400K People Use This App to Reduce Fast Fashion Consumption with By Rotation's Eshita Kabra
This is Eshita Kabra for Female Startup Club
Hello and welcome back to the show. It’s Doone here - your host and hype girl. It is a beautiful day here in Sydney, Australia and I’m excited to be bringing this episode to your ears. Eshita Kabra is the founder of a company called By Rotation.
It’s essentially app where you can rent stunning clothes, shoes and bags - but the twist being that it’s all community driven. So think Instagram, but where you can rent the clothes straight from your favourite friends, influencers and stylish women. Eshita created this business out of a view to make a positive impact in the world and change the way we consume fast fashion by creating a more sustainable economy around what we wear and buy.
I got to know Eshita’s business when I was living in London and have the sweetest story that I’m gonna share in the episode which I just love so much and it speaks to the power of how she’s managed to build a really strong sense of community inside this app.
Quick reminder about our November meetup which is gonna be in Australia this time.
Please do slide into our DMs and let us know if you vote for Sydney or Melbourne.
And obvs shout about the episode or Female Startup Club in general if you learn something or love something or leave this with a smile on your face.
This is Eshita Kabra for Female Startup Club
Please note, this transcript has been copy-pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
This is Eshita Kabra for Female Startup Club.
Hello and welcome back to the show. It's Doone here, your host and hype girl. It is a beautiful day here in Sydney, Australia, and I'm excited to be bringing this episode to your ears. Eshita Kabra is the founder of a company called By Rotation. It's essentially an app where you can rent stunning designer clothes, shoes, and bags, but the twist being that it's all community driven.
So I guess think something like Instagram, but where you can rent the clothes straight from your favorite friends. Influences and Stylish Women. Ishida created this business out of a view to make a positive impact in the world and change the way we consume fast fashion by creating a more sustainable economy around what we wear and what we buy.
And I actually got to know Ishida's business when I was living in London and I have the sweetest story that I'm going to share in the episode, which I just love so much. And it really speaks to the power of how she's managed to build a really strong sense of community inside this app. Before we get into it.
Do whatever you need to do. I would love that. If you learn something or if you love something or you leave this episode with a smile on your face, I would love to know about it and be so grateful in advance. Alrighty, let's get into this episode. This is Eshita Kabra for Female Startup Club. Eshita, hi, welcome to the Female Startup Club podcast.
Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here. How's your week going? Do you have any wins or oh shit moments you want to share slash vent about? Well, this weekend, well this week, sorry I'm already thinking about the weekend. Um, yeah, and it's Tuesday. Um, this week I hope will be more of like a Focusing on, you know, my laptop sort of work because last week we did far too many things with the team You know, we were displaying at london fashion week.
We had a closing party. I spoke on three panels So this week I really just want to be behind my laptop. Yeah and catch up on all the Sort of more strategic, um, organizational, admin, fundraising work that I'm really working on. Well, I love that was your week last week and I love that you're able to catch up this week.
That sounds like a really fun week last week. Yeah, I mean, it looks really fun on the outside, you know, and you have to show up for your business, right? But I think I'm definitely, and Extroverted introvert. I think that's what we call it where I do. I, I do. I have all this energy and I do everything and I show up for my business.
But, um, I think at the end of the day, I get a lot of energy from doing a bit more, I guess, quiet reflective things such as going for a walk, going to the gym, going for a hike. Um, I don't know, even watching, like, my favorite TV shows on repeat. I feel like you're explaining me. Yeah, I just feel like you need to kind of, um, you know, get away from all of that, um, What is that word?
Like, a lot of, um, stimulation. You know, a lot of stimulation, a lot of people, a lot of conversations and thoughts and ideas. And then you kind of need to take it all in. And then have some space for yourself. So this week I'm going to, I'm going to sort of materialize all the great ideas and conversations that I had last week.
So I'm going to put them into action this week behind my laptop screen. I love that for you. I feel like everything you're saying, I really resonate with. And I feel like as I've gotten older, I've become. more introverted and maybe also COVID made me a bit more introverted. And I realized I used to always think that I was just like straight up extrovert.
I'm someone that's very social, love to chat, love to be around, love to do all the things, busy, busy, busy. But actually I realized that I'm actually quite shy, quite nervous to be in social settings. And I must've just kind of had that persona or something. But as I've gotten older, I've realized I actually am quite.
Introverted. I guess I also wonder if it's sort of, you know, as you get older and with so many experiences, you know what you like and what you don't like and who you are and who you aren't. So that's why it kind of seems like we're being introverts when Actually, we just know we've had enough and that's our limit, you know, so I wonder if it comes from experience.
