The new year brings new occasions that leave many people wondering what to wear. Some students spend their limited time and money searching for the perfect outfit for an event, often leaving the clothes hanging in a closet after its first wear. To offer an alternative, NC State students Amelia Zahn and Emmy Weiland launched their own small business, Trenlendwhere girls can find and rent the perfect dress.

Trendlend differs from other online rental businesses in that it provides a way to try on prospective outfits before purchasing.

Weiland, a third-year studying business marketing, met Zahn last year through mutual friends. Zahn, also a third-year studying marketing, said the two created Trendlend to address a need they saw in their own lives.

“We realized that we hated paying for dresses,” Zahn said. “We had events every week or every other week, and it was just getting so expensive. And so we were like, ‘what if we start renting out the dresses we already own?’”

After announcing their launch in February 2022, the two originally rented dresses out of the NC State sorority houses. With inventory gathered from other girls on campus, Zahn said the work she and Weiland did together continued to grow as their business took off.

“We’d handle try-ons, cleaning, getting the dresses to and from people and would only take 15% of the rental fee,” Zahn said. “We grew to almost 500 dresses in about six to seven months, so it became a lot for us to handle. We realized that the business was growing, and we just weren’t making enough money off of taking 15% profit from other people’s rentals.”

Considering their growing responsibilities, the two entrepreneurs redid their business model to better accommodate the growth of their company. Now, with almost 2,000 followers on Instagram, Zahn and Weiland own their entire inventory and are working out of a warehouse.

With such unexpected growth, social media engagement is one of the many important factors for monitoring and advancing their online business. That, coupled with a growing confidence in their ability to start a business, is what Weiland credits to Trendlend’s increasing success.

“We’re definitely rapidly increasing our engagement,” Weiland said. “I would also say the technological advancements we’re making [have helped Trenlend to grow]. We just announced our website. … Also internal growth, we’re becoming more confident in ourselves. And knowing we can do this, that we can make this happen is also a huge thing.”

For any student, juggling a social life with academics alone can seem overwhelming. Weiland describes how they manage their business alongside the other responsibilities of college life.

“It’s definitely very difficult,” Weiland said. “But I am a huge planner. I cannot have chaos in my life. And so I always have a very set [schedule]. This is what I’m going to do for school, this is what I’m going to dedicate to Trenlend. We’re also in the same classes together, so we’re helping each other out constantly.”

While Zahn and Weiland both have customer service experience from working in boutiques in the past, the two hope to commit to their business full time post-graduation. Their five-year plan consisted of eventually opening a storefront and franchising to other college campuses in larger cities.

For now, their warehouse not only stores their inventory, but also acts as their site for try-ons. Zahn said this process has evolved over the past year.

“We’re doing 11-6 on Tuesdays [for try-on times],” Zahn said. “We used to run it out of our house, when we had all 500 dresses… and we used to not even have appointments. You could just come anytime between 11 and six, and you could pick out any dresses you wanted to try on and try them on.”

Now with a larger inventory, free try-ons are being conducted via 30-minute appointments at the warehouse. People can rent as soon as they’re aware of the dates they need it and keep it for up to four days. This process is essential to Zahn and Weiland’s brand.

“80% of our customers that we had in the fall said they would not have rented from us if they were not able to try on the dress first,” Zahn said. “I think that was just such an important number for us so that we realized that people really do want to be confident about their purchases before they actually commit financially to that rental.”

This type of reflection has allowed the two to consider other ways they hope to expand their business, including growing their consumer base and expanding the inclusivity of the dress sizes they offer.

As a new and growing business started on NC State’s campus, Zahn and Weiland credit a large amount of their success and support to the community of their peers. Beyond the recent creative team consisting of volunteers who hope to support their company, the two have had positive feedback and experiences from students and professors alike.

“One thing I’ve been so amazed by is [how supportive] the NC State community has been for us,” Zahn said. “We’ve had students from all over the place who have come to us and supported us, giving us ideas. And even professors reaching out with financial advice, accounting advice, marketing advice, anything of that sort. They have just been so positive … so supportive of everything we do.”

Considering their journey, Zahn and Weiland both encourage others who are interested in starting a business to do so, especially with the resources at NC State that they describe as essential to their success.

“Honestly, I don’t know if we would have been as successful if we hadn’t started this with having the NC State community as our backbone and making those connections,” Zahn said. “If [other students] have that idea of ​​having a small business, [they should] start it now because I do think that this is the time in our lives where we’ll have the most resources available to us. That’s the one thing I don’t think we realized getting into it — what was going to be available to us. And so that’s been the best, the most pleasant surprise for us.”

Beyond their company website, Trendend can also be found on Instagram.

By sampay