Business story: Isabella West, Founder of Hirestreet
13th January 2020
Hirestreet is a High Street-focused fashion rental platform, enabling customers to rent clothes from brands including French Connection, ASOS and Lavish Alive for a fraction of their retail price.
Can you remember your ‘lightbulb’ moment when you first came up with the idea for Hirestreet?
I’ve been aware of the inefficiencies of the fashion world for many years. I moved to London as a young professional and experienced the wastefulness of buying fast fashion and wearing items just a few times. I was working as a management consultant at the time and was involved in a project about the future of retail – different models like subscription services and rental platforms – and that’s when I started to think about how Hirestreet could work.
Were you employed at the time in another job, or working for yourself?
I founded the business while I was still working part time in my previous role.
What motivated you to take the leap and start your own business? Why was the time right then?
I decided to build a service that solved the problems I was seeing, instead of waiting for someone else to do it for me. The business was registered in November 2017 and the website launched in 2018.
Did you found the business on your own or was it as part of a team?
I founded the business on my own and it was three or four months before I hired my first employee. I’ve now hired six more and have plans for more growth.
What business support and advice did you access to help turn your business idea into a reality?
I received a grant through PNE Group and also won investment through the Shell Livewire programme which supports young businesses. The business has now secured private investment which gives us the scope to scale up.
Can you share some of the highs and lows you’ve experienced along the way?
Our first year anniversary was an amazing milestone and we celebrated with a party. I’m proud of the team and they make every day a real high. It can be lonely beginning something as a sole founder so having a team in place is the biggest win for me. In fact, loneliness has been the biggest challenge.
Why is the North East a great place to start a business?
The North East has been unbelievable. I’ve lived and worked in London but the networks and support we have here in this region are on a different level. It’s a big enough place that we have the talent and information you need to grow a business, but it’s also small enough that people know and support each other.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs looking to start a business?
I’d advise people to not necessarily make the full leap into starting a business straight away. Work on creating a minimum viable product around your current job before taking the plunge and get as much advice, testing and feedback on that product as you can. In my case, I went part time to reduce my risk so I knew that my product worked and was ready to make revenue before I left my job.
And don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’ve had such a positive experience and I wouldn’t be where I am without help and advice from other people.
Do you dream of starting your own business? The High Potential Startups programme can help your big idea become big business. Find out more now.