‘Tis wedding season, and if you’re in your late 20s or early 30s, chances are you have a stack of wedding invites sitting on your desk. Just attending one wedding could translate into a pretty good cash outlay, and for us girls especially it can get expensive – after all, you absolutely must have a new dress for each wedding.
That’s where Couture Circle comes in. Founded by Maria Perez, this Chicago-based startup lets you buy and sell gently used dresses, and not just for weddings – any event. You can make money off the dresses sitting in your closet and make money by tapping into an inventory of beautiful dresses priced at a steep discount. Eventually, they’d like to include shoes and accessories in their offerings.
The idea for Couture Circle came from her own personal too-many-weddings-in-one-season experience. As Perez recounted,
“Last summer I found myself invited to four different weddings with absolutely nothing to wear despite having a closet full of dresses. With the popularity of Facebook, I didn’t want to be caught wearing the same dress twice. I called up a few girlfriends to see if I could borrow a dress and that’s when it struck me, there has to be an easier way to do this!”
This is Perez’s second foray into startup life. Her previous startup, Breed Alert, was an online alert service designed to match potential pet owners with at-risk dogs at local shelters. Even with past startup experience, she’s still learning something new every day. “One minute you feel like you’re on top of the world, and the next, you’re ready to give it all up. You’ve got to take the good with the bad.”
The Chicago startup community has been a huge source of support – the aforementioned “good” – for Perez. “Everyone has been so helpful and willing to connect us with other entrepreneurs and companies that might be able to help us out. I have yet to be turned down for a meeting. When you foster an environment that’s so supportive and collaborative, you know there’s going to be a lot of good things coming out of it.”
One big surprise for the Couture Circle team was seeing how many men got it right away – to the point that sometimes men get more excited about it than women! “We constantly hear, ‘I need to tell my wife/girlfriend about this service! Her closet is overflowing with dresses she never wears anymore!’ Some men have even offered to sell the dresses for them. We of course warn them to consult with their wives before touching any of her clothes.”
Couture Circle was a showcased startup at our Tech Week Chicago mixer.