Detroit fashion guru showcases local boutiques with Styleshack
Rachel Schostak has a background in retail and fashion, having graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, and also working as an independent contractor at industry trade shows and as a personal assistant to a luxury marketing consultant. When she found herself back in the Detroit area, she began to recognize an opportunity.
“After all those years of working retail, I realized there was no way for a small brick-and-mortar store to be found online,” Schostak says. “I wanted to create an online platform that could be the voice for those stores and connect their products to consumers all over the world.”
The idea also appealed to Schostak’s consumer side, as she realized the convenience of seeing the best of local boutiques on one site. So, in 2012 she created Styleshack and applied to Bizdom, a startup accelerator in Detroit and Cleveland. Schostak was rejected the first time around, but didn’t let it deter her.
“I spent the next eight months of my life building the company out further,” she says, which involved getting a list of local stores to sign up, creating the digital style quiz, and aggressively growing Styleshack’s userbase of readers and subscribers through blog content. Then in August 2013, she applied to Bizdom again and got in, receiving months of startup education and support, and even interest from other local investors. Styleshack officially launched in December 2013.
“Because of my industry work and everything I’ve done in retail, I’ve always kept spreadsheets of stores,” she says. “We have spreadsheets based on price point, location, and men’s or women’s products. We have Michigan, Chicago and other stores throughout the country.”
It made sense for her to focus first on stores in Michigan, but now the company also features stores from New York, Florida, Chicago and more. And with the company’s growing popularity, stores are starting to approach Styleshack to be featured on the site, as well. When stores inquire online, Schostak says, she and her team go through the store and make sure it’s the right fit for their customers.
And speaking of customers, Styleshack already has over 15,000 subscribers. “We email them on a monthly basis with a product that would be a good fit for them,” Schostak says. Styleshack is able to tailor selections for subscribers based on a digital style quiz they fill out upon signing up. The quiz simulates the experience of working with an actual stylist and is compiled from industry style research and industry professionals.
Customers can choose to buy anything online, or if they live near the store they can simply stop to try the item on or purchase it right away. Styleshack currently works with more than 80 stores – and that number keeps growing. Some affiliated stores already use their own e-commerce sites in addition to Styleshack as another source of revenue. And for stores that haven’t expanded online yet, Styleshack gives them a way to sell items online.
Schostak gets a lot of motivation and drive from the responses she’s gotten so far from both retail stores and customers. She’s also driven to find a way to help brick-and-mortar stores succeed. “Brick-and-mortar stores made up the bones of our country,” she explains.
Later this year, Schostak hopes to expand Styleshack’s offerings to men and kids – after first focusing on women’s clothing and accessories.
Schostak, who grew up in Farmington Hills and now lives in Birmingham with her husband, Jeffrey, has always been interested in fashion, and now her company gives her a way to promote Detroit and its surrounding areas to the rest of the world.
“By having my company based in the city of Detroit, I believe that’s truly helping the city move forward,” she says. “When I go to New York and I’m at trade shows, I’m constantly saying positive things about Detroit. … The community is very supportive, and I’m lucky to be growing my company here.”
Sharpening Your Skills
“Any entrepreneur should read books or take a course that will help strengthen their best skills,” Schostak says. “I did a lot of personality tests through Bizdom U, which was helpful in determining my strengths. Look online for similar tests you can do from home. Above all, being true to yourself, and knowing and being honest with yourself will get you very far. You can’t have the attitude that you can do everything; you have to be able to delegate. Know what your strengths are, and know what you need help with.”