It could be. It could very well be. Now, before I jump into asking you, you know, a million questions like we do, I want to share my bi rotation story with the audience because it's so cute and I love it so much. I don't know if you know this story, but I'm going to share it anyway. Please do. I love it.
brought it up a million times. So you and I originally met when we were on the founding members committee for the Soho Works app in London. And during that time, I had my book launch party and I had rented this amazing pink feather Colt Gaia dress from your app, which I still adore. Oh, I know that one.
Everyone loves that dress. Everyone loves that dress. It was hard to get. And I think there was like a cancellation. There was like a lot of back and forth chit chat about the logistics of renting that dress. And so anyway, I rent the dress but through that chitchat I invited the woman who I rented it from to my book launch party and she said yes.
So here I am at my book launch wearing this beautiful rented dress from a woman that I don't know who is now also at my book launch and we've kept in touch since and I just love that so much and I, I'm going to get into the community aspect of what you're doing but I think that tiny little moment is just you know it's such a I feel like it sums up the way that you've built your app, which is obviously technology, but with such a strong layer of community attached to it.
Thank you so much. I mean, these are really the stories that, you know, that really keep me going when it comes to biorotation. I mean, they always say, right, like, it's not really, you're not really selling someone the actual product of a service. You're actually selling them how they made you feel. And the fact that this has become such a memory for you.
I mean, it really goes to show the power of what we've built. There's a lot of emotion involved, um, with wearing someone else's clothes because it's so personal after all. And, and the fact that now you've become friends with her, I mean, we call it the sisterhood of the traveling dress. Oh my God, I love that.
I love that. There must be so many stories like this. So cool. I want to start this episode by going back to kind of where you actually started your entrepreneurial story. I want to understand, you know, was it always fashion? Were you always wanting to start a business? Were there different ideas? What was the light bulb moment?
Where was that key kind of starting point for you? Yeah. Um, so my background is in working in investment, uh, in particular in corporate bonds. So obviously nothing to do with fashion and called Gaia feathery dresses, but, but, um, you know, I was doing that for the first six and a half years out of my, um, you know, my, my universe out of uni really.
So I was working in his. As an investment analyst on the asset management side, and then on the trading floor. So on the sell side, um, and then most recently before founding, uh, by rotation at the hedge fund. And, um, it was when I was at this hedge fund that I was, you know, planning my honeymoon. I had just gotten married.
And I was thinking about all, you know, the cool places we were going to go to, the different cities in Rajasthan that we were going to go to. Rajasthan is also where I was born, and I wanted to take my husband, who's not Indian, to see where I'm from to reconnect with my roots. Thank you. We're actually going to go back again in a few months for my brother's wedding.
Yeah, it will be his third wedding celebration because he lives in London too, and my parents are based in Singapore, so it's just, you know, kind of a big party, really. Um, um, but so we were planning this honeymoon and, you know, I had this itinerary going on like an Excel spreadsheet. And so I started thinking about all the cool outfits I wanted to wear in the sand dunes of Rajasthan.
You know, all those cool photos I could take and all of that. And then that's when I started thinking about, Hey, it would be cool if I could, you know, borrow or rent some like nice clothes for this trip of a lifetime. So I started surveying the, you know, the market in the UK and noticed that that was a huge gap for renting clothes in, in the UK and even Europe for that matter.
And all the incumbent players in the global space were very inventory heavy. So they all had warehouses. They were subscription model. They also had very outdated clothing. So, you know, we're speaking about the likes of rent the runway in the U S which has since been listed. Um, why closet in China, which has since closed down, um, fly robe in India, which has also closed down style theory in Singapore, another subscriptions business, which is more.
Focused on like, you know work wear and like more casual sort of clothing And that's when I kind of realized that this isn't really what i'm looking for. I'm actually looking to Reach out to all these women that you see on social media who never seem to repeat their outfit after going to an event or Going on a nice holiday or even, you know, just taking a photo on the streets of London or whatever.
So the idea was really more about getting people to share with each other. Um, I didn't quite understand how big this idea would be, though, until I went on my honeymoon. So about three and a half months later, at the end of February, um, we went to Rajasthan and I went back to my suburban hometown, which is about two hours away from the city of Udaipur, and I noticed a lot of textile waste everywhere I went, and I couldn't help but feel guilty because a lot of the clothes that we tend to wear are made in India.
You know, even designer clothes are made in India, even if they say made in France. And they just put the label on after checking. Yeah, that's something we learned actually and I started reading up and I realized that about 90 percent of the donations that we make to um, to you know, charity shops, they actually end up back to landfills in African and Asian countries such as India, where I'm from.
