.
To Ms. Hyman, there is this deeper meaning besides getting a dress for cheap. It is about brining younger woman the awareness of designer names, of course not an issue here, but to many other girls in other states they are unfamiliar with any designer unless covered by Forever 21 and H&M. A new section of the company called “RTR on Campus” was created just for that reason. Representatives of the company would host events on their campus, but the process is very selective and you must go through a “boot camp” to learn all the ins and outs of being your own entrepreneur.
Besides giving access to college age girls we should be seeing a new market segment for maternity and plus size women and Jen even hinted at being able to rent accessories such as veils for weddings in the near future. Plus, she gave a heads-up during the Q&A session to all emerging designers to be on the lookout for a platform that will allow them to get involved in Rent the Runway.
Social media has created a platform for the company to have an “honest” conversation with their customers and see these “Cinderella Moments” that are featured on the RTR site with the dresses they rented. "It’s more than just a job. It becomes something that, you know, I’m wholeheartedly committed to because I think that we're changing peoples' lives and we’re really helping people to develop these emotional connections.”
And a final piece of advice from Ms. Hyman for all the girls entering the business world, “We can have it all.”
Event funded by the Student Faculty Corporation.
Photo Taken by Lorenzo Ciniglio.