Student Startup Makes Finals of LaunchVT

May 17, 2017

Share to Wear team members at the LaunchVT competition, from left: Charlotte Reider-Smith, Lena Jacobs, Michelle Yang, Linley Shaw, Rachael Salerno, and Greta Hulleberg.

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. ­– A group of Middlebury entrepreneurs made the final round of a Vermont competition to support new business startups. Linley Shaw ’17 and Michelle Yang ’17.5 pitched their fledgling business, Share to Wear, to a panel of judges at the LaunchVT finals on Friday, May 12 at Main Street Landing in Burlington. The Middlebury group was up against six other teams from around the state for the $30,000 cash prize and $45,000 of in-kind services.

Despite a strong pitch by the Middlebury students, first prize went to Major Wise, a team of three graduating UVM seniors. The runner up was Packetized Energy creators of an easy-to-use system for coordinating distributed energy resources.

Share to Wear’s appearance at the competition capped a whirlwind year for the new venture. Shaw and fellow student Charlotte Reider-Smith ’19 launched the consignment rental service in 2016 with the idea that many students kept unused dresses in their closets that could be making money through rentals. Similarly, they knew plenty of students would love access to a large supply of affordable fashions, or “access to 1,300 closets.”

The innovative business model allows students to lend their dresses to the collection and make cash any time the dress is rented. The business picks up, dry cleans, and safely stores each of the dresses, giving a rating on the condition of each dress returned so that “wearers are incentivized to take care of the dress as if it was their own.”

The Middlebury students see big growth potential in their business idea. They note that, while consignment is not a new idea, consignment rental is new. They say that the apparel resale industry is expected to grow to $33 billion by 2021 and that with more than 11 million women in college, there are major opportunities for expansion.

Since their initial success at the College’s Old Stone Mill, the Share to Wear team has grown to six members, including cofounders Shaw and Reider-Smith; Rachael Salerno ’18, marketing and events; Michelle Yang ’17.5, finance; Greta Hulleberg ’19, quality control; and Lena Jacobs ’17.5, design. They opened their second location at the University of Vermont in late April with a successful pop-up shop.

Middlebury’s Share to Wear team recently landed a $3,000 MiddChallenge grant to develop their business further this summer.