Peek and See Who Has It - The Personal Side of Developing a Fashion Application
Jennifer Colli stirred in the quiet of a pre-dawn morning, reached for her phone, and dialed. The earliest commuters were still sleeping and the gentle sloshing of waves rolled against boats in Marina Del Rey where she had her apartment.
At 4 a.m., Jennifer made the day's first call to programmers and an hour later she had contacted one of the few dozen names on a roster of performers and athletes who were Beta testing the Who Has It? app, a fashion application giving shoppers a look at the closets of celebrities.
The early morning hours are part of the small business she's running and growing. Jennifer's days have included walking through the doors of top talent agencies in Los Angeles to enlist celebrities as go-to names and securing commitments from fashion brands. An evening could include crawling into bed at 10 p.m. and immediately rolling out again after getting a call to meet up with an artist who has star power.
"People don't believe how hard I work," Jennifer told me during an interview at a coffee shop along Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks.
The mid-20s entrepreneur and former Division One basketball player educated in business and marketing knows the effort needed to launch a new application. She's guided Who Has It? through the hopes and delays of a public launch, relying on previous experience as co-founder of an educational software platform.
She became the chief trail blazer in her current project, getting talent agents and managers to believe in an idea when all she could show were product images with no working model.
A personal touch with those on her roster has gone a long way to creating solid relationships.
"These [celebrities and athletes] are real people. They want to be involved and feel important. If this was just transactional, then I'm not interested. I'm looking for partners and that's more powerful than just a transactional relationship."
Proof of the trust is the personal text messages from the "names" that filter through to Jennifer every day in simple, conversational tones.
The Who Has It? app is in a Beta phase that Jennifer says more closely resembles a version 2.0 and the public launch will be more like version 3.0. "I've had 20 celebs since July 2013 and the app has already been active on the phones of the people looking to launch with us. We've taken feedback and made adjustments. I think we're ahead of the curve in where we want to be with our product."
Leading and Believing
Jennifer's personal commitment has kept people in place, anticipating the live phase. She does scheduled monthly calls with lots of informal dialogue in-between. "I get text messages from 90 percent of the celebs and athletes weekly. That could be an actress on the set of Walking Dead or one of the guys in a conversational mode about something in his life that's not related to work. Many tell me they don't have someone that they can open up to and trust."
Fashion brands will fuel the income in a revenue-share model for the app. Jennifer had 150 brands signed at the time we spoke and is enlisting about 25 new ones per week.
The industry may seem glamorous with names to coat the LA-lifestyle veneer but she's realistic about what items will sell. Her initial target demographic is the teens through 20s crowd and she's clear it's not about getting shoppers to shell out big dollars.
"The younger generation doesn't have money. You might have a singer or athlete who wears a $25 item and a wave of enthusiasm can rack up thousands of sales."
Brands from Australia and Europe are taking note, too, and hoping for a share of the American market. Getting featured in someone's closet can leverage technology and generate a return greater than being in a physical space. "To open a showroom in Los Angeles or New York can cost thousands a month and on top of that you have to hire sales reps."
Developing the fashion application has done more than add to Jennifer's technical knowledge. Her leadership skills have emerged. "Getting people to respect you is huge and it goes a long way to building trust and that's critical. If I say I'm going to do something, then I'm going to do it."
Even if it means staying out late and making calls before the sun rises. As Jennifer sees it, it's not just a piece of technology she's developing. She's touching people's lives.
Click here to see the fashion app on iTunes.
What We Learn
Articles on Jennifer Colli
How a fashion app is developing as a brand's best friend
Managing the business of fashion, brands, and celebrities
Wear same brands as athletes, celebrities
See Who Has It? on iTunes.