Kristy Wieber and Lisa Owen are the co-owners of Rent frock Repeat. In 2010, they revolutionized the way women dressed for formal occasions with an online rental business and two bustling showrooms in Toronto and Ottawa.
Now the pair has put their successful business on pause to start a new venture, a monthly subscription service for casual and office wear. Promising to make our closets more exciting and lessen the fashion footprint.
I sat down with Kristy and Lisa to talk about running a business – the resilience it takes and the rewards that come with it.
RESILIENT PEOPLE: How did you come together as partners?
KRISTY WIEBER: About fifteen years ago we were working together and instantly became friends. Even though we liked our jobs we thought that we should do our own thing together but weren’t sure what that would be. We thought about a bookstore, a doggy daycare, or a café or a doggy bookstore café.
We had the years to get to know each other’s work ethics so there wasn’t that trepidation to figure each other out.
What are the challenges in starting a business or working together?
Lisa Owen: People want to hear us say something that’s really challenging. The brilliance of it is that we understood each other from the beginning. On hard days things may get to you about the other person but when I’m losing my mind she’s the person I can call and talk to and the same goes for Kristy.
Some people will say don’t go into business with friends. What we did well from the beginning, other than knowing each other’s work style, is we had the tough conversations and almost went through a type of marriage counselling course to figure things out before going into it.
On the back deck over a glass of wine we asked the tough questions like: Who’s the decision maker? If we’re at a cross roads how are we going to make the final decision? What’s your role and my role? What’s going to happen when you pass away or I pass away?
Those are hard conversations to have. Were those difficult?
KW: No. We’re known each other for so long. If you can’t have those conversations you shouldn’t go into business together.
There are so many challenges that come with the finances of running a business. There were times when you had a lot of money, and then didn’t and had to find more. How did you deal with that?
LO: You’re on a roller coaster ride but from a Zen-like perspective we realized that money has always come and we’ve always found a way.
You need to reframe the question, is money the problem or is it something else? We focus more on being creative with our business and innovating our way out of situations. Money gets you TO the end result; it’s not THE end result.
Were you this calm from the beginning of setting-up RfR?
KW: There was definitely some nail biting in the beginning because you don’t know and there are many eggs in all these baskets, putting our own money in the business, waking up in the middle of the night. But as you go and you make it through the hurdles we just kept doing what’s right for the customer and the company. We kept those things in mind and we always seemed to find a way.
LO: We’ve gone through such highs and lows that now we’re used to it. We read once, every time you fear something write it down, and after you do it write down the outcome. You realize that the outcome was never as bad as the fear. You say, ‘look at me, I’m ok.’
When you’re in a fearful mode, go back to your fear book and it will bring you calm and remind you that you can be there again and you’ll be ok.
Who were your mentors?
KW: I look to friends, family, our customers and employees. I’m most interested in what they’re saying about what we’re doing and that keeps me motivated to do the best for them.
LO: Seth Godin has had the biggest impact on my mind and how I see problems. He gives it a different lens. Also Ron Duke who we met from our time on Dragon’s Den.
What advice would you give a new entrepreneur to build that resilience in business?
LO: Don’t ask what you’re passionate about but why you want to go into business for yourself. Make sure that its something you love so much that when you string together 7 horrible days you’d still work through them because you’re so passionate about it.
KW: Consider your worst-case scenario. If you lose everything, are you going to be ok with that? Will you be ok with moving back in with your mom or dad or starting all over again? If you can say yes to those things, then you’ll be ok to move forward.
Is there a mantra that you follow?
LO: I’m ok with failure and I’m ok with great success but I’m not ok with anything in between. We didn’t want mediocre – if we’re going to do something we’re doing it right or not at all.
Money’s not what you’re after. Good work environment, mentors, and people that are there to support you.
Please talk about the new venture.
KW: For the last 8 years we’ve been renting spectacular dresses for one- time occasions. Rent is so much more widely known and accepted now. There are lots of subscriptions on the market but clothes are still accumulating in people’s closets.
Customers will fill-out a style profile with their size, favourite colours and designers, if you want a stylist or pick outfits yourself. We take that all and build it into a service that’s totally curated for the customer.
A box comes each month with 4-6 pieces. Send them back or buy at a discounted rate. It’s a way to get an amazing variety without an overstuffed closet.
Thank you Kristy and Lisa for spending the time.
For more information on Rent frock Repeat and their new subscription service go to www.rentfrockrepeat.com
Rent frock Repeat's Co-Founders Lisa Owen & Kristy Wieber