Wharton Journal: What is Stylyt?
Jenny Wu: Stylyt helps contemporary fashion brands capture the loyalty of fickle and demanding Millennials by engaging them directly in the creative process. Our platform lets any user play fashion designer for real brands. Our web-based customization studio takes the fabrics, colors and shapes of a brand’s collection and lets users mix and match to create their own virtual product. The Stylyt community then votes on their favorites, and the brand manufactures the winning designs to be sold exclusively on Stylyt.
Involving users in the production process is proven to make them value a brand more, which significantly increases their customer lifetime value. In addition, brands can see which colors, fabrics, and combinations are most popular for the upcoming collections. This data is crucial because most fashion production is slow and reactive, so Stylyt collaborations can actually help reduce unsold inventory and capture lost sales.
WJ: Stylyt was recently selected to join Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator (an NYC-based incubator) as part of its second class of startups. Could you talk about your general experience as part of the ERA program? What component of the program have you found most valuable?
JW: ERA is like b-school for startups. It’s an intense, dynamic environment where you learn a lot in a short period of time. You’re given access to the best mentors, investors, and entrepreneurs in NYC, and it’s up to you to filter through the noise and steer the company. The three mentors who run ERA are super hands-on and have given us countless intros, which have been particularly helpful for fundraising. And of course, you can’t beat our weekly mandatory happy hours…reminds me of Pub!
WJ: What are some of the biggest milestones you’ve achieved to date, and which obstacles remain to be overcome? Where would you like to see Stylyt 2 years from now?
JW: Nina Cherny and I started Stylyt during our 2nd year of Wharton, so in the past year, we have built and launched a private beta with 1000+ user signups. We were accepted into FashInvest and ERA, and now we’re prepping for the public beta when we will re-launch with awesome brands that you’re bound to recognize.
Brand adoption and finding tech talent remain the immediate obstacles, but there are any number of challenges to come. That’s the fun and scary part – I could say that Stylyt will be crowdsourcing entire collections online or powering the next fashion reality show, but it’s hard to say. Most startups end up looking very different from where they started, so you have to be comfortable with uncertainty.
WJ: There is a lot of talk about the phenomenon of “social shopping.” In your view, what are the principal ways in which social media is altering the traditional relationship between retailers and their customers?
JW: Social media is giving consumers a voice, one that is savvy and opinionated. The antiquated model of retail buyers choosing which brand pieces to sell is not aligned with how Millennials shop. We want unique pieces, and we want the freedom to choose. The ideal Stylyt shopper will walk into a store and say, “I love that top, but wish it came in that color over there.” With Stylyt, they can now tell brands exactly what they want.
WJ: In the context of your current role as an entrepreneur and founder, what would you identify as the most valuable element of your two year experience at Wharton?
JW: Wharton was a natural incubator; it provided the resources and safe environment to flesh out our ideas. Nina was the president of the Entrepreneurship Club during our second year, which was invaluable in creating a strong network of mentors as well as peers who acted as our sounding boards and pillars of sanity. Entrepreneur-friendly professors such as Kartik, Borghese, and Wessels are wonderful for the academic value and mentor advice. Our fellow entrepreneurs were the best – Kembrel, Meeteor, Baby.com.br and more – our startup community inspired and supported us every day, which made it easier to pursue Stylyt full-time.
WJ: The floor is yours. Any final words for the Wharton community?
I read recently that only 7% of our generation works at a Fortune 500 company. That’s amazing. There’s so many exceptional individuals blazing their own path that it’d be a shame not to explore our own. Wharton is a fantastic place to do a startup or explore something “non-traditional”. Remember that the degree itself is an insurance policy. If all else fails, you can always go back to a comfortable six-figure salary at a consulting firm or investment bank. My favorite quote comes from Under30CEO: “Entrepreneurship is like spending a few years of your life that most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t”.