By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
“I’ve won the Triple Crown,” recent University of Tennessee (UT) graduate Brandi King says.
The Roane County native is Co-Founder of Rentique, LLC, a start-up focused on renting quality clothing at reasonable prices for special occasions. The target group is women between 15 and 35 years old.
The Triple Crown analogy is a reference to her skills as an entrepreneur selling her business plan.
In the past few months, King has won $1,000 from the “Spring Vol Court Pitch Competition,” $10,000 courtesy of the “Boyd Venture Challenge,” and $5,000 in the “Undergraduate Business Plan Competition.”
Those funds have helped her quickly advance the company with plans to launch it officially in August soon after the UT sorority members return to campus.
King says she has always had an entrepreneurial bent. “They used to call me the CD Girl,” she says of her high school years when she copied CDs for friends.
“I also knew I wanted to start a dress rental business,” King says. “Friends always came over to borrow dresses. I thought I should charge them.”
At the time, King believed she needed a traditional brick and mortar storefront. Her thinking began to change a little over a year ago when Tom Graves, Operations Director for UT’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, made a presentation in one of her classes.
“I changed my major that day,” King told us. She earned her degree in Human Resource Management with an Entrepreneurship collateral. The decision to change her major and the classes King subsequently took helped prepare her for the journey she is now undertaking.
“I learned about bootstrapping in class,” she says. “I learned about the Fashion Truck.” This is a mobile vehicle taking fashions to customers.
“It removed the high overhead challenge,” King says.
She also recalled advice from one of her professors who said, “An idea is just an idea until you go out and do something about it.”
That advice led her to contact to Jenifer Sanabria on Facebook. The latter had a firm named Jeni D. Designs. The two have become partners.
Next up is finishing renovations to a former Wonder Bread delivery van. It is being painted and wrapped to reflect the Rentique brand. There will also be new, more appealing doors replacing the traditional metal ones.
“We want the inside to feel like a really nice luxury walk-in closet,” King says.
When Rentique rolls into Sorority Village, the delivery truck will have about 200 dresses that King and Sanabria have purchased.
The current business plan calls for a fee of $19.99 to rent a single dress for a week or $29.00 for two.
King is mindful that her “walk-in closet” cannot be parked just anywhere, so she is planning co-marketing events with other businesses that have brick and mortar locations. They could include gyms, salons, and restaurants.
“We are very event focused,” she says, mindful of the hype about the upcoming Tennessee football season.
There’s also a good citizenship aspect to her plans.
“As we retire our dresses, we want to give them to women in need,” King says.