The Frock Shop
Founder: Jennifer Burrell
The Frock Shop, headquartered in Chicago, is a dress-rental business that enables women to obtain elegant dresses and eveningwear for a fraction of what they would cost to buy. Rent, wear, return — The Frock Shop even handles the dry-cleaning.
HOW MENTORING WILL HELP: “It’s more valuable than the money. I’ll be able to benefit from the experience of seasoned professionals and entrepreneurs, and get new ideas that will help me gain a fresh perspective on my business.”
HOW $10,000 WILL HELP: “We’ll use part of it to finish developing our Web site. We operate only in Chicago right now; an online presence will expose us to more markets, which will increase our sales.”
ANY WOMAN WHO HAS ever gone to a prom, been a bridesmaid or gotten married knows the torment: Spend a fortune on a dress, wear it once and never think about it again. “They were just sitting there, in perfectly good condition, just taking up space,” Jennifer Burrell says of the formalwear in her own closet. “All I saw was wasted money.”
Burrell, 33, who still works full-time in sales and marketing in the food industry, decided to do something about it. In March 2010, after months of market research and consultations with women, she opened The Frock Shop, a dress-rental emporium currently serving the Chicago area.
Burrell — who majored in international marketing at the University of Alabama — has since built her dress inventory to around 350 pieces, giving her clients maximum choice. The premise couldn’t be simpler: Assess your needs, find something you like that fits, rent it, wear it and return it. The Frock Shop handles all shipping, quality control, repairs and cleaning. Rentals start between $40 and $50 — an enormous, risk-free bargain considering the astronomical prices commanded by such dresses when new.
Looking ahead, Burrell plans to further develop her Web site to expand The Frock Shop’s ambit beyond Chicago, and would eventually like to expand her inventory to include “jewelry, pageant, career and possibly men’s designer wear,” she says. In the meantime, though, she’ll stick with her core customer as she builds her business. “There has to be a way for women to look fabulous for all the special events in their lives without breaking the bank,” she says. For women in Chicago, that increasingly means a trip to The Frock Shop. •