Fashion Meets Tech for Winning Georgetown Students in Bedaya Centre Business Competition
How can Doha’s fashionistas justify buying the latest in winter fashions in such a short season? This question, discussed in a group chat between three Georgetown University in Qatar students, led the friends to develop the concept for a web-based clothing rental platform that won the audience's popular vote for best business idea during the recent “Startup Weekend 2018” competition sponsored by the Bedaya Centre at Tawar Mall.
When Sara El-Amin, an international politics major at Georgetown, saw an ad for the business competition posted by her university’s career development office, she thought: “Why not turn our idea to rent winter clothes you would hardly wear, into a business that allows you to rent high end designer gowns, instead of buying them? So I decided to apply for the challenge.”
Together with senior classmates Normeanne Sison and Asma Al-Jehani, the trio formed the only all-women team to participate in the three-day business modeling competition. The students stood out from a crowd of more than 50 contestants that included working professionals. Pitched as a “start a business in 54 hours” challenge, the competition involved developing a business plan and working in teams to present ideas to a panel of judges, with awards given to the top ideas.
Culture and politics major Asma Al-Jehani explained why they decided on the virtual closet idea for the competition, saying: “In the classroