For our final week of chatting with the SmartStart winning teams, Geeks in Cambodia sits down with STYLE, a platform to rent dresses, suits or traditional clothing for celebrations!
STYLE works closely with tailor shops in Cambodia to allow users to rent outfits for special occasions, such as weddings and parties, and to allow Cambodians to enjoy different looks at a lower cost.
The team gave us insight about their challenges, how they had overcome them as a team, and their hopes for the incubation programme! Read on to find out more.
The following interview has been edited for clarity, length and flow.
How do you feel about this win and how has the 3-month SmartStart journey been for you?
STYLE (S): We feel very excited, this is the biggest achievement in our university life, we had never expected to win such an award. We feel like this programme has changed us from someone who studies for grades, to someone who has their own business, with more knowledge beyond school. Overall I think this programme is amazing, because we got to learn a lot about digital businesses and leadership skills. During SmartStart we get to practice and improve our own skills as well.
How has the SmartStart programme evolved your business idea and integrated it into the mobile application?
S: Actually, when we first applied for the programme, our idea was mainly focused on tailoring services, we wanted people to use our platform to get their clothes made. But after the Hatch day, we started to learn about business models and how to change our idea, apply it in the real world and see if it’s going to work or not. We found that it is not going to work and we could find other ways to explore clothes tailoring, so we decided to change it to a clothes renting service.
What was the thought process behind the concept of STYLE?
S: The inspiration came from our own experiences. When we have to go for a wedding or any party, we have to spend a lot of money on clothing, because it’s quite expensive and we only wear it once or twice. We feel like we can help other people too, since they may face this problem as well. We got this idea from one of our friends who actually recommended clothes rental. We conducted surveys as well and people feedbacked that they would prefer a clothes rental service as opposed to tailoring services.
What are some of the challenges during the programme?
S: As a team, we needed to talk to people through face-to-face interviews, some people didn’t even want to talk to us, and it was quite challenging. We had to travel around Phnom Penh to find partners, to convince them to partner with us. Some of them were very open to the idea when others just ignored us. Another challenge we faced was developing the business model by ourselves, we needed to try to think about what works and what does not. Team arguments were also an issue, and it was hard to deal with finding methods on how to tackle conflicting issues.
How different were the various stages of the SmartStart journey for you?
S: The first day of SmartStart, we didn’t know anything about it and our idea was tailoring services instead of clothes rental. We learned how to do market surveys, how to talk to people. They they have also taught us to recognize whether our business idea would be feasible or not. At the Hackathon, we learnt how to develop our ideas into real ones within two days before the pitch. We went deeper into the pitch by creating the prototype within two days as well, so it was intense. Bootcamp helped us a lot, we didn’t just learn about basic skills such as technology or finance, but they taught us instead useful life skills such as meditation and mindfulness.
What do you have in mind for your business idea during the incubator programme?
S: We have plans to include the clothes that people wear everyday. If it was just traditional outfits and party outfits, we believe the market is still too small. We also want to mirror one of the most successful business models, Rent the Runway from the US, applying their concept to our idea. On top of that, we want to start our operations on Facebook this month, before our application launch, as it may still take some time. We want to also develop our webpage in the coming months.
How do you want to differentiate yourself to emerge as the most outstanding team during the incubation programme with Impact Hub?
S: We need to try to develop our business and make more revenue to be the best. In order to do that, we need to have strong team spirit. We also plan to have one more technology expert in order to be more efficient in developing our application.
Do you have any advice for aspiring innovators?
S: We think the most important thing to bear in mind is to not underestimate yourself, you may not be aware of your hidden talents, or of your potential. If you want to go for something, do it and give it a try! Programmes like SmartStart really unlocked our potential and gave us room to improve. Don’t hesitate if you want to go for such programmes. Just give it a try and don’t give up if you have a passion for something. Even if you fail, you can carry the experiences to your work life or other programmes!
Geeks in Cambodia congratulates the STYLE team for their accomplishment, and wishes them the best in hitting all their milestones and ambitions during the incubation programme! For more information on STYLE, check out their Facebook page here.