Story posted April 09, 2012
Last summer in L.A., Sam Hanson ’11 raised a few eyebrows among his stylish HBO coworkers.
“I was criticized for my New England look,” the clean-cut Bowdoin senior confessed, who on this particular day was wearing a blue-striped polo shirt tucked into jeans. “By the end of the summer, I was wearing a lot more V-necks, and my jeans got a little tighter.” He also ditched the loafers.
The sartorial discomfort Hanson experienced in California got the native New Englander thinking about fashion and what governs people’s clothing choices. He began to dream up a service that would help people pick out their outfits, with a little help from the their online friends.
Hanson decided to turn his idea into virtual reality. Over the last few months, he and his business partner, Hartley Brody ‘12, a coding expert, have been building a social website focused on fashion. Called Drobe (as in wardrobe), the site will let people follow others—their friends, or perhaps people whose style they admire.
“There are a lot of fashion blogs out there,” Brody pointed out. “We wanted to make something more practical, more social and interactive.”
The two students have entered MassChallenge, a Boston-based competition for start-ups that lets the public score the proposed business ideas. If Drobe is selected among the hundreds of entrants, Hanson and Brody will get some cash, plus mentorship and training. On the MassChallenge site, they’ve described Drobe as an “online social wardrobe that makes sharing fashion advice easy. Users can see what their friends are wearing, share outfits with followers, and shop online with their friends.”
Hanson said, “There used to be the tradition of going to the mall with a friend,” who could give you instant feedback on potential outfits. “But now you shop alone on the computer,” Brody completed Hanson’s thought.
Hanson and Brody say they’ve been meeting with Bowdoin alumni who work in business or are venture capitalists, and have received a lot of advice and support. They’ve been staying up late, designing the site and thinking through such things as their marketing and monetization strategies.
Their plan to make money includes using referral rates from people buying something they see on their friend and eventually forging partnerships with retailers and fashion manufacturers.
“We’ve been logging crazy hours,” Hanson said. “We’ve both learned a lot about the biz-tech world, business plans, design and connecting with people.”
They plan to launch the site later this month. At the moment, they have a splash screen at thedrobe.com, where they’ve invited people to sign up for early access.
“It’s really exciting, whether we’re going to succeed gloriously or fail gloriously,” Brody said.
Hanson nodded. “Going all in on something is always exciting,” he said.
Bowdoin Entrepreneurs is a new feature on the Bowdoin Daily Sun, profiling start-ups by Bowdoin students. Click here for the first story in the series.