And I just couldn't help that I was, and feel that I was responsible and part of this linear consumption model that the Western world clearly very, very easily has adopted. And obviously there's, there's so many problems within the fashion industry from like, uh, from a very like, outsiders point of view, you know that the industry is not diverse at all, it's very traditional.
But then the fact that it's also really, really bad for the environment. That is something that I did not realize, you know, fashion, the fashion industry is. You know, apparently the third most polluting industry in the world. It even overtakes the transportation. So maritime and aviation industries, which is crazy, which is crazy.
Yeah. But I guess it kind of makes sense because we have about what, seven to 8 billion people in the world. Um, each one of us wears clothing every day, I believe. Where are all these clothes going? Right. Because on average, we all have about 70 pieces of clothing in our wardrobe. Um, We wear only a third of them in the last 12 months.
So there are all these clothes that are just sitting in your wardrobe, either gathering dust or you're donating them to charities. And these charities are sending them back to the so called developing nations of the world, who, by the way, don't want them either. Because they used to want them probably 15 to 20 years ago when, you know, when the clothing quality was much higher.
But now we're all just wearing. petrol, right? That's basically what fast fashion now is. It's all polyester. So that's when I guess this is really the, um, I guess the light bulb moment where I felt like this isn't just a means to an end for a shopaholic or ex shopaholic such as myself. There's actually a huge, so like a huge societal element involved.
into why we should be making the fashion consumption model much more circular. So I guess that was really my aha moment on my honeymoon, uh, in the desert of India near Jaisalmer and realizing that this was much more than just about borrowing each other's clothes. I love that. It sounds kind of like divine timing, you know, you've just had this, all these things kind of align and then this idea has come into your, into your mind.
How do you go from kind of that moment where you've kind of started thinking the wheels are turning to, you know, MVP? Is it like, Straight to going back to trying to build something. Is it going back and talking to friends? Is it quitting your job? What are those next steps that lead you to the beginning of what we know as bi rotation?
Yeah, so during the honeymoon on the last leg, um, I actually set up a Facebook event. I don't know if you guys remember those, you know, the Effie event. And I had already, so we, we were already decide, we had already decided that we were gonna have a dog. Uh, and for me, the dog had to, you know, arrive, uh, right after our honeymoon, you know.
You're very, very patient. Is that the dog we see in your pictures? You're really cute. Cavoodley, poodley looking angel. Actually, he's a Cavapoo. His name is Saffron, and yes, he is a male, and his name is Saffron. Um, but I was, you know, we were essentially going to pick him up, um, just a week after we arrived back from our honeymoon in the UK.
And I wanted to invite my friends over the week after and, and introduce him to them. Um, and, you know, joke that we were very efficient on our honeymoon, we've already had a baby, come meet the baby. Um, and it was also another way really for me to, um, kind of sound out my idea for this circular fashion.
Model business idea that I had essentially so, um, so I remember it was mid March, I want to say, or maybe third week of March, and I had all my friends who had attended my wedding and the ones who couldn't make it, um, come to my one bedroom apartment in Marlborough and meet the puppy and then be surprised to know about, you know, the clothing rental idea that I had, because I had two rails set up in my apartment living room, you know, And I had some bags and shoes displayed, asked some of my friends to bring over their clothes as well.
And, you know, just kind of told them, what do you guys think about this idea of paying each other, other random strangers, to borrow their clothes and their bags and their shoes or accessories, you know, like jewelry or whatever. And, you know, we can save the planet one rental at a time, make money and become friends with people too.
So that's when I tested it out and had my feedback and surveying session and, um, you know, given that a lot of my friends are mostly very corporate individuals. So given my own background, my network was mostly comprised of bankers, lawyers, management consultants, um, you know, things like that. They were all, I would, I would classify them as someone who are maybe the Who are maybe the early majority so they were quite hesitant about the idea they thought okay I mean, it's cool and you like fashion a lot.
I mean, i'm not that particular I don't plan my wardrobe when I go on a on a holiday But yeah, I mean, I guess I guess like some people would want To do this, but we're not that sure. Maybe, maybe once in a while it might be interesting to rent something for an Indian wedding, like your wedding. You know, we wish we had this for your wedding.
So, so for them, it wasn't something that they would adopt very early. But they all did say that they were becoming more and more conscious of the sustainability and the climate crisis movement. You know, we were seeing Extinction Rebellion take over Oxford Street and Hyde Park. It was becoming much more, it was becoming much more mainstream.
