Dean co-founded GlamCorner with his wife Audrey and bootstrapped the business before taking on investment from Airtree to scale.
GlamCorner is now Australia’s largest online fashion rental business and a certified B-Corp, diverting over 60 tonnes of clothing from landfill every month.
From Idea, to Product Market Fit, to Industry Transformation
Dean stressed the importance of recognising whether a problem is universal (expensive, one-use fashion), and then testing the viability of your proposed solution (fashion rental).
Doing this requires a precise understanding of how potential customers are already trying to solve the problem – regardless of how straightforward or antiquated those methods may be.
GlamCorner’s earliest customer discovery was that their early adopters were women who had been sharing clothing for their whole life (between friends & family). Dean and Audrey had identified an existing, viable behaviour that could be nurtured and amplified through technology.
This, he highlighted, was how they were able to find their first customers, solve a simple problem, then leverage that early growth to tackle a larger mission (fashion industry sustainability).
Growth Initiatives Evolve Over Time
Dean explained that GlamCorner’s core channels evolved with the business.
Their first customers came primarily from social media, email-marketing & word of mouth. Whilst social was important for community building, he stressed that for many businesses this is unlikely to be the channel to 10x business.
In the mid-term, GlamCorner was able to leverage the high ROI of affiliate marketing (pre-instagram).
In the long-term, SEO was – by far – the best channel investment GlamCorner made.
Dean also touched on the importance of scaling PPC (google, social) – but warned of the time/cost limitations. ‘You need to diversify – you don’t want 80% of your customers coming from paid.’
Finally, he spoke about the importance of referral & product-led growth – with GlamCorner’s ‘give 20 get 20’ initiative driving significant growth.
Early Stage Growth Strategies
As Dean and Audrey understood the problem very well, they were able to build core customer personas. Whilst this is ‘an imperfect science – it lets you see the spectrum of needs for your customers … it’s an exercise in understanding.’
Dean retold the painful early days, having bootstrapped for four years before taking on external capital. ‘Adoption was a very tough ask – it was very unprofitable initially. The first challenge was to give customers an experience that simply worked and not ask for a refund.’
By focusing heavily on early customer service, Dean & Audrey adopted a ‘when in doubt, be generous’ mentality. This, he reflected on, was a core driver for sustainable growth and was a core foundation of their customer retention model.
Experimentation & Business Model Evolution
As GlamCorner grew, they continued to employ experimentation – 5-10% of their marketing budget is still dedicated to these initiatives.
One such successful experiment saw them leverage their existing customer base to offer a subscription model (which now accounts for 50% of their revenue). From an initial transactional relationship, GlamCorner experimented with tailored communications based on their site interaction. Over time, this developed into a sophisticated funnel for retention & revenue.
Dean highlighted constant experimentation and diversification as a core strategy in building a sustainable, resilient business.
Dean’s Core Advice
‘The really painful, soul-crushing problems you will face (whether it be bad customer feedback, operational or logistical headaches or technology barriers) hold the key to your long-term competitive advantage. The solutions you build to these problems will be the things your future rivals will find hard, maybe impossible, to replicate.’
Unless you’re the 1% that gets a niche problem perfect from the get-go, you’re in the business of iteration. You will have to constantly develop your product, model & always deliver value for your customers. That’s what you’re signing up for and that’s what you’re in the business for.
Embrace that, and build a team who embraces that, and when you find your fit, raise the capital required to take that territory quickly and before someone else does.’