By Lauren Keyson and Sarah Grieco
Rachel Atkins, founder of My Pageant Rental, created a safe and supportive online community for the pageant community. Users can buy, sell, rent and loan apparel such as evening gowns, cocktail dresses and stiletto heels. Over the years, friends would lend her gowns that were anywhere from $500 to $1,500 and she would lend hers to them. But as time went by, she noticed that when she lent to friends or friends of friends, some of her items would disappear or were damaged. She became reluctant to lend to women that she didn’t know very well; it was from this experience she came up with her digital, mobile-friendly store was born.
Atkins: If it’s pageant related, it’s probably on our site. Anyone can create an account, take photos of their items and list them on our website. We’ve been trying to perfect our business model. We’ve played around with the revenue model. Right now we only get out revenue from ad sales — since we’ve been in business, we’ve realized that people are actually willing to pay for this, so our next step is to add a service charge.
LK: There are other resale technology companies out there who charge. Why didn’t you charge?
RA: Well, we started out in this particular space. We saw that there were a lot of young women who were just using things like social media to do the same thing and avoid some of those sites that were charging them money. So we wanted to see if we could give them basically a better mousetrap. There are a lot of reasons why social media is not as ideal.
Since I’ve been retired, which is almost 11 years, I’ve lent my gowns to a number of people. But I wouldn’t always get them back or sometimes I’d get them back in worse shape than I had lent them. So I thought it would be nice to have a way of recouping some of the money from damaged items. So that’s how the idea of the site was born.
LK: What was your biggest challenge while you were creating your business?
RA: Well honestly our biggest challenge has been that our developer got a new job and we’re trying to get the site finished. We’re trying to get some money to finish the development of the site.
LK: Let’s say I’m talking to an entrepreneur about his company and he’s really scared for the future. Do you think he should quit?
RA: No, I don’t think you should quit. I’ve learned so much. Let’s just say hypothetically, three years from now this business tanks. I’ve learned so much through this process that I know it’s going to help me in whatever my next venture is, whether or not it’s another company. To me, it was worth it. So if you’re in a financial position where you can do something like this, I say don’t let the fear stop you. Just go ahead and do it.