Lona Duncan, a blonde bombshell, is a no BS businesswoman. She's the Founder & CEO of the fashion company Style Lend. Like many great entrepreneurs she saw a problem in the marketplace and came up with a solution; why carry a huge suitcase full of products that you will wear once when you can rent product locall?. In a day and time where nearly every product is rentable (cars, apartments, ball gowns) her company, Style Lend, allows the consumer to rent anything from a handbag to a pair of shoes from someone else’s closet.
As a current resident of NYC there is nothing worse than trying to make room for you valuable clothing in your miniscule closet. All of this is solved by Lona through her program Style Lend. Customers are able to store their clothing at her LES location and rent out their pieces to local customers. Unlike a Rent the Runway, Style Lend allows the consumer to shop previous seasons and unique pieces through the website platform.
1. Tell me a bit about your move to NYC. How did you end up in Fashion?
The move to NYC came out of the need to be in the fashion capital since we are a fashion/tech company disrupting fashion afterall. My love affair with fashion started at a very early age when I discovered the power of wearing something new and how it made me feel. Every time I wore something new I felt so excited, confident and I acted like I owned the world. So that feeling was always attainable by the fashion choices I made as a young girl and it continued to give me satisfaction up to this day. That's why I started Style Lend so that I can wear something different every day.
2. What inspired you to create Style Lend? What hole were you hoping to fill in the marketplace?
What inspired me to create Style Lend was a trip I took around the world with only a carry on ghurka bag. That bag could only fit a certain amount of clothes but I was going through several continents and climates so I thought there should be a company that allows me to rent a locals' clothing. So if I'm in Paris I can rent a parisian girl's closet and not have to worry about bringing all the shoes, bags and accessories I want to bring.
Everything in the market is geared towards buying, buying, buying and over consuming. We buy just to let things sit for years in our closets and then once we are done with them sometimes things that have tags on end up in landfills and there is about 2 quadrillion pounds of clothing that end up in landfills each year. They are slowly choking the earth.
3. Do you have favorite pieces that you end up renting the most? Or do you find yourself wearing a new outfit daily?
Because I love to wear something different each time, I'm renting different pieces for different events, nights out, dates, travel, weddings etc.
I end up wearing something new every two days since some days I don't leave the office haha.
4. What have been the biggest challenges with launching a business of this type? How have you attracted your clients?
The biggest challenge is that there is no 9-5. It's from the time you open your eyes to the time you close them. And if you get lucky all your dreams are about the business and the fires you have to put out. Everyday is a challenge. There is no day that is similar to the last. So you never get bored that is for sure.
We have attracted our clients by the events that we host for our lenders and renters. In the early days we used to host a ton of events where we also got the feedback of each user.
5. Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs hoping to launch their own business?
If you are made of hard work and dedication through and through starting a business is for you. But if you like your work life balance or your freedom that all goes away when you start a business so give it very thoughtful consideration if you make the jump. In addition, triple check your finances as things always take twice as long and cost 3 times as much than what you had budgeted for.
6. What's been the biggest "aha" moment you've had since owning your own company?
The biggest aha moment for me is realizing that my mother was right. My mother was an entrepreneur and she owned 2 businesses when we lived in Albania but when she moved to the states all she wanted to do was get a stable job that was 9-5 and a job that she did not have to talk to anyone. I always wondered why she went from being the head of the company to not wanting anything to do with running a business. Now that I have been a business owner myself for the last 3 years, I understand that running your own business is not for everyone. It does take over your life so depending on what things are important to you, you may find out that running a business is not the right thing at that time.
I thought that everyone is dying to be an entrepreneur and that everyone wants to start a company. But wanting and doing are two different things. And also wanting and doing it for years is also another thing ;)
7. What's your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur?
My most favorite thing about being an entrepreneur is trying the wildest and craziest ideas to acquire uses. It's exciting to talk strategy with my team about all the things that we want to do and then go out and do them.