You know, it wasn't just movements, exactly, it wasn't just movements that, you know, the so called tree huggers were, were kind of adopting. It was actually... You know, a lot of, you know, um, people like celebrities and influences and, you know, you know, it was just sort of people that you followed and that you rated in your everyday life.
Who were actually talking about the climate crisis, so they, you know, they kind of felt that there was definitely an angle here, the sustainable fashion angle, um, and then it would open up to really the mainstream audience, which is, it's actually not just about sustainability, it's, it's the fact that you can get a great deal, and I think that's where we are at the moment, you know, where we're really, really getting more and more of the early majority, So my friends who were in my one bedroom apartment about four years ago are now telling me, hey, my colleagues are talking about this, or hey, my mother in law asked me about your rental platform.
Oh my gosh, I love that. That's so cool. From that focus group, like, how do you get to... You know, having this actual product, like tech, creating a piece of tech is obviously complicated. You were in the banking industry, but you weren't necessarily, you know, a technical founder. What are those kind of steps?
Yeah, great questions. And I should have mentioned that, um, I've been a web designer since the age of 11. I don't know if you guys, I don't know if you guys know Neopets. Do you know Neopets? It was like a virtual pet. Yes, I think I do. I'm googling it. It was, it was um, it was like my way of having a virtual pet.
Um, it's kind of like Tamagotchi, but actually on your, on your computer. And you would play games to like earn points, you would make like guilds and communities. So I've actually owned a message board. You know, business when I was 12 years old, I mean, it's all just crazy. Yeah. And it was quite popular. I was actually quite well known in the, um, the graphic designing community because we had a message board that I used to run, which had over 3, 500 members at its peak, and I used to sell.
Yeah. I used to sell my web design, like my graphic design, the stuff I would design on Photoshop, uh, and, and earn money from people around the world through my PayPal. I mean, PayPal was so early back in those days, by the way. And my parents were like, what are you doing at 2 AM on your laptop? Like, are you doing something bad?
And I was like, no, no, no. I'm selling my layout, making money over here. Yes. And, and my dad was really actually very proud. He was like, Oh, we've got a little entrepreneur here. Who's, who's doing some weird shady things. We believe. But she claims that she's selling layouts to people on the internet. Like she knows people in different parts of the world, but anyway, so it kind of feels full circle to now come back and have a fashion tech platform and a business, because we're also very community oriented.
Very similar to the message board that I was running when I was 12 years old. What I would say, however, is that I'm not the developer. I'm not the actual engineering team. I'm more the product team. So I have a good sense of what I wanted the platform to look like. And one of the features that. you know, a top user such as myself.
Actually, I'm not even a top 25 user on the app anymore. And yeah, there are amazing. I mean, there are women making like crazy, crazy amounts on the app, like 3000 pounds. Yes. I read that three and a half thousand pounds for some of your users. I'm like, hell yeah. That's great. We've got a woman who's made over 45, 000 pounds on the app since she joined it.
So yeah, it's, it's been, it's been a wild ride. Right. And, and I never, I mean, no, of course I want it to go this far and it's not that I never imagined it to go this far, but I think Some of the ways in which we've really affected people's lives. I mean, we'll talk about it later, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.
But in terms of the actual product, um, I'm lucky that my husband is a computer scientist by training, so while he works in management consulting, he has been trained as a computer scientist, so he understands code really well. He also understands data and analytics very well, so he really helped me find it.
Our senior developer, who's now our CTO, so this was even before I left my full time job, you know, I was deciding whether or not I actually wanted to go full time with it. And if this, this idea, this, you know, while it had, you know, all these amazing, um, sort of. I guess goals and aims and like an amazing mission, which was to transform fashion consumption for good.
Um, could it actually be a pragmatic business idea, which would be commercial and actually bring bread to the table? So I used the first six months of our soft launch into kind of getting qualitative and quantitative data and also hitting some milestones that I had set that would. Give me confidence into believing that, you know, quitting my six and a half year lucrative career in finance would be actually worth the opportunity cost of launching this business, putting my own money into it, getting investor money.
And then hopefully, you know, really, really impacting the, the society, the environment, and also making some money while we're at it, because this is a business, right? So, um, So, so I used, um, so I got my senior developer who turns out was one of my closest friends and childhood friend from high school. Uh, involved.
So he joined us even before I joined by rotation full time. So I was using my salary and to pay for his senior developer fees. And it's really interesting because he actually hadn't really developed a lot of apps before. He was mostly developing, um, web platforms, but my, my husband who, you know, has this training as a computer scientist, you know, tested him and looked at his code and his quality of work in the past, his portfolio essentially.
