Have you ever been moments away from a fancy dinner/party/event, opened your closet and realized nothing you have will work and turn to a friend? Kaleigh Wiese, Founder and Owner of Garment Exchange ran into that exact problem with a friend of hers. Kaleigh, upon realizing she didn’t have a piece that would work for her friend, had a simple thought: there’s a woman, somewhere, with the piece we need.
This thought quickly grew into Garment Exchange. “There had to be a source out there for someone to be able to rent clothes on a temporary basis from another woman,” Kaleigh says. “Come to find out there wasn’t anything out there and so I began the journey of opening one door at a time to be able to start Garment Exchange.” That journey meant building a network of and for women around the United States, connecting potential renters with potential rentees.
“My passion is fashion, which is dorky to say,” Kaleigh says. That passion has evolved: what started as a way to find the right clothes for the right occasion became a business empowering women.
The fact that we give back to women in income level and in a confidence level, I think is really fulfilling for me as a business owner. We are able to work with women nationwide, in all different sizes, body types, and style preferences. And that’s really exciting to see the confidence in women and the sources of an income that it’s providing them and their families.
Building that network not only took Kaleigh time, but she also had to find the right way to manage that network. She had to consider Garment Exchange’s branding and consistency, plus, shipping isn’t easy and teaching dozens of people to ship is daunting. But what about the actual packing and shipping? How do you get the clothing back without forcing your customer to front the cost of packing and shipping? How do you ensure that brand consistency?
Enter ShipStation. To tackle her network of wardrobes, Kaleigh and Garment Exchange utilizes multiple Ship from Locations, treating each woman’s closet as its own location. Kaleigh also created an automation rule to include a return label with every shipping label, 2 labels per sheet of paper. This in turn takes advantage of Garment Exchange’s custom packaging.
“[We’re] able to create the return labels so that a woman who owns the piece can be the warehouse, generate a label that allows the label to go to the renter and back to the owner very seamlessly…It makes our custom packaging just that much more simple for them to use,” Kaleigh says. The custom packaging itself is branded with Garment Exchange’s logo, two separate sealing strips (one for the initial shipping, the second for the return), and a clear pouch for the labels.
Just like that, Kaleigh created a unique shipping process to make her company accessible to both customers and wardrobe owners. “It allows the garment to be placed inside, shipped to the renter, and returned in the same packaging. We have a window on the front that allows the label to be printed on any average 8 1/2 X 11 sheet at a home printer or an office printer. It’s folded in half, placed inside the sleeve, then it’s flipped on its return back. So it just makes it a one step process for its return.” (See this process in action at around 30 seconds into the video.)
“Having all of those [ship from locations] and using ShipStation has allowed us to connect the dots where it’s just providing [the wardrobe owner] what they need to generate income by just renting out those pieces,” Kaleigh explains.
“Having the ShipStation Mobile app, as a small business owner and having a start-up and being on the move constantly has been really wonderful. This has allowed us to track orders, make sure things are being shipped and delivered on time, and has allowed us to have peace of mind when I’m not at my desk.”
But Kaleigh makes a point of creating an experience out of a transaction. “We definitely want to build relationship within our community,” she says. “We include in that starter kit a little set of note cards, and we highly recommend that they include a handwritten note to the renters that are renting their pieces. Telling a little bit of a story: it was their grandmother’s or they wore it on their first date. I think having those sentimental moments connect you to, not only the garment, but connects the wardrobe renters and the wardrobe owners together.”
Now that Garment Exchange has mastered shipping and built out a nationwide network, what’s next? Handbags, jewelry, and accessories: “We’re in the beginning stages of being able to ensure that you’ll be able to get a beautiful well-priced or heirloom necklace for rent at a higher dollar amount and safely.”