Meet Bri and Ali – two Quarterlette friends and business partners who left the 9-5 world to launch their own business called Rack It Up: A virtual closet and sale tracking website. Quarterlette chatted with them recently about what it’s like being young entrepreneurs working on a start-up, what makes their website so unique, and their thoughts on the fashion world. We hope you’re inspired by their drive and enthusiasm..we are!
Quarterlette: Tell us about yourselves – education, your career backgrounds before starting Rack It Up?
Bri: I went to Catholic University in Washington D. C. and studied business and marketing. I graduated in 2008 with a degree in Business Administration but began working full time for a public affairs TV show in D.C. I worked at the company full-time for four years, but I had always thought about going back to school to get my MBA. When I finally decided to apply, I had the idea for Rack It Up and decided that starting a company could potentially be the best MBA I’d ever get!
Ali: I went to The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and studied Political Science. I graduated in 2009 with my BA in Political Science. Throughout college I had many internships on The Hill and in government offices, so I fully intended to start a career in political space post graduation. Briana actually helped me land my first job out of college working on a public affairs TV show in D.C. Within a year I found a new job at a non-profit in D.C. managing their social media and online marketing campaigns. I soon realized that while I loved the social media aspect of my job, I wanted to do something that challenged me everyday. When the chance to start my own business with Briana came along, I just couldn’t say no.
Qlette: So tell us about Rack It Up. How does the site work, why is it different from other shopping sites out there, and how long have you been operating?
Rack It Up (RIU) launched on June 1, 2013. It is a virtual closet & customized sale tracking website. As an RIU user, you can shop on any other website and collect your favorite items in your virtual closet. When you rack up an item you enter your size, color preference and even when you’d like to receive a sale alert. As soon as any item in your closet goes on sale in your size, we email you a sale alert and redirect you back to the retailer’s site to purchase the item! Also, we have a feature called Browse the Rack, so users can go there and re-rack any item that catches their eye from other member’s closets into their own.
Rack It Up is unique in many ways. There is a large community feature where users are able to follow their friends’ closets and re-rack items in their own size. Users can also Browse the Rack, which has all of the items that the RIU community has racked. It’s a great way to share styles and also helps our users find the best deals. If you’ve racked a $200 black dress in your closet and you come across a similar one under $100 while browsing the rack, you may be inclined to save more!
RIU also believes in boosting small business so we’re working on partnering with some of the best boutiques across the country. We’ve found that many boutiques offer the same brand name items & have more frequent sales. Finally, RIU has a different feel than other sites. We didn’t want the site to be cold or corporate. There are customizable themes for women and men so they can each experience the site in different ways. We’re also very present so if a user has any comments or questions, they come directly to Ali & Bri and we’ll answer them directly.
Qlette: How did the idea for Rack It Up come about?
Bri: The idea came about from my frustration with other sale alert websites. It became frustrating when my inbox was flooded with sale alerts for items that were sold out in my size. Also, I didn’t like flash sale websites. I had a full time job and I wasn’t able to jump on sales at 10am on a Tuesday. Those sites also have countdown clocks that, for me, led to pressure purchases. It didn’t feel like any site was created with me in mind – a full-time working woman on a tight budget. So in Fall of 2011 I brought my idea to Ali, a long-time family friend who equally loved fashion, and we’ve been developing and growing the idea together ever since!
Ali: After Briana brought the initial idea of Rack It Up to me, I knew this could be the answer to every online shoppers dream, because who doesn’t love getting the best deals possible? For the first few months, Briana and I talked about how we wanted the site to look and feel, and what we wanted our users to be able to accomplish when using the site. Then, we began development. We also realized that not only did we want a website that allowed users to track items for sales, we also wanted our users to have a very personalized and customizable experience. From there we added a blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest pages to the mix. We thought these social outlets would help our users get to know us better and our styles, and also be a way to draw inspiration from our followers and allow them to draw inspiration from us.
Qlette: It’s not easy to find a great business partner. How did you two meet?
