Rent The Runway

Imagine having a best friend with a huge closet filled with evening gowns and dresses. She is willing to rent you anything in her closet for the night for a modest fee. Instead of shelling out $1000 or more for that fabulous red dress, you pay $50 for wearing it once.

Rent The Runway is a wonderfully disruptive business model uplifting an industry. Like AirBnB and many others, this is all a part of the new sharing economy. Don’t buy something. Rent it. Netflix does it with videos, why not with dresses too? 

Rent The Runway 
Rent the Runway was started by Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss, who met at Harvard Business School and launched the company in November 2009. Rent the Runway now offers over 50,000 dresses and 10,000 accessories from over 200 designer partners, including Badgley MischkaVera Wang,Alexis BittarCarolina Herrera and Calvin Klein.

Are you in a business that needs a swift kick in the pants, or skirt? How can you see it from a new and unconventional angle? To me, this is what marketing is about. Not advertising, not promotion and social media. It is about seeing your industry or category in a way that no one else has considered. You  must execute with perfection. By doing so, your customers become your message and communications channel.

I consult often with small to mid-sized entrepreneurs who tell me about their product, their business and their industry. We chat around all the issues. Then I asked them my favorite question.

How will you avoid blending into the category?

The folks at Rent The Runway didn’t want to go into retail. They didn’t want to open boutique shops. They looked at places like Netflix, AirBnB and said why not fancy dresses too?

Here are nine underutilized assets worth thinking about if you are considering starting a business. Perhaps one of these thoughts will jump start an idea. 

KITCHENS: How many restaurants and their kitchens that go unused from 1am to 8am most days?

CARS: How many hours per day is your car being used? Mine sits idle about 21 hours/day. In doing some research, I learned about who is running with this idea. 

TOOLS OF ALL KINDS: From grass mowing equipment, to pruning shears to drills, think of how much stuff we all have that gets used a few hours each month. This would apply to kitchen equipment like fancy blenders and food processors too.

CLOTHING: Sharing clothing is an odd thought but I have a tuxedo I wear about once every 3 years. What is its value on an open market? How about women who have lots of fancy pocketbooks- what if they rent them out for an evening to recoup some of their cash outlay?

PRODUCE: Think of all the zucchini that gets brought to an office as freebies for colleagues. Is there a market for the produce home grown that can’t be consumed by the owner? Or better yet, how can we collect and get this food to a place that feeds the homeless. 

BOOKS: I must have 500 books on my shelf that sit there all year long. I occasionally go back and reread one or two. Is there a way to squeeze some value out of those books or even a fair market exchange? How about the magazines that you get each month and sit in a basket? Could those have a secondary market? How about my DVD's or old videos? 

HOME OFFICE SPACE: Imagine you need an office and someone has an empty house all day long with a nice working office. Could you rent that space to someone who needs a place to work quietly? is actually working on something like this concept. 

COMPUTING SPACE:  Why isn’t there a way to harness computing power more efficiently across all the excess capacity that is out in the world? I know there are some projects like this that have been started by NASA, SETI and others but can’t you see how this could expand?

SCHOOLS: Most schools are empty about 30% of the time each year. From 6pm to 6am and on weekends they sit idle. Their must be a use for these resources that could help support education. 

All of these opportunities require a well-thought out business plan, require trust and an investment in lots of time. The distribution of the goods or under utilized asset is a big part of the puzzle to be solved. Check out for more on the sharing economy and cities that are promoting these efforts.

Sharing is only going to be a bigger and more important part of our economy. With limitations on resources and a need to be more eco-friendly, who can’t imagine a world where things become shared resources and not just your possession.

What industry will you disrupt this year?

Thanks for sharing. 


I share my advice on to those in need of marketing coaching and guidance. 100% of your fee is donated to Charity Water. To date I have contributed almost $400. How can I help you? Connect with me here.

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