We caught up with Eshita Kabra-Davies, Founder of the UK’s first peer-to-peer fashion rental app, By Rotation, to hear how she took the leap and went from working in finance to creating her burgeoning fashion tech company that has become a favourite with fashion conscious consumers and celebrities alike, including Stacey Dooley.WATCH ON IGTV HERE
By Rotation is the UK’s leading fashion rental app and while there is a lot of rental platforms out there, we’re actually the only app and the biggest rental platform with over 25,000 users. What sets us apart is the fact we’re peer-to-peer, so you can monetise your wardrobe by renting it out, while also renting other people’s items. The idea behind the app was to counteract fast fashion through encouraging people to share their items. So, our users can feel good about that fact that they’re helping to save the planet, while also looking chic!
I came up with the idea as side hustle while I was working in investment banking. I had been working in that sector for around six years and I was packing for my honeymoon when I faced the first world problem of what am I going to wear? That’s when the idea of a fashion rental platform first popped into my head and so I started analysing the market to see if there really was an appetite for this kind of platform.
I went on my honeymoon to Rajasthan in India, which is also where I was born, as I wanted to show my husband who is not Indian where I came from and my culture. It was here that we started to notice how much textile waste was polluting the towns, even beyond the landfills that we know are outside of Delhi, and it was then that I started to feel guilty. There I was worrying about my outfit of the day and thinking about all my new holiday clothes, when in fact I was polluting my own birthplace, a place that is so important to me. It was then I realised I was part of the problem and I needed to do something about it.
Consumption is a big part of the problem when it comes to the fashion industry, particularly fast fashion, so I decided to take my idea one step further to try to provide a solution to the problem. I thought if we could create a community of fashion enthusiasts that were increasingly becoming more aware and concerned about their own fashion footprint, we could create something really great. Through the peer-to-peer rental model, not only can people rent amazing clothes from likeminded individuals, but they can also feel good about the fact they are making a difference too.
I soon realised that there weren’t any big competitors here in the UK currently playing in this space and this is when I decided this could be a viable business opportunity. As I was still working my fulltime job from 6.45 in the morning to 6.00 at night, it was tough in the beginning, but I was so passionate about getting the business going I just made it work. I really enjoyed what I was doing so I didn’t mind giving up my evenings, weekends and social life to focus on it.
I first started by building a test website for the app over a weekend, it was really ugly and didn’t look great but it was a really good way of testing the concept and figuring out how it would work. I was able to see if people were actually interested in a fashion rental app in the UK in a cost effective way and also ensure that the idea was going to work while I still had another job to fall back on.
That would be my number one advice for anyone looking to start their own business, try and do as much as you can in your spare time while you still have another job, until your certain that it’s going to be a viable business opportunity. Do your research first and it will pay off in the end.
I’m so humbled by the response we’ve received in our first year, hitting 25,000 users was certainly a high point. It’s so good to see our community of ‘rotators’ growing and communicating with each other, with many even building friendships with each other over their shared love of fashion. We see people of all walks of life coming together, including students, professors, celebrities and homemakers, we’ve now got Stacey Dooley on the app which was a huge win for us, so it’s so nice to see these people all coming together. I’m also very grateful to the press as we’ve had some amazing articles written about us, which has been so helpful in raising awareness of By Rotation and how rental is better for the environment than buying.
Yes, it’s been amazing and what’s even better is that she approached us. Stacey is obviously super passionate about sustainable fashion and so she got in touch to say that she would love to partner up and list her wardrobe on the app, with all the money she raises from rentals going to Refuge – the charity against domestic violence. She continues to be a big supporter, something that we are so grateful for.
We’ve also worked with a lot of different influencers, which came about after we reached out to them to tell them more about By Rotation. We would offer them the chance to rent something for free from the app and many of them would come back and say they were starting to think about their fashion consumption and they loved the concept of the app and what we were doing. We were able to build great relationships from there and this has really helped to raise awareness of the app.
Make sure you build your network – it’s so important when you’re first starting out and remains important as the business grows. The team of people you have around you can help to open new doors as they introduce you to people from different sectors or industries.
As I mentioned earlier, you also need to do your research and make sure you’ve scoped out the business area you’re looking to go into, including competitors, in order to justify to yourself that this is a viable business opportunity worth quitting your job for – eventually! Ask yourself difficult questions like ‘why am I better than the competition?’ as it can help you to find your unique selling point and set out your business ideals.
Test it out first too. You don’t have to wait until you have a perfect product or perfect branding to share it with others, take advantage of your networks, for example, your Instagram community. Share it with them and get their thoughts and feedback. This can really help to shape your final product.
Our competition is now open and we’re giving budding entrepreneurs the chance to win £20,000 grand prize so they can take their Passion Project to the next level. Read more about it here and click here to apply to the competition. Please ensure you’ve read the Terms and Conditions carefully before applying.