Bri: We met through our parents who had been friends for years. We had always known each other but didn’t really become friends until after college. I had graduated the year before Ali and helped her get a job at my company when she finished school. It was through working together that we realized what a great team we were. Over many coffee and lunch breaks we started talking about how we were both passionate about starting businesses and about our mutual love for fashion and sale shopping. The rest is history!
Ali: The best business partners each bring something unique to the table. Briana has a background in business, and since the beginning of our venture I have learned a lot from her in that regard, and with my social media experience we knew we had the right mix to make this business a success.
Qlette: Without having a lot of experience in the fashion or ecommerce businesses before founding Rack It Up, how did you get started?
It’s always challenging to break into an industry you know little about. We really believed in what we were creating so confidence has been key since day one. We knew exactly what we wanted the site to look like and how we wanted it to function so having such a strong vision from the beginning gave us a step up. From there, all we needed to find was someone to build it for us and help us turn our dream into a reality.
Qlette: What has been the most exciting moment with Rack It Up? And the most challenging or discouraging?
We got off to a very rocky start in the beginning. Our biggest challenge was finding a web development team to work with that shared our passion and vision for Rack It Up. We were very eager to get started and signed a contract with a company without doing enough research. Ten months later and still no website, we made the decision to hire a new company and had to start from scratch. Once we found a company whose enthusiasm matched ours, everything fell into place.
Three months later, Rack It Up was finally up and running! Even with a few setbacks, the whole experience of starting RIU has been really exciting. Every story that is written about us increases our excitement by 100%. We were just mentioned in the September issue of InStyle Magazine, which we’ve both been reading since we were really young so that was amazing to see!
Qlette: What is the most fun part about running your own business? What are the challenges?
The best part is definitely the social aspect. We’ve been able to meet some really amazing and inspiring people from other young women entrepreneurs to brand managers to fashion bloggers. We’ve met a lot of passionate and driven women and men.
Another fun part has been making our own schedules. But that’s also been one of the challenges. When we first talked about starting RIU we both were looking forward to not working in an office from 9-5. However, when you’re starting a company, your hours become 24/7 so the challenge has been finding a balance. There have been many nights where we’re still emailing at 1am and we work through the weekends. So, we’re working on finding that balance – working hard but not burning ourselves out.
Qlette: Any advice for others aspiring to start their own business online?
Our number one piece of advice is “go for it!” There really is no time like the present. So, even if you don’t know how to really get started, take it one day at a time and things will fall into place. No matter how it turns out, the experience you’ll gain by trying will be invaluable.
Number two: do your research! It’s very easy in the beginning to get wrapped up in what you want the end result to be. You want to build a good team to help you from the beginning. Last but not least, always be optimistic! There are going to be bumps in the road ahead. Try not to focus on setbacks or competition, focus on yourself and your vision. The way we see it, in the world of start-ups, major challenges are a right of passage.
Qlette: So what’s next for Rack It Up? Any new features launching that we should look out for? And how about the future – what is your big picture dream for Rack It Up?
We recently launched our Trendsetters feature where we highlight a different fashion blogger or tastemaker every few weeks. Our users can shop or stalk their closets, see what they’re racking and can re-rack items that catch their eye. We also recently launched our men’s version of the site, which allows men to customize the color of the site and the clothing categories that pertain to them.
Now that we have successfully implemented two big additions since our initial launch, we are ready for many new exciting features over the next year. We have a Dressing Room that will be launching soon where users will be able to drag items from their closet and create looks that they can save. There will also be a purchased flag so users can create looks with the items that they own and the items they’re tracking for sales.
Finally, we will be launching a “My Home” feature for home goods and a Childrens-wear section. Long-term, we’re also planning to incorporate a styling component so our users can have their closets curated for them or outfits created for them with the items they’ve racked. We hope to continue growing and expanding the site until it becomes a one-stop resource for every online shopper’s needs!
Qlette: Which trends are you most excited about for Fall?
We love that leather is back this season. It’s edgy and sexy and there’s something about it that oozes confidence. We’re also huge fans of flat loafers and flat boots. When we’re running around the city for meetings, flats are our fashionable best friends. Plus, you can never have too many shoes!