Doing student entrepreneurship in style
Would you share your clothes with a complete stranger? It might sound risky but this is the concept behind UTS student, Ornella Byak’s startup, Ornella & Co. A peer-to-peer garment rental service allowing women to rent their clothes hassle-free and providing access to affordable and stylish outfits for their next big event.
Ornella & Co is making its mark by tapping into the market of cash-strapped millennials who can’t afford a new outfit for every special occasion.
"I thought 'is there something that works like a property management-style service to manage your dresses' and there wasn't," said Ornella.
The business is helping 16-year old paying customer, Jaz Braban, who uses the platform as both a renter and loaner.
“With Ornella & Co, I can hire the perfect outfit every time and don’t have the guilt of it sitting in my wardrobe gathering dust. If I've already bought a new dress, I can then list it on Ornella & Co for it to be hired out by someone else in need,” she explains.
But it wasn’t just about fashion. Ornella’s inspiration for her startup stemmed from her experience in the workforce where she found she wanted to “help women in business access a wardrobe that wasn’t too expensive.”
While garment-sharing isn’t a new phenomenon, Ornella & Co has distinguished their business from similar peer-to-peer platforms by taking responsibility of the rental management logistics. As part of their service, the platform manages all bookings and provides professional photography for the site, as well as delivery, storage, and dry cleaning.
Since its November launch, almost one hundred dresses have been listed featuring a diverse range of styles, sizes, and prices.
From student to founder
Since starting her Bachelor of Technology and Innovation at UTS, Ornella was able to embrace her inner entrepreneur whilst working in commercial real estate.
Although she yearned for the freedom and creativity of startup life, Ornella developed skills and understanding of property management, which would later become a foundational building block and model to adapt for her startup.
With the help of the UTS Startups community, Ornella feels she has been able to embrace her drive and independence by surrounding herself with like-minded student entrepreneurs who share a strong drive and motivation to succeed.
Ornella says the culture of collaboration opposed to competition is what makes the UTS Startups community unique.
“We’re all very powerful individuals working on really different projects and together we can create a lot by using each other’s assets as opportunities opposed to viewing them as liabilities.”
Inspiring budding student entrepreneurs
For students who aren’t inspired by traditional work or who feel unsure about their degree, Ornella’s advice is to find what you love and go after it.
“You only get one life and you may as well live it. Love it, hate it, go through all those ups and downs and actually create and leave something behind that you’re proud of.”
She believes that younger generations present a unique opportunity to embrace entrepreneurship if they are willing to believe in their potential.
“Everyone’s obsessed with experiencing that latest thing and that could actually be something you’ve created."