Editor’s Note: If you love the photos and things you see in this article, they were all done by Fortique members. Laura Fruchterman provided the photography, Jessica Gressa provided the make-up work, Teri Clar was the interior designer who put the office together, and Marissa Cornejo provided the style for Stephanie’s look.
Whether you’re ironing out the logistics of catering a charity dinner, figuring out the best color scheme for a friend’s wedding, or finding a brilliant photographer for an event your office is hosting, one of the best parts of living in D.C. is that this city has a plethora of well-seasoned creative professionals that are highly adept at delivering top quality services. With that said, these types of creative connoisseurs tend to cost a great deal more than most people can afford which leaves a vast market of customers without access to these much needed creative minds.
Thankfully where there is a demand, there tends to be an entrepreneur brilliant enough to recognize it. In this case that entrepreneur just so happens to be Stephanie Olvey, and her particular solution to this D.C. conundrum is called Fortique.
What it is and How it Started
Fortique is an online marketplace in which a growing collective of D.C.’s budding creative class of designers, consultants, and event planners can offer their services at a price point that works on any budget, big or small. The creation of Fortique came about out of necessity, specifically when Stephanie (who at the time was working for LivingSocial) was in the process of coordinating her sister Kim’s 30th birthday party in the Spring of 2011. Despite her best attempts at working out all of the minute details with the party, Stephanie had little experience with the nuanced art of event planning and quickly found herself stuck. She was working with a strict budget and couldn’t afford to outsource the task to a more seasoned professional in the city, so she was left pondering if there was a more efficient approach to this issue. As her thoughts wandered to friends of friends that have done event planning in the past, she realized that they had that perfect balance of relevant experience to provide the quality of services she was looking for but didn’t necessarily have the brand recognition of other planners in the city to warrant a massive bill.
Using this experience as her case study, Stephanie left LivingSocial and started Fortique which has grown since into the premiere D.C. site for the city’s budding creative class to market their services to anybody looking for their talents without the massive bill.
Fortique’s Creative Class
The planners, designers, stylists, and photographers on Fortique are by all means top quality, something that Stephanie has tirelessly ensured during the rigorous on-boarding process to join the site. What’s really unique about the site is that it has quite a wide range of vendors; many of them join Fortique with relatively large followings and established customers throughout the city such as personal stylist Grant Harris, who has been ranked one of the top ten male bloggers in the country and has been featured in publications like CNN and Time. Then again Fortique is not only a perfect place for an established consultant in D.C. to sell their services, but it also acts as the perfect platform for budding creative talent to cut their teeth in the industry of their choice. If you happen to be a designer on the side but have never had the opportunity to sell your services or gain the needed visibility to market to a bigger crowd of customers, then Fortique is the perfect marketplace to do just that.
Fortique currently has 26 live vendors, a number which will grow to 30 by the summer and 50 by the fall with services ranging from interior designers who help stage houses to graphic designers that can mock up images for a website you’re creating.
What do Fortique Creatives Have to Say About the Site
Since it was one thing to hear directly from Stephanie about Fortique, I thought it would be interesting to get some feedback from the many creative professionals who use the site to sell their services.
Here is what a few of them had to say:
Alexander C. Kafka, Photographer – “Stephanie Olvey is a tireless and wonderfully innovative advocate for the creative entrepreneurs she represents. Part agency, part marketplace, part Web hub, Olvey’s Fortique is a wonderfully clever concept gearing up, it’s clear, for great things.”
Rene Kauder, Jewelry Stylist – “I am so excited to be a member of the Fortique community. Not only can I highlight the services I can provide to the Washington DC community, I now have a place to find other service providers! I love this concept and cannot wait to see all the amazing things in store for Fortique!”
Marissa Cornejo, Personal Stylist – “I think Fortique is a great way for local talent to be found. There is a need in the City to connect talented individuals with potential clients and Fortique makes its easy. It’s also a way for us to collaborate with other vendors!”
Nicole Heiner, Interior Designer – “It’s nice to be able to monetize something you LOVE doing! A perfect solution for people who want to let their creative juices flow without having to leave their day job.”
Dana Matassa, Custom Clothing Designer – “Fortique is a very unique concept that brings merchants to you without having to do any research. These merchants provide unique services that every man or woman will need at some point in their lives. From event planning, personal style consulting, custom clothing or photography. I’m glad to have my company as a part this unique concept. I think the mix of merchants on Fortique provides great synergy for the site. We all have a passion for our industries and that makes this concept work. In the short time I have been associated with Fortique I have had added a good amount of traffic to my site and interest in my company.”
Fortique: Why it Will Work
It’s no a secret that many young professionals don’t have the vast amounts of disposable income that warrant some of the services that many creative individuals in D.C. offer. Fortunately for many Millennials, the rapid growth of the internet and the unprecedented scaling of technology has allowed a level of access to luxuries that would have been unaffordable otherwise. Whether it’s buying discounted designer shoes on Cyber Monday or finding that perfect armoire on EBay to tie your room together, the online world has ushered in a new era of fiscal compromise when it comes to paying for luxury items.
With the digital world scaling to allow for common access to lavish things like boat cruises (LivingSocial deals) or heavily discounted runway fashions (Jack Threads, Rent the Runway), the next evolution for luxury items would be the services they come with which is exactly what Fortique provides. Just a few years ago having a personal stylist or a personal photographer would seem like an outrageously extravagant luxury to have, but I’m more than certain in a few years the general sentiment will change once platforms like Fortique reduce the barriers of access to the creative class and the amazing services they offer.