Written by David Silverberg
If you want to hear about an early win for a budding entrepreneur, look no further than Vasiliki Belegrinis's startup RELOVE.
She introduced the fashion company to its first public event at the Schulich Startup Night Competition, where Belegrinis is a proud alumnus. “I was put in the alumni category against other amazing and experienced entrepreneurs with companies that have been around much longer than mine,” she recalls in an interview. “It was quite a nervewracking experience, thinking I would be put in such a category since my company was very much an early-stage startup. However, I didn't let that dissuade my confidence or belief in the company and what we are trying to achieve.”
In the end, RELOVE won first place, propelling their plans to launch a beta version of the site, thanks to the funding and legal and operational support the company got from winning first in the competition.
RELOVE plans to launch in mid-2019 and Belegrinis couldn't be more thrilled to finally see her business reach Canadians. The premise is simple: RELOVE users rent their clothes to other users, so those fashion lovers don't need to buy that stunning dress or cute bag for a night out. And those with clothes to spare get extra cash for their rentals.
But wearing someone's clothing might not be appealing to everyone, right? “Thing is, the Millennial generation is already wearing their friends' clothing for a night or two,” she counters. “I borrow clothes from my girlfriends all the time.”
Belegrinis describes more on how RELOVE works: the interested borrower picks an item from an online inventory, selecting one of several options for how long they want to borrow the item, with a four-day rental being the most popular in RELOVE's beta version.
The clothes can then be shipped to the borrower's home or a drop-off location. The operations are all handled via RELOVE instead of forcing lenders to manage the process, with the company also overseeing the shipping, returns and everything in between.
For now, the company is focused on the GTA, but plans to go nation-wide later.
And while RELOVE is tailored to women so far, they plan to expand to a men's clothing line in the future.
As CEO and founder, Belegrinis is consumed by the heady activities of running the business. “Any given day, I could be running to the cleaners to make sure a dress is cleaned and out for the next consumer, or I could be chatting with members on what they will like to see be changed, or cold calling or messaging people on Instagram and have them be part of our stylish community.”
When asked why she wanted to focus on this niche area for her first startup, Belegrinis says, “I'm the target customer, actually! I'm the kind of person that has a closet overflowing with clothes but I'm complaining how I have nothing to wear. And I got fed up with that feeling, and tore down my closet and set up an office space to help run RELOVE.”
She was always passionate about fashion, trying on the latest outfits and keeping up with the trendiest styles. “When I started to learn about the toxic side of fashion, such as the human rights violations, I knew I couldn't be ignorant about that anymore.”
When Belegrinis gazes into her crystal ball to predict what RELOVE can become, she says, “I would love to see RELOVE connecting and building relationships, one closet at a time. Members can easily build connections in their local communities with other likeminded, stylish folks.”
Photo credit: Zlatko Cetinic, Images Made Real