RAGFAiR has found the golden area between exclusive, high-quality fashion products and affordability – all without overcrowding your wardrobe.
Location: Zürich, Switzerland
Product / Service Offering: Online renting service for designer women’s clothes and accessories
Co-founder Interviewed: Natalia Pinskaya and Olena Romanovska
Other Key Management Team Members: Alexandra Steinmann
This article is part of our Women Entrepreneurs Spotlight Series featuring female entrepreneurs and their companies. We hope these founders’ interviews will inspire and motivate you as you undertake your own entrepreneurial journey
Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you?
RAGFAiR is serving our own needs: unlimited wardrobe choices and a sustainable shopping option. Also, it is not always easy to find a good selection of international up-and-coming brands to create a unique look. We decided to offer this diversity underlined by sustainable consumption.
When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?
Typically for women, the “nothing-to-wear” moment alone with a completely overcrowded wardrobe was a trigger to establish a fashion startup. Natalia and Olena, the co-founders of RAGFAiR, states it was not always easy to create a unique look using international up-and-coming brands. Later, Alexandra joined the team. A big incentive for her came from her bachelor thesis about textile recycling in Switzerland. Being part of the RAGFAiR startup, Alexandra has the vision to help the fashion industry become more sustainable and ethical.
What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?
Firstly, our customers enjoy an access to exclusive, high-quality fashion products without overcrowding their wardrobes. Secondly, our service helps to save money, as it is drastically cheaper to rent a qualitative design piece than to buy it. Lastly, by using our service our clients take part in collaborative consumption.
What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?
We offer unique designs as an answer to the mainstream. Our collection is composed of carefully selected products from the designers all over the world: Scandinavia, Europe, Russia, Israel, etc. We are constantly in search for the talented designers who respect fairness in the fashion industry.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?
We are still at the very beginning of our story. It took us a year to launch our service. And now, RAGFAiR is online for three months, still in “getting up” and promotion phase. The most challenging task at the moment, as for many startups, is to get customer’s trust as RAGFAiR is young. Also, it is in the services sector.
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Are there resources you have utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?
The main resource for us is the right people who are thinking alike, who believe in the idea, and who are ready to invest the most expensive thing in their lives, their time.
What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?
As a first step, still, at the stage of working on the idea, we ran a crowdfunding campaign. It was unsuccessful. We took from it many lessons learned and a powerful push to move forward on our own.
Still, looking back, we would definitely make changes. The major learning is: “Run crowdfunding when the offer to the customer is defined.” Furthermore, to secure our current funding, we prepared a very detailed business plan with different scenarios to be able to develop gradually and reinvest our revenue.
Have there been any questions you have had as an entrepreneur of a fledgling startup that you had a particularly hard time finding the answers to?
Yes! There is one! “What does our customer want?” Or, to be more precise: “How does our customer want RAGFAiR service to be?” As there are different possibilities to make a service offered in our case, we had a hard time to decide what format it should follow. From the conducted ethnographic research we grasped a lot of insights, but there was no clear thread where to move in order to satisfy the major part of our customers. We learned to compromise and prioritize. Also, we keep our eyes open and collect user’s feedback constantly.
What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?
One of the challenging aspects of our business is a mindset. People can think of sharing cars, apartments or books, but when it comes to garments it is still tricky to convince them to rent instead of buy. The ownership feeling, in this case, is still strong. It requires a lot of effort to shift the mindset.
What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?
One of the most important things is to maintain contact with our customers. We are constantly inviting our users to participate in the formation of the collection. We ask our users what they would like to rent. The most voted on piece is then acquired. Also, we constantly seek feedback on the different aspects of our service to improve it.
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Is there anything else you would like to share about your company?
Besides improved access to designer fashion, RAGFAiR promotes collaborative consumption. This supports environmental well being. We also believe that fashion holds value, and we want this value to be recognized in times where fast fashion is regrettably mainstream.
Are you familiar with other Women-led startups? If so, we would like to hear from you. Tell us about them in the comments below!