Monday, January 30, 2012 - Your Cure for Buyer's Remorse

You know that gorgeous Phillip Lim dress you bought for your friend’s wedding that only got worn
once before you, ehem, outgrew it?  Or what about that new leather jacket that’s been hanging in your closet with the price tags on for a year? Well now there’s a place to get back some of the cash you poured into your previous purchases. is a new start up by a pair of twins (sound familiar?) who want it to be the “eBay meets Facebook” of New York and beyond.

I spoke with Laura Boring, a good friend and the Head of Marketing of to learn more about the business.

 How in the world did you end up going from finance to a start up? 

It really was by chance. I am a 2nd year MBA at Vanderbilt and worked this past summer at a real estate company for my summer internship. The original plan was to pursue a career in a similar field after graduation.  However, this fall I was talking to my classmate and friend Adam Albright after class one day about his new company, I was immediately intrigued by the concept and by how much potential it could have. He mentioned that they were looking for marketing help, and I immediately volunteered. Since I would be joining as an intern, I think he looked over the minor detail that I have very little marketing experience. A few days later, I was promoted to Head of Marketing. Things move much faster at a start-up than in the corporate world!

Wow, no kidding! But that's great. What's it like working with all men? Finance and Real Estate are both pretty male-dominated industries, so working with all men isn’t anything new for me.  I couldn’t ask for a better team. Everyone likes to joke around, but we also work really hard. Having men and women on the team is really helpful from a marketing perspective, because’s benefits are so unique to each user.  If you tell women that you can rent drills and power washers on our site, most of them just roll their eyes. But when you mention that you can rent designer cocktail dresses or list your old bridesmaid dresses, their eyes immediately light up! The guys tend to trust my opinion when it comes to marketing ideas for wedding rentals and clothing, and I look to them for more details on extreme sports equipment and car accessories.  It just works.

What do you do day to day to market and promote the site? How is it different than your previous work experiences?

On a day to day basis, my primary goal is to encourage natural conversations about our company and to get people active on  the site. Marketing for is somewhat complicated, because what we are marketing is not something like shampoo, which has a well understood benefit. We have to first get people comfortable with the concept of renting and lending items to strangers and then get them on board with using our site. For this reason, word of mouth marketing is huge. It is very different hearing the story of how your neighbor just made $400 renting out his specialty camera lens on rather than just seeing our company logo on a billboard. We recently implemented a refer-a-friend program that gives you rental credit for every friend you bring to the site. pulls in Facebook so you can easily invite your existing contacts. Forming partnerships with local affinity groups, such as hiking and kayak groups is another recent initiative. These groups are great because they typically need outdoor stuff to participate in group activities, or they have stuff and are willing to rent it out to others. Most of our marketing efforts have been focused around social media by using Facebook ads and pages, blogs, and twitter. We use social media because the majority of our target customers use social media.

What I am doing now is completely different than what I was doing while working in finance for a large corporation. At, if I have a new idea I can actually implement it. Chris and Robert Jaeger, the CEO and COO, realize that we are in a completely new space and are open to trying new marketing ideas. If something doesn’t work, we try something else. It is also very rewarding to see the fruits of your labor. We had a blog post in the Village Voice, and a few days later we had the most site hits we’ve ever had in a single day. Instant gratification!

Explain how it works - renting or looking to rent. 
You can always browse the site, but you have to create an account in order to rent or lend items. Creating an account is free and really quick if you select the Facebook log-in option. To list an item, simply upload a photo and set your item’s availability, security deposit, and price. For the price, we recommend listing at 10% of the retail value but certainly use other similar items on the site as a guide. You will receive an email request when someone wants to rent your item. You then have the ability to accept, negotiate, or decline the offer. If you accept, you confirm the pickup details and meet to exchange the item. When the item is returned, verify that your item is in its original condition and close the exchange over text message. It’s really easy! Renting out an item is just as simple. But here is a tip: most users don’t know this, but you can actually negotiate your rental price. We created a video to help explain the entire rental process. 

 {a screenshot of the homepage}

Ok, this actually sounds really, really awesome. When will it expand to other cities? We launched the site in August in Nashville. In December, we opened up the site in Chicago and New York City. Here is a secret that we haven’t shared yet – we are actually open everywhere now! Our inventory is still building in cities across the US, but users can start renting and lending from any city.

What can we not rent or ask to rent on the site? Anyone tried to rent something ridiculous or funny? 
 Obviously anything illegal is not allowed on the site. Someone put a rental request for a girlfriend the other day , so we definitely had to take that one down! (Ed Note: Awesome) We do have a pretty cool Jagerator in NYC– it’s a lighted three bottle Jagermeister tap machine with a cooling feature. We also have an old school  smoke machine. Those items are both great for parties! Overall, our top rental categories are outdoor goods, electronics, power tools, and surprisingly cocktail dresses. With our site, you can essentially become your own “Rent The Runway” and finally get money renting out the bridesmaid dress you’ll never wear again.

Let's talk cash - or transactions, rather. How do you get paid and know it's safe?  Security is the feature that sets our site apart from the competition. All of our payments are handled online by credit card, and a security deposit protects your item in case there is damage. Another feature we have in place is that payment for your item is not released until you actually meet up and see the item. The payment is triggered via text message. For example, say you are renting a bike from a guy on the Lower East Side. If you meet up and the bike is not in the condition described, then you don’t release the payment and the transaction is cancelled. The text message confirmation works when you return an item as well. If you are returning a canoe, the original owner will receive a text asking about the items condition. As long as everything looks good, the lender closes the transaction via text and the security deposit is released. We do everything we can to ensure both parties are protected during the transaction.

What's something you'd want to rent personally from the site? I would love to rent some outdoor stuff. I really like to go kayaking, but I don’t go often enough and certainly don’t have the storage space to justify buying a kayak! It would also be great to rent a really nice camera to take for a weekend trip. Cocktail dresses are pretty high on my rental list as well! 

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