first_img“When we first started this company, we had no idea what we were doing,” Chen said. “We’ve never done a tech startup team before. And that’s kind of where I’ve been fortunate enough to go to USC, and USC really played a big role in helping us grow this business.” “What is really cool about being a part of this venture, while we’re all still in school, is that we can use what we’ve learned from USC and within Marshall and then test it out in real-life situations,” Marcussen said. Photo Courtesy of Calvin Chen Starting their business model as freshman roommates, Chen and Mullen worked tirelessly on their plan throughout their freshman year. Chen said that he sometimes needed to sacrifice class periods to meet with key investors, and Mullen said the pair worked on their final project daily.  “I think those two students had a huge amount of [mindset and entrepreneurial spirit] that they were very good at sharing ideas about their business, participating [and] encouraging other students to learn about their ideas,” Szymanski said. “The presentation was great and they were very motivated and extremely passionate about clothing.” “It really just came down to putting in the time, the grind and effort, really into making it successful,” Mullen said. “We would just work every single day on building our business plan, establishing our model, looking at projections, sourcing out products [and] developing our website.”  Rent-A Fit offers clients an affordable alternative to expensive name brands. Renters pay a $5 monthly subscription fee for access to the latest clothing trends and the ability to take items from Rent-A-Fit’s luxury inventory home for a three- or six-day period. The company, which has over 500 subscribers, offers full dry-cleaning services and members can buy their rentals at a discount at the end of each fashion season. “This idea is really relevant for people who still want to experience luxury without committing and paying the big-ticket price,” Marcussen said. “On a sustainability level, I think Rent-A-Fit is such a great option for people to be able to try this out, you know, wear it a couple of times and send it back without having it sit in their closet for months and never wearing it.”  “The last year or so, the whole renting revolution trend has become very popular,” Mullen said. “And I think for us, with minimal competition in our specific niche — which is a luxury good phase — has an incredible opportunity to grow.” With a closet full of shirts and an idea in 2018, Calvin Chen and Brendan Mullen beat the clock and founded a fashion rentals brand startup to help young professionals make a statement in the City of Angels. Both juniors majoring in business administration launched a startup called Rent-A-Fit, making high-end fashion more sustainable and affordable for students and budding professionals. Now, they couldn’t be more excited to see their project begin its initial launch. Now more than ever, consumers consider alternatives to purchasing high-end products for both financial and environmental reasons. Fast fashion is one of the leading causes of landfill waste, and renting represents a sustainable alternative for any occasion. With the help of USC resources such as the Marshall Incubator Program at the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, the pair reached out to Marshall mentors such as professor Marianne Szymanski and alumni investors. While maintaining a busy school schedule, their first inventory came from Chen’s closet, and they worked long into the night creating online platform tools and learning about previous rental business models as freshmen. “We didn’t have any experience right away,” Mullen said. “We knew we had a great idea we were sitting on. We wanted to go about it the right way.” Risks in starting a new enterprise kept the team on track. Rent-A-Fit founders said that time is their most valuable resource when building their brand since starting a business in college is difficult.  In 2018 the pair met with more than 30 USC business professors and professionals like Director of the USC Incubator Program Paul Orlando, who advised and connected them with other professionals. Chen and Mullen both said that they are responsible for angel investors’ money — today Rent-A-Fit has raised $100,000 in fundraising and the company is valued at $2.5 million. Rent-A-Fit team members said they are determined to put this startup funding to good use. “The minute you walk in my [classroom] door, you’ve already told me, ‘I want to be an entrepreneur’ and have a business idea,” Szymanski said. “It could just be a sketch on a paper, but you will really focus on yourself and how to apply yourself to the situation of running a business.”   Mullen said he doesn’t want to waste any time with an opportunity like Rent-A-Fit.  Earlier this year, the duo asked Emma Marcussen, a sophomore majoring in business administration, to join their team. Marcussen helps develop the brand’s online platforms and has recently worked on building brand recognizability for Rent-A-Fit. Szymanski said she is excited to see her students succeed in the fashion industry.  Taking Szymanski’s Management of New Enterprises course allowed Chen and Mullen to apply their ideas in the classroom and gain mentors along the way. “Now that I am responsible for investors’ money, it really changes your perspective,” Mullen said. “I want to work as hard as possible to ensure that they will have a gain on their investment down the road.”  Under Szymanski’s guidance, Chen and Mullen learned what it takes to become an entrepreneur. Szymanski stressed that students need the discipline to excel in Marshall startup courses and beyond. She also recommended that students interested in small business development take Entrepreneurship of the Toy Industry, a two-unit course that follows the business models of popular toy brands like Hasbro and Mattel.  The trio agree that renting is the business of the future. Chen said that post-pandemic fashion is already changing for the better. With the economic downturn, fashionistas are more conscious about their spending and are looking for alternatives to fast fashion — and Rent-A-Fit has just the answer for this change.last_img

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