And he recognized that he definitely had the skill set to push it further and actually develop our app from scratch. So I would say it's pretty important to have, you know, if you can't do it yourself in terms of, you know, scoping out Um, you know, how, how good a potential developer could be technically try and become friends with someone who might be able to help you verify and validate if, um, if finding someone on a fiber fiber, I think, is a website or upward is.
Is actually going to be good for your development needs. So we were lucky in that it was within our network because trust is pretty important, especially when your actual product is the platform, which really is what it is for us. Yeah. I mean, network is just important. All the time in every area of your life.
Network is so important. Relationships are so important. But I've actually heard, I mean, I get asked a lot by, you know, from, from fellows sort of, you know, um, budding consumer, um, entrepreneurs. Like, Oh, I really want to make an app, but I'm not technical. And I don't know where to find a technical co founder or get some engineers, like, how do I trust these people online?
And I actually heard from a fellow, uh, founder and friend, who's actually also an angel invested by rotation. That she, um, actually would go to quite a lot of universities, which had a good computer science program and go to their events and network with them and be like, Hey guys, like. I know that, you know, I know that you're finishing your degree, um, but I wonder if you want to make some extra cash.
All I need is a few hours of your time, like, you know, every week. And that was really, that was actually a great idea. I mean, it's something, exactly. Because you never know, they might actually want to join you right out of graduation. But anyway, it's
a Great. I love that tip. Everyone listening, go and check out your, you know, local universities that have premium, premium programs for computer scientists and engineers. I want to talk about your kind of the soft launch that early six months when you are trying to find maybe product market fit, get some traction and understand what the metrics were that you were looking at to decide and determine whether you were going to quit your job and go all in, i.
e. raise money, etc, etc. Or Wrap it up and be like, yeah, this is maybe, you know, a side hustle or not necessarily wrap it up, but a side hustle or maybe like a low key thing or I'm going to wrap it up. I think the milestones, like, you know, having qualitative ones, like, Oh, um, you know, getting a few, like, for example, for us, it was very important to build a supply side of the marketplace because we are a two sided marketplace, right?
We're peer to peer. So for us, it was very important to get the right kind of supply. So essentially have nice quality fashion on the app or have nice and, or have nice, you know, well known personalities lending their items on the app so as to help brand awareness and also brand association. So those are the qualitative sort of milestones, like getting those people on board, you know, getting press coverage in broad sheets, such as the Guardian.
You know, we had Lucy Siegel write about us in print Guardian, where. You know, she's the OG of all things sustainable fashion here in the UK. She's been talking about it for more than 20 years. Um, And, uh, you know, we had her writing about us and then soon you had, you know, fashion magazines pick up on it too.
So, you know, we were really becoming part of this, this movement of circular fashion and sustainable fashion. We were becoming involved in this conversation, which was a very big and exciting new conversation then. Um, and then on the quantitative side, I had a few milestones as to how many transactions we had to do, you know, within London and, you know, within the UK itself, and to ensure that none of them were being done by my friend circle, because I mean, You know, you're just begging your friends to help you out, do transactions.
But it was really important for me to see if actual strangers were happy to borrow clothes from each other. Um, so those are some numbers that I also plugged into my business model and my, well, sorry, my business plan and my financial model. And that was really to validate and give me confidence and courage to walk away from.
Again, you know, a pretty successful career that I had built because I think I'm, I'm less of an idealist. You know, for me, I really need to have proof points before I go and do something as big as giving up your career, really. Yeah, absolutely. Do you remember if there was like a specific moment that you were like, yeah, we have arrived, I'm quitting my job and we're taking this to the next level.
Yeah, it was really that our senior developer then who's now a CTO and you, you know, he said to me Well, the app is ready It's ready in like one or two weeks time And I think that you should need to go and pitch it out because I'm ready for people to sign up to it So we started pitching out the app launch And you know It was business of fashion who agreed to have, you know, to do the coverage for it.
And it was under embargo. And then you had Forbes as well, who were like, okay, we'll write about it the day after. And then quite a few other fashion publications, you know, mentioning it in their roundup. And that's when I realized for all of these to sort of materialize for the, for the launch to actually be visible.
I had to leave my career and I had to quit my job because, you know, as soon as people would look me up, they'd be like, hold on, she works at this hedge fund. Like that's what's going on. Like, is this a real, is she serious about this company or is it just like, uh, is it just like a side thing, like, uh, like sort of, uh, you know, Pretty side thing that she's doing to become someone in the industry, rather than she's actually serious about it as a, as like a business.
So that's when I was like, I have to hand in my resignation because it's gone very, very far. Um, as much as I can as a side hustle while, you know, remaining as an unknown and, you know, kind of hiding. But, you know, I had mentioned it to my compliance department already. That I was doing something on the side.
