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Drive Episode 7: Rent the Runway’s Jennifer Hyman on Realising Radical Ideas

In episode seven of BoF’s podcast series Drive, delivered by DHL, Rent the Runway co-founder Jennifer Hyman tells BoF how she executed her radical idea and attracted 10 million members to her platform.
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NEW YORK, United States — Welcome to episode seven of Drive, BoF’s podcast series featuring fashion’s most dynamic entrepreneurs, delivered by DHL. In this episode, Jennifer Hyman, the co-founder and chief executive of Rent the Runway describes her accelerated journey from Harvard MBA graduate to chief executive of her own company.

Hyman launched Rent the Runway in November 2009, along with Jennifer Fleiss, her section mate from Harvard Business School. Their idea was to create a rental business model for luxury ready-to-wear and accessories. The company has since acquired over 10 million members and raised more funding than any other female-led venture backed business in the United States.

“The idea of the experience economy today, that people prefer experiences over ownership, is nothing new, but at the time it was radical to assume that the experience economy could be part of the closet and part of getting dressed,” she tells BoF’s Lauren Sherman.

However, in the early days of her company, disrupting the fashion ownership model required Hyman and her team to consistently execute flawlessly. “I had to create trust in very short periods of time. I entered meetings expecting that the first five meetings with an individual, they would say, 'No way, this is terrible, I'll never do this.' Then at the end of the meeting I'd say, 'Okay, well, three months from now I'm going to come back and I'm going to tell you about how we executed all the things I just talked to you about.' I would, and they would begin to see a pattern that they could trust me. That I was actually going to act on what I promised.”

In order to service her new business model, Hyman also had to tackle the physicality of fashion product, and the vagaries of renting it to human beings. “We're in the business of inbound logistics. Most e-commerce companies focus on outbound logistics. How quickly can I get this product to the customer? In our business, we focus on how quickly can I get this product back from the customer, make sure that it's perfect and ship it out to the next customer.” The company now operates the biggest dry-cleaning warehouse in the world.

Indeed, it is Hyman's ability to believe in her vision and tackle unexpected challenges, as well as a special kind of passion, resilience and discipline, that helped to make Rent the Runway a sustainable enterprise. That's something we call Drive.

We hope you enjoy Episode 7!

This is the last episode of Drive Season 1, delivered in partnership with DHL. Stay tuned for Season 2 in 2019 and discover the whole series here.

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