DesignerShare, a Chicago-based online platform that lets women rent handbags, clothing and shoes from each other, has been growing steadily since its launch in March. But now it’s gearing up for a nationwide expansion, slated to take place early next year.
The startup, which is a finalist for this year’s 50 on Fire awards, was founded by Sarah Perkins, CEO, and Bill Meyer, chairman. DesignerShare has more than 660 users and 615 items listed on its site, and has closed 80 rentals to date. Users can rent a piece from the platform for as little as a week, or for as long as five weeks.
“It’s created for women because we saw that there was so much more scrutiny placed upon women’s appearances, and it can end up leading to not feeling confident enough to take on your goals socially or professionally,” Perkins said. “This idea that we have to constantly be keeping up with appearances can be so expensive and you don’t want to keep wearing the same thing in your closet.”
The startup only operates in Chicago right now, but beginning next year, DesignerShare plans to launch a national shipping program that will allow users outside of Chicago to rent items off the platform. However, those users outside of Chicago won’t be able to rent their own items on the platform with the new rollout, though Perkins expects that feature to be added down the line.
Items must retail for at least $200 to be posted on DesignerShare, and rental rates are about 10 percent of the original price. Renters keep 75 percent of the transaction, Perkins said. Additionally, there is a $5 lender protection fee for every transaction, which is allocated to dry-cleaning, and pieces are insured for up to $10,000 by the startup.
“The women that have these great pieces want to be earning money, and more than just a one-time sale to a consignment store,” Perkins said.
DesignerShare is in the midst of raising an angel round for $350,000, Perkins said. So far, they’ve raised $100,000. Some of their investors include LimeRed Studio, a locally based design community for startups, where DesignerShare’s 10 employees work out of.
DesignerShare operates in a growing industry in which online fashion lending and consignment sites pop up. New-York based Rent the Runway has a similar concept to DesignerShare, but works with retailers, allowing users to rent from them directly, rather than from other users.
Perkins said DesignerShare stands apart from the competition, though, because instead of offering only contemporary brands, DesignerShare offers ultra-luxury ones like Givenchy, Gucci and Prada.
“[DesignerShare] gives women an opportunity to have a fabulous outfit for a week that she wouldn’t normally be able to afford,” Perkins said.