A Q&A with Vaunte co-founders Leah Park (CEO) and Andy Shin (CTO). The New York City-based luxury fashion-focused ecommerce destination recently raised $1.12 million in Seed funding. Investors are Battery Ventures, Maveron and fashion mogul Christopher Burch. Vaunte was founded in 2012.
SUB: Please describe Vaunte and your value proposition.
Park: Vaunte is revolutionizing editorial fashion by selling luxury items from the closets of stylish ‘starlets’–our idea of a new social class. We celebrate women and men’s style, work and story. It’s a platform where ‘starlets’ show-off and sell items from their closets.
Shin: We are an aspirational luxury shopping destination where you can get an exclusive look into a fashion editor, designer, or industry insider closet and lifestyle, and then buy something that they loved and want to pass on. We are a cross between Vogue and eBay. We sell products with a personal story that customers instantly become attached to.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Shin: Our target users are lifestyle loving women and men between the ages of 25 and 55. The majority of our customers are located in the major metropolitan cities. However, we do get a lot of sales in less urban states as well. I love seeing our Montana and Kansas customers purchasing handbags and accessories. Every city has fashionable men and women.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Park: Our ultimate vision is to be a glossy magazine marketplace, so if Vogue married eBay, they would be our competition. The current competitors are Vestaire, Portero and Therealrea.
SUB: What differentiates Vaunte from the competition?
Park: Vaunte is not only about identifying with stylish personalities and shopping their luxury closets. We also sell new items, multiple quantities and sizes by working directly with brands and stores.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Park: The first and foremost priority was to establish a brand that is recognized and respected by the fashion industry. It’s harder than it seems to create a brand out of nothing in a few months, but the founding team’s experience and connections in high fashion launched our start.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Vaunte? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Park: Absolutely. My sister—fashion designer—has always been the stylish one in the family, so naturally my favorite place to shop was her closet. Only, she made me pay cash for the pieces I wanted! The ‘aha’ finally occurred after reading a stat that only 20 percent of the average closet is being used—that’s $880 billion dollars of merchandise trapped in U.S. closets alone.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story behind it?
Shin: ‘Vaunt’ means to brag or to boast. We are a platform that celebrates the lifestyle of the individuals and we provide a place where it’s okay to show off your style.
SUB: You recently raised $1.12 million in Seed funding. Why was this a particularly good time to raise funding?
Shin: We raised our seed round from Battery, Maveron, and Angels including Christopher Burch of C. Wonder and Tory Burch. We showed exceptional traction immediately after launch and knew that we were onto something. We took Venture investment because we needed to scale our technology, customer service and logistic operations.
SUB: Do you have plans to raise more Venture funding in the near future?
Shin: We have received overwhelming investment interest from the Venture community. In parallel, we’ve received an overwhelming response from our loyal customers. We literally cannot put enough product up on the site. As soon as an item is posted, it is sold. The founders, Leah, Christian [co-founder and CCO Christian Leone], and I, want to capitalize on our traction and double down on customer acquisition, marketing, and operations. Outside investment is necessary to reach our volume goals.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Shin: By far the biggest challenge has been operations and building a competency in logistics. Our data shows that launching more closets and items results in more sales and higher revenue. We’ve invested heavily in technology and process that has increased our item processing time by over five times. When we first launched, it took us 20 minutes to process an item. Now, it only takes four minutes. As a result, we’ve added over 10,000 pieces in since our launch in November.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Shin: We share revenue with our starlets and VIP members. VIP members can schedule a UPS pick-up at their home and send items to our offices in New York City. We style, shoot and store your item until it is sold. When an item is sold, we PayPal the owner 60 percent of the item price. Vaunte keeps 40 percent as a transactions fee.
SUB: What are your goals for Vaunte over the next year or so?
Shin: The goal of the business is to continue to grow our VIP services and to launch our peer-to-peer marketplace where anyone can post luxury items. We successfully launched our ‘men’ and ‘home’ categories and will continue to develop these lines of business as well.
Vaunte – www.vaunte.com