I was a director of a company, but it was not competing with any of the, um, or any of the work that I was doing at the hedge fund, but you know, it definitely reached a point where I had to come out in the open. Yeah. Put all the brainpower to one thing. Yeah. And I, yeah, I mean, it almost sounds like I'm saying my hands were tied, but.
I'm the kind of person who has a lot of energy, you know, I like to think that I could have had it all and done it all, but I think the right decision is really to give Biorotation all the focus that it, that it deserves, because you know what, at the end of the day, it's probably much more meaningful work that I'm doing, um, with Biorotation than I was doing, uh, working in the jobs that I had in finance, and not to say they're not meaningful jobs, but I think I think this is giving me more purpose in life.
It feels like a calling because I've always been very much a community builder and I wasn't building community when I was working in investments. Yeah. Oh gosh. I love that. You've had some phenomenal growth. I think I was reading online that you're, you know, coming up to 400, 000 users. Now you've obviously had mass adoption.
When you were just getting started, you know, those, that six months and you've got the press coming out and you know, things are kind of. gaining traction, you know, very quickly, really. How did you kind of keep that momentum going? Like if you have to dot point, break it down, what are the things that shifted the needle to go from, you know, launch week with business of fashion to today, 400, 000 users?
I think, I mean, we were quite unlucky in that COVID struck, you know, within five and a half months of me going, yeah, that was, that was pretty bad, to be honest. Um, and, and again, it made me feel, yeah. And, and it kind of made me feel like, oh, I could have just, you know, run this as a side hustle as an extra tab on my laptop and no one would ever know.
Um, so that was, you know, I was a bit irritated about that. But, um, what I will say, however, is that we actually use this time during COVID to, um, to kind of end up being, um, you know, educating the public as to why renting clothes is an icky and why, um, it's being adopted by more people. Because I think there's a lot of like education that also needs to be done, right?
At the end of the day, it's a, it's a completely new idea, like sharing clothes with each other and then being paid for it. So it was important, I would say, that we, um, you know, spent all this time educating people digitally while everyone was stuck at home anyway. So that ended up being a period of immense growth for us in terms of the user base and the listing base, because everyone was staying at home and merry condo ing their apartments, right?
So you had a lot, yeah. So we had a lot of pent up supply as soon as, uh, As it was April 2021 when the government in the UK allowed us all to start, you know, going out as normal without all these strange limitations that there were. So I would say it was definitely this awareness that we created by engaging a digital captive audience during COVID.
Um, and then we were obviously very lucky to have a lot of support from press and media and a lot of influential personalities You know ranging from british celebrities such as stacy dooley Lady amelia, winsor dame helen mirren and dina asha smith Camille Cherrier, who's quite known in the fashion world.
Jessie Bush, who's, who's, um, from Australia as well. So we got, you know, we had a lot of, is she from New Zealand? I think she's from New Zealand, sorry. Um, so we had a lot of, you know, great people endorsing us and supporting us. And I would say that's really how we got our big break. But it was a culmination of many, many different moments.
It wasn't just one thing. For us that really, you know, made it for us, I would say. So yeah, it's been relentless. One foot in front of the other. Exactly. It's really, really been relentless. What was your experience when it comes to, you know, the money piece and the way that you were thinking about the funding pathway?
I know, I think it was last year you raised your seed round. It was around three million US. But what was your kind of thought process for that piece of the puzzle? Um, so we had raised, well, most of the business was bootstrapped. And then in 2021, we've raised, so just before we were getting out of COVID, we raised a friends and family angel round.
And then in the year 2022, so last year, we raised pre seed, seed, whatever you want to call it, names, the names can, you know, they're very interchangeable these days. And that was an institutional round. So we had, um, you know, quite a few venture firm, venture capital firms and a couple of family offices and some well known angels who came into the round, you know, it's important with a business such as ours because volumes do matter.
So we need scale, you know, it can't just be 100 customers and, you know, that's enough for us. Like we actually need volume and momentum. Across the UK and well, now the US since we've just expanded that two and a half months ago to really get the business, um, you know, to have some really meaningful, meaningful, you know, I would say impact on not just the environment, but also in terms of the business metrics.
So, I mean, while we're very close to now. breaking even, you know, by next year's time. It's really about growing rather than just sort of letting, you know, I guess, sort of waiting around essentially for it to happen. So while there are some big movements and moments that have happened for us, we do need more of the majority.
