STARTUP SPOTLIGHT

Austin startup specializes in sending clothes to business travelers

Posted June 16th, 2016

Story highlights
  • No bag. No clothes. No problem? Austin startup wants to rent clothes to business travelers.

Instead of getting a job when he graduated from Texas State University in May 2015, Philip Fitzgerald decided to start his own company renting clothes to business travelers.

WHAT THEY DO: Fitzgerald's Round Rock-based company, called There and Back Clothing, provides clothes to business travelers. The clothing sets, which can cost anywhere from $45 to $140, are technically rented to business travelers, who return them when they are done with their trip. He also sells toiletry kits and underwear. For now, Fitzgerald is only offering men's clothing. 

Fitzgerald said he wants to disrupt how people dress for business travel in the same way Uber transformed the taxi industry. With most airlines charging extra fees to check bags, he believes more people will be interested in ditching bags for rented travel clothing. 

"No one likes packing," Fitzgerald said. "So why do we do it?"

HOW THEY DO IT: Adopting the lean startup approach to his business, Fitzgerald has used Shopify to set up his website. Fitzgerald says he knows a little bit of software programming. "I'm just self-taught," he said. "I programmed a lot of the placement of words and pictures." He orders the clothes online, from  brands such as Dockers and Van Heusen.

WHO THEY ARE: Fitzgerald, 23, started the company in August, and launched the website in January. His brother, Alex Fitzgerald, helps with the accounting. 

INVESTMENT: After investing $1,000 in There and Back Clothing, Fitzgerald's parents matched that investment. It's able to operate on this $2,000 investment because he carries little inventory and uses Shopify to run his website and process transactions. 

BIGGEST CHALLENGE:  Fitzgerald is up against a lot of Goliaths in the e-commerce business. There are many bigger and much better-funded companies in either the rental clothing or business traveler genre, such as LeTote and Dufl.  

Fitzgerald's biggest challenge could be that his "lean" approach means very little money for marketing, or website improvements. Only 12 customers have tried the business so far. 

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