Startup Spotlight: Armoire
Startup Spotlight: Armoire
This week we spoke to Ambika Singh, CEO of Armoire. Armoire is a subscription service for women to get new personalized clothes for a period of time and then exchange them for new ones. Read our interview below!
GH: What is Armoire?
Armoire is a “closet as a service” for busy women, providing an endless stream of high-end, everyday rental clothes that are tailored to customers’ preferences. It’s a subscription service that takes the hassle out of getting new clothes by curating personal style recommendations. So customers simply choose clothes from manageable and personalized selections, wear as long as they want, then exchange for a new set of clothes. Armoire makes it easy to look great – with constant wardrobe variety and minimal time investment.
GH: What was your Eureka moment: how did Armoire get started?
Our Eureka moment was actually an accumulation of moments – all the times that we would hear our friends, family, co-workers say “My closet is overflowing with items, yet I have nothing to wear” or “I don’t have time to shop.” It was the same resounding sentiments over and over again and it made it clear that there was an unserved need for those busy women (who are crushing it) in the world. The way women get clothes today needed to be rethought to fit the busy lifestyle of the modern woman.
This feeling of having a cluttered closet but nothing to wear has been a real pain point for me as well – I loved the idea of rental as a way to get wardrobe variety without the cluttered closet. However, after renting clothes from other services, I realized that it was an incredibly time consuming process. As a busy woman, I hardly had time to shop for clothes normally; now that I was getting an increased number of shared pieces, it became clear that I needed a scalable way to procure those things that was easier on my time than navigating through thousands of photos on a website.
With a combination of algorithms, current fashion, and a deep understanding of our customers, we saw a solution to make it easier for women to get new clothes by recommending a curated closet based on their individual preferences. We tested this idea with over 500 women last year, and it was clear that having access to an endless stream of personalized items without the hassle and time investment of shopping, really resonated. And thus, Armoire was born.
GH: How did you build your team?
I built my team through a serendipitous combination of people I knew and trusted who had the skills needed to build the complex team required for Armoire. It is our single greatest asset that our team consists of experts in technology, marketing, operations and analytics.
GH: What is your company philosophy driving your company culture?
With the majority of our founding team being women, we truly live and breath Armoire’s mission. Empowering women by giving them time back and peace of mind from one of many pressures (what to wear) so that she can focus on things that matter to do incredible things in the world. It’s not something we just say, but we get it and truly live it. Because of this, we have an incredibly customer-focused culture – we obsess about the details to make their experience memorable, have passionate conversations about their feedback and continue to evolve to fit their needs. And I think it’s fair to say, we have a lot of fun along the way.
GH: What did you learn from your first customers?
More than can be recounted here 🙂 We learned an incredible amount from our first customers – many of whom we still have as customers today. We leveraged the advantages of being small and agile when starting out to stay close (and listen) to what they liked and what improvements they wanted to see. Sometimes that meant doing slightly crazy and unscalable efforts while we could. For instance, having our founding team also serve as bike-deliverers to our Boston customers just so we could have more facetime to pick their brain (and yes, sometimes that meant showing up sweaty on their doorstep in the Boston summer sun).
We learned specific insights that changed our business model (i.e. going from set cycles to exchange clothes to an unlimited exchange model) as well as bigger picture learnings, like the importance of focusing on the details because the little things really do matter. Overall, we learned that listening and evolving with our customers is of utmost importance.
And we lucked out with a great group of early customers. They were willing and eager to provide feedback, patient as we went through changes, and overall had fun with the process.
GH: What has the Boston ecosystem provided you?
We started the company in MIT’s Delta V accelerator program. This program played a pivotal role in Armoire’s growth. It gave us structure, encouragement, access to mentorship, and support for every aspect of the difficult process of starting a business.
The experience was amazing and truly accelerated our business from inception to execution. We had a blast working out of the communal office space and were thrilled with the incremental progress we made every day. We’re so grateful to the entire family at the Martin Trust Center at MIT – Bill, Trish, Nick, Donna, Eliza, Tommy and Renee!
We also received funding and mentorship from MIT’s Sandbox Innovation Fund and General Catalyst’s Rough Draft Ventures.
GH:What is the Boston ecosystem lacking from your perspective?
Relative to other cities, the Boston ecosystem seems to be lacking a strong community of entrepreneurs and investors focused on building consumer companies. It’s definitely growing, but still could use more resources in this space. Specific to our business if was also lacking designers to work with directly on partnerships for our collection.
GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?
The best advice I’ve been given is to focus on hiring as the mst important asset you can invest in to ensure your startup’s sucess.
The worst advice I received is to not hire your friends. Armoire is made up of people who I’ve built relationships and trusted as part of my friend network, and I wouldn’t have it any other way:)
GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year?
Without a doubt, starting Armoire:)
GH: What does the future hold for Armoire?
The possibilities are endless and we get very excited when thinking about the future of Armoire. Above all else, we’re excited to bring our service to even more busy and amazing women (bossladies as we like to call them). Now more than ever, we are dedicated to empowering women, by giving them time back from shopping and curating their closet so that they can focus on the things that matter to them – whatever that may be. In terms of how we evolve and grow – we have many ideas of how to expand the service into other categories… but stay tuned for that 🙂
We were thrilled to work with Greenhorn on fostering the startup community and would love to pass along a special promo code to Greenhorn readers. Use promocode GREENHORN for $25 off your first month of Armoire!
Learn More about Armoire here.