The Entrepreneur: Anna Bance, Girl Meets Dress

Business woman Anna Bance discusses the revolution of collaborative consumption, when to go after your start-up idea and how business success still comes down to having core values

Founder: Anna Bance
Company: Girl Meets Dress
Website: www.girlmeetsdress.com
Description in one line: Online luxury rental destination
Previous companies: Hermes

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

  • We are the first premium online rental service that gives millions of women the ability to hire designer dresses and accessories for up to 95% off RRP.
  • We have the largest selection of dresses and accessories from 200 designers in over 50 countries.
  • We bring together the best dresses from all over the world – from both UK new talent to worldwide established brands. The mix and varied selection on one site is what – hopefully – means every woman visiting will find the perfect dress no matter what her event!

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

Bootstrapping our company and raising our first round of investment funding in 2013 from Global Founders Capital;  a $200m fund from Rocket Internet’s Samwer brothers and former Delivery Hero co-CEO Fabian Siegel.

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

The number of returning customers to the site. We ensure that our customers stay extremely loyal and our members rent once or twice every month!

To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?

We are currently in the final stages of launching Girl Meets Dress in Europe. This is the first time designer rental has been made accessible outside of the UK as Girl Meets Dress has only been shipping to the UK and Ireland since its launch in 2009. The expansion will enable customers from all parts of Europe to have access to global designer brands.

Describe your growth funding path:

  • 2009 – 2013: Self-funded
  • 2013-present: Undisclosed sum from a $200m fund via Global Founders Capital

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

My tablet has made a big difference. Everyone is flexible now and with my tablet and phone, I’m portable and so is our staff, which is key when you’re trying to grow an exciting e-commerce business.

Where would you like your business to be in three years?

Without giving anything away, Girl Meets Dress is proving to be potentially huge! We’ve just expanded into Europe, and we have ambitious and exciting plans for the year ahead. We want to continue to grow the collection of stock, the team, and to innovate within the wider fashion space.  We also want to continue to be the leader in this emerging space and and to forge a brand and quality of service that women will continue to love.

Growth challenges

What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?

When we started, ensuring we had a full team in place while bootstrapping was no easy feat. We were lucky to find so many hardworking and ambitious staff to stick with us and the vision. Becoming knowledgeable in so many different areas is challenging so it definitely helped to have two co-founders with complimentary and different skill sets.

What was your biggest business mistake?

Not delegating certain areas in the early days. There are many things as a founder you get used to doing yourself, or think you can do best, but it is important to trust and let go.

Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:

We’ve been fortunate to avoid too much serious Red Tape.

What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?

Going after an idea they know nothing about. There are exciting ways to pioneer every market, whichever field you love and you can learn about any new topic – but you also have to be able to compete with people with years of knowledge and expertise.

How will your market look in three years?

The idea of collaborative consumption is now making a big impact around the world, whether it is somewhere to stay (Airbnb) or a car (Whipcar) – and now designer clothing. We predict a steady revolution in the retail industry as more consumers go for services over ownership.

What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?

Don’t over think it. There will never be a perfect time to leave your secure job, risk your salary decrease, take a chance on an idea which might not work – but what’s the worst that can happen? You’ll go back to your previous role until you come up with the next idea!

Personal growth

Biggest luxury:

Starting a business means you don’t buy luxuries for a while!

Executive education or learn it on the job?

It’s not really the choice between the two, but a mixture to suit each business.

What would make you a better leader?

I’m always looking to build on my leadership skills, and always being able to talk things through with my co-founder Xavier to get a different perspective is crucial as he is fantastic at that.

Business book:

Never Wrestle with a Pig by Mark H. McCormack. Drawing upon 40 years of experience, this book features some great tips from McCormack on a range of topics. He understands that doing business in today’s climate still involves the same basic elements of human interaction, intelligence, creativity, and efficiency – which have always meant the difference between success and failure.

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