Rent the Runway Founders Jennifer Hyman and Jenny Fleis Make High Fashion Accessible

Learn how two Harvard business school alums, Jennifer Hyman and Jenny Fleiss, brought the runway to the masses. Here's a glimpse into the startup of Rent the Runway.

Last Update: July 10, 2015

Most successful companies are launched from the realization of a current problem/need and a creative solution to invent or innovate. When consumers think about luxury rentals – condominiums, cars and destination getaways come to mind. Two Harvard Business school alums decided to take the concept a bit further – from the runway to your wardrobe.

Jennifer Hyman and Jenny Fleiss, the co-founders of Rent the Runway, have become synonymous with bringing high fashion accessibility to the masses. Jennifer and Jenny are fashionistas behind one of the fastest growing trends in the apparel industry, empowering every aspirational trendsetter to step into their favorite designer’s latest trends.

Jennifer and Jenny talk to us about making designer trends accessible and most importantly – never undervaluing your ability.


Company: Rent the Runway

Founder, Age: Jennifer Hyman, 30 and Jenny Fleiss, 27

Location: New York, NY

Startup Year: 2009

Startup Costs: Non-Disclosed


How We Got Started

Jenny (Fleiss) and I met as section mates at Harvard Business School, during which time I was home for Thanksgiving and had a closet full of clothes but nothing to wear. My sister Becky was shopping for yet another expensive designer dress for an upcoming wedding, and it occurred to me that the much better scenario would be to rent a dress. I quickly went back to business school, shared the idea with Jenny and we both began planning what would soon become Rent the Runway.


Best Customer Validation

“Here is a recent quote from a customer that we especially loved,” said Jenny Fleiss. It reads, “I just wanted to say thank you so much to everyone at RTR for an incredible experience- the customer service was top-notch, and the Herve Leger dress I ordered arrived exactly on time, in perfect condition, and fit like a glove. I have never received so many compliments before, and I owe it all to RTR. Thank you for helping a college student wear the designer dress of her dreams and feel like a princess for a day. I’m incredibly proud to tell all my friends that I don’t buy-I rent.”


Startup Challenges

Our biggest initial challenge was signing on designers. At Rent the Runway we buy directly from designers, so signing on the first group of 30 designers was the most challenging.


Startup Tips

In addition to starting a business you’re passionate about, ask for what you need. Had we not had that mentality in starting our business, we wouldn’t have raised the necessary funds to grow at the rate we have. I think women underestimate themselves when it comes to being aggressive female entrepreneurs.


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