So the early and then soon the late majority to start downloading the app and using it as a real alternative to fast fashion. Yeah, absolutely. Gosh, well, I hope you come to Australia too. I heard that's on the cards at some point. I feel that the rental community is massive over there. It is, it's massive, but I don't think there's anything peer to peer that I know of.
Um, and I think really it would fit well in culture here. I totally agree. And there's so many Australian brands that do so well in the UK and even the U S now that we've launched it, I mean, the data and analytics that we see on the app, it's incredible. And you know, after launching the U S. Like we really realized how quickly it is to scale this business model I mean we are the only fashion rental business in the entire world that has ever gone abroad from their home country and continent No one has ever done this exactly and we've done it with only three million dollars raised to date And the reason that we've been able to do this is because of our business model and our focus on community Right.
So because we're peer to peer and because a gamified social network way, there's a lot of trust in the community and a lot of love in the community. So launching in the U. S., I mean, I will say I thought that it would be more expensive and more difficult. Then we actually managed. So I'm very, very proud of that.
And to be honest, now I get asked by people in Australia and Singapore if they can launch by rotation in their home countries for me, which, by the way, I'm very open to. So if anyone's listening. Please do give me a message on LinkedIn and we can chat. Oh my god, please someone in Australia, please. I feel like now it's also, it's the cultural moment as well, like everyone wants and needs this.
We're not wanting to, you know, spend constantly on buying a dress that sits in our wardrobe once a year. We've got like pieces that we want to invest in, yes, but like we just want to, yeah, like consume differently. I think it really is. You know, the way that the world is changing. Yeah, exactly. And, um, and it's, you know, like I said, it's not just about sustainability.
It's actually just a very practical thing to do. You know, it's, it's cool to be pragmatic, to be frugal, to share your tips on side hustles and how you can save money with your friends and your peers and your network. Like it's, it's no longer cool to. Show off I suppose so we've been very lucky in that, you know We've made renting or rotating as we call it Very cool and accepted because I mean hiring clothes is not a new thing You know our parents our grandparents have done it.
It's just that it's coming back now Yes, yes. Oh my gosh. I love that. For anyone listening who, you know, might have an idea that's in the kind of tech space or an app or is just in the early stages of even building an app, what do you think the most critical piece of advice to know is when you're in that early stage?
Like what is a not to do and what is a definitely do piece of advice? Um, I guess I'm not to do which I learned from, um, you know, my husband, who's our advisor when it comes to tech and data is that you shouldn't go to a tech team or like to your technical co founder and say, Hey, build me this beautiful, perfect platform app, whatever it is, on day one, the way to actually do it is to have building blocks and build a skeleton.
And then you add features gradually and slowly. And you do a lot of testing. To even understand if your users actually want those features because I think the problem with the consumer industry and definitely the fashion industry is that People want things to be perfect on day one. They're not meant to be so that's something that I learned Which we did I was forced into it as advice But actually I fully agree with what we've done, which was building that skeleton platform and then gradually adding features and being patient.
Um, and then things to definitely do, um, I'd say it's to really, really focus on your product. So don't worry so much about branding and, and press and you know, um, all these sort of like, I guess, you know, superficial things that people see up front, because, you know, if you, if you kind of attract people to your brand, uh, and then when they use your product or your service and they realize how bad it is, um, hopefully it isn't, but if it is bad, they will tell.
10 different people. And those 10 different people will say, Oh, I'm not so sure about this product. My friend told me it's not quite there yet. So I think it's much more important, especially in the early days to make sure the actual product is good. So focus on your product and the rest will come. Yes. I love that.
Make sure your product has word of mouth inherently built in because especially for women, we love to. Recommend in the group chat. Yeah, exactly. Recommend or diss in the group chat, I should say. It's true. You've got to be careful, exactly. You've got to be careful.
Welcome back, here are the six quick questions.
Question number one is, what's your why? Why are you waking up every day and building by rotation? To transform fashion consumption for good. Question number two is, what's been your favorite marketing moment so far? Uh, well, actually, there's a recent one that comes to mind, which is, um, one of the women on our app has paid for her IVF journey from renting out her wardrobe, which is very, very special.
And, you know, she's been keeping us in the loop, exactly, of her, her fertility journey. So, yeah, I just never knew that it would go so far, but that's how we're changing lives every day. Oh, wow. That is so special. That is so, yeah, interesting and, oh my gosh, I love that. Wow. Very cool. Question number three is what's one of your go to business resources to learn, whether it's a book or a podcast or a newsletter?
Oh, um, you know, not a popular author because he's not a great person politically, but, uh, Zero to One by Peter Thiel, um, it was such a great read, only 180 pages I believe, and really, really good for anyone who wants to be a tech founder. I was literally just talking about him on the call before this recording, and we were talking about...
His investment into Facebook, which made him, you know, a billionaire. His early investment into Facebook. Yeah, and PayPal. Co founder of PayPal, yes. But the Facebook investment, we were talking about it. Crazy, crazy stuff. Love that. Zero to one. Gonna link it in the show notes. Question number four is, how do you win the day?
What are your AM or PM rituals and habits that keep you feeling happy and successful and motivated? I mean on the good days when I have time and I wish I could do this every day, um, it's some sort of exercise, either it's going to the gym or going for a walk, um, so we live near Regent's Park. I just, I just find it very, very important to kind of, it sounds a bit grumpy, but to be alone.
I think it's quite important to me. I agree though. It's important to also have idle time where you're just able to think and daydream and It's kind of be with your thoughts. That's the word. Yeah. Idle time. That's the word. I love it. And actually I started doing a new thing, which I've been reading a lot about and I should've just done it before, which is I'm now making sure that I'm not sleeping right after using my phone on my laptop.
So I actually have a book. I have like. Five books next to my bed now on purpose and they're all fiction by the way. So it's Murakami I love Murakami like that's the way to lose myself and be in a different world and i'll just read like Six pages and then i'll i'll be like great. I'm ready to sleep and and dream of this world.
None of my everyday world, which is, you know, never letting me go to bed. So. 100%. I've recently been putting my phone out of the bedroom so I can kind of curb my addiction to my phone, especially first thing in the morning. And it has made such a noticeable difference. Like it made a difference within the first few days, but it's made just an overall difference to my like soul and the way that I like start my day with my, you know, not having any kind of anxiety that just.
wouldn't have been there if I looked at that email two hours later on my computer, you know? It's made such a big difference. I should try that. Oh my god, you should. It's really, like, been, you know, amazing. Question number five is, what's been your worst money mistake and how much did it cost you? Oh, uh, worst money mistake.
I think. Yeah. Okay. Cause this is a bigger one than the other one I was thinking. Um, we did a pop up, um, in Belgravia, uh, last year in, in London, Belgravia, uh, over the months of, I want to say, end of July. No, actually, August and September, and to be honest with you, I mean, we were sort of given this space for no rent, basically.
But then we paid for the fittings and the, um, you know, and sort of like the production of the space, and frankly, it wasn't really worth it. Um, and we also noticed that the foot traffic that came on, on Elizabeth Street in Belgravia during those two months, it's, it's not a local crowd. And we need people who live in the UK to use the app.
So we love tourists, right? But it's not, the service is not really for tourists, not yet anyway. So, it was sort of a learning point that sometimes don't just take whatever you're given for free, because it comes with additional costs. Um, and in this case, it was actually a financial cost as well, because we had to pay for the fittings.
So, um, yeah, and also another lesson, um, I know pop ups are really cool for media and branding and like an insta moment. But we've learned in our case that that's all they really are. Uh, it's great, they're great for brand awareness, but in terms of actual commercial activity, you know, spending a lot of time with customers in store to do one or two rentals is not really the same as Say selling a dress or a bag for 10 X that price.
So that's something I've learned as well in terms of my resources, but you know, we love a pop up. Great, great learnings. Yeah. Love a pop up for the IRL, you know, marketing moment and all that. Great learnings. Last question, I know you've shared a really great one already, but maybe you've got another one in the bank.
What is just a crazy story you can share that's good or bad from your journey in building this business? Well, a really, really cool thing that's just happened a few months ago is that we now have Dame Helen Merrin lending out two looks from her red carpet wardrobe on the By Rotation app. And she's raising money for the charity Women for Women.
So it's kind of crazy. Like, you guys can rent, um, a dame and a very famous actor's outfits, um, and, you know, kind of walk a mile in her dress or shoes or whatever, um, and also be doing good for a charity at the same time. So, yeah, it's kind of crazy, the reach of Biorotation, and we're really, really lucky to have the support of such well known personalities, because it only helps make this, You know, circular fashion movement look much more, um, I guess, you know, it just makes us stronger.
That is so cool. I love that. I feel like I'm thinking about who I would love, you know, like people I look to on social media. I feel like I'd love like, what's the name of Haley Bieber's stylist? She's like the stylist to so many people. Danny, Michelle, we're, we hope to be working. That would be great. I feel like she has a great wardrobe.
Oh my gosh. This was so fun. Ishita, thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing your story and your learnings and how everything's going. I am hoping someone slides into your DMs about Australia and we'll be seeing you here soon. I would love that. Thank you so much again for having me. I had such a great chat with you.