Case study with The Volte: How an accelerator programme can scale your startup (Series)
Bernadette Olivier, Kym Atkins, Genevieve Hohnen and Jade Hirniak
Wed 18 September 2019 - 2:51 pmFeatured | Startup
Although the failure rate of 90% can be daunting, there are a number of ventures that make it past the early startup years.
The Sharing Hub is a community which aims to accelerate the life cycle of startups that are sharing economy platforms – allowing access to education, mentorship and investment opportunities, as well as provide a space for entrepreneurs to collaborate and share their advice and experiences.
The community aims to bring sharing economy businesses and consumers together to help accelerate collaborate growth, performance, community contribution, technology and innovation.
In a four-part series, Dynamic Business talks to The Sharing Hub’s startup community about their businesses and their story with using an accelerator programme.
Our first startup of the four is The Volte, which is a designer fashion rental marketplace founded by two lawyers, an academic and a teacher – Bernadette Olivier, Kym Atkins, Genevieve Hohnen and Jade Hirniak. Launched in May 2017, they now have over 23,000 listings with a retail value of over $20 million with lenders all over Australia.
They’ve achieved big traction to date; growing by 400% in 2018, they now have over 100,000 monthly active users.
The Volte enables fashion-lovers to wear designer gowns in a sustainable way by reducing textile waste. The sharing economy platform is also helping fashionistas save and make hundreds or thousands of dollars as they can rent out their investment pieces from anywhere between $20 – $2,000 per hire.
We asked the CEO and co-founder of The Volte, Kym Atkins, about the how’s and why’s behind the business, how valuable their mentor has been to them and what the future is for their scaling startup.
Tell us about your startup – why and when did you decided to found it?
The Volte was founded in 2016 and officially launched in 2017 by four of us; co-founders and friends.
The idea of creating a designer fashion rental marketplace was a result of wedding season a few years ago. After attending multiple weddings and purchasing a new outfit for each event, the four of us wanted to create a way to monetize wardrobes and allow women to share their designer clothes with each other.
After doing some research we found that the existing platforms of this kind were quite niche, only offering a specific style or size. So, we made it our mission to develop a marketplace for everyone to benefit from this type of lending service, without a demographic, size and budget having an impact.
How has The Sharing Hub helped your startup to grow?
One of The Sharing Hub’s Co-Founders, Michael Rosenbaum, has been our mentor from the very early days of The Volte. His expertise on startups and business growth has been invaluable to our entrepreneurial experience.
We’ve also found incredible value in the networking opportunities available within The Sharing Hub. All four of The Volte founders are first-time founders, so the network of business leaders that are always around to provide insights and personal anecdotes has been such a remarkable support system. Especially for us running a business in WA, it’s great to have a network of people on the other side of the country.
What’s been the biggest thing you’ve learned or realised since joining the accelerator?
You don’t know what you don’t know.
Being an entrepreneur challenges you in ways that you may not have anticipated. You’ll be forced to learn skills that are integral for the growth of your company, however, may have no prior experience in. For example, we’ve created a technology marketplace – without any prior technical experience.
When those situations hit, it’s best to never assume something is the case. Instead, go into all new chapters with a nimble mindset, prepared to constantly learn and upskill. This is also where the support of an accelerator really comes into play. It’s refreshing to see how many entrepreneurs go through similar roadblocks and how each of us within The Sharing Hub have skills or knowledge on a particular industry that can help someone else who works in another.
How has your startup changed since you joined The Sharing Hub?
We joined right as The Volte was launching, so we’ve been able to benefit from the support of The Sharing Hub from the beginning. The strong network and peer-mentoring has undoubtedly played a large role in our successes to date.
What does the future look like for your business?
We’re very excited for what’s to come, not only for The Volte, but for the Australian sharing economy in general.
We’re starting to witness a real shift in people’s mindsets when it comes to the sharing economy. We are collectively becoming much more responsive to the idea of sharing personal items with each other – especially where sustainability and helping the environment is involved.
It has been revealed that fast-fashion is the second largest polluter in the world behind oil! We’re proud to have founded a company that is making strides towards changing that stat. It’s also refreshing to witness women doing their part to improve sustainability in consumer fashion.
Would you recommend an accelerator to other startups, and why?
Absolutely. An accelerator is an excellent way to strengthen your network and connections. The encouragement, support and guidance you will receive as a founder is invaluable.