Let us first say that we think online dress rental services are the best idea ever, and have saved us hundreds (maybe more?) of dollars over the past few wedding seasons. But, like anyone who’s used Rent the Runway knows, one of the biggest frustrations can be ordering a dress that arrives the day before a big event, realizing you hate it in person, and having to scramble through your friends’ closets and the aisles of TJMaxx to try and find a last-minute replacement.
It was this exact problem that inspired sisters Vicky and Nikoleta Lirantonakis to start their business, Best Dressed Charlestown. Their shop follows a similar concept to Rent the Runway, except it’s a local, brick-and-mortar storefront in Boston where their customers can actually come in and try on any number of dresses they’d like until they find something they love. Plus, not only does Best Dressed offer dresses, but bags and accessories, too.
We got a chance to chat with the sisters about how they got their concept off the ground, where they find their gorgeous inventory, their biggest learning experiences as business owners, and more. Here’s what they had to say:
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE CONCEPT FOR BEST DRESSED CHARLESTOWN.
Best Dressed is Boston’s first brick-and-mortar dress and accessories rental boutique. We rent dresses, sell jewelry and accessories and offer a personal stylist for every woman who walks in our door! We designed the store to feel like the closet of a very fashionable friend, with designer pieces that go beyond what typical department stores or high-end boutiques offer – we prioritize variety, style and affordability. We help you not only find the perfect dress for your event, but to style it as well.
WHAT GAVE YOU THE IDEA FOR THE BUSINESS?
The inspiration really came from a group text, where a friend was upset about an online rental that didn’t work out for her. We realized women needed a less-stressful, affordable option for finding a dress for the many events that fill their social calendars, without the long-term commitment you have to a dress you buy in a store. We thought of how stressful the whole process is and wanted to simplify it.
YOU’RE SISTERS. WHY DID YOU DECIDED TO GO INTO BUSINESS TOGETHER?
Basically, we’re best friends and we believe in each other and our abilities. We’ve always wanted to do something in the fashion industry together and this made the most sense. Growing up, our mother always encouraged us to dress up for any outing – to the grocery store, to church, and of course to parties. So starting something together that would help others look and feel their best came naturally.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE FOR BEST DRESSED CHARLESTOWN TO GO FROM AN IDEA TO AN ACTUAL STORE?
It was actually pretty quick considering everything that goes into it. We had the idea at the end of last September, by November we registered as a business, defined our goals, worked hard to make them happy and and we opened in late March of this year! We learn a little more about business and our customers everyday, and exchange new ideas about how to grow, do things differently and maintain a high level of customer service throughout.
WHAT WAS THE PROCESS LIKE? WHAT STEPS DID YOU HAVE TO TAKE IN ORDER TO OPEN?
It was definitely a learning experience! Besides the administrative stuff, a lot of time was spent designing the store, going on crazy shopping sprees (so fun!), creating our website, working on a marketing strategy and prepping to open our doors.
HOW DO YOU SOURCE THE PRODUCT FOR YOUR SHOP?
We source mostly online, from anywhere we find dresses that are in line with our client’s needs. We’re constantly updating the collection based on feedback from our clients. We shop so much, we get new dresses in every week!
WERE THERE ANY RESOURCES (ORGANIZATIONS, MENTORS, WEBSITES, ETC) THAT YOU FOUND PARTICULARLY HELPFUL WHEN STARTING THE BUSINESS?
If we were to list them all, we would be here for a while. Mostly, we follow tons of fashion and lifestyle blogs, read Entrepreneur Magazine articles, get inspiration from other successful women in fashion and other industries too. Lastly, we use our network of friends and family for advice and feedback, no one learns, grows and achieves on their own!
WHAT HAS THE RESPONSE TO THE STORE BEEN LIKE THUS FAR?
Very positive! People are loving the collection and the service. They value being able to try a dress on before committing to it and look forward to the styling advice they receive with every visit. It has been so encouraging to hear all this positive feedback from our customers, it let’s us know we’re on the right path.
WHY DO YOU THINK CUSTOMERS RESPOND TO YOUR CONCEPT?
We want every woman who walks in our store to feel like they just walked into their fashionable friend’s closet and were able to chose anything that they felt great in. We are different in that every woman that comes to our store gets a personal stylist and an honest opinion. And who wouldn’t love that?
WHAT’S THE BEST PART OF OWNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
Watching it grow and knowing that all the hard work you put into it is paying off. Making connections with customers who rent from you time and time again is so validating for such a niche business in a local, untapped market.
WHAT HAS BEEN EACH OF YOUR BIGGEST LEARNING EXPERIENCES AS BUSINESS OWNERS?
Vicky: For me, the entire process has been a learning experience. Mostly, I never realized how much time and effort goes into PR and Marketing. I now understand the importance of it all and am loving learning how to do it better each day.
Nikoleta: I would have to say time management has definitely been something I’ve had to learn. I’m a bit of a procrastinator I’ve learned that there’s no time for procrastination. If I don’t get to something right away, something else comes up and I would never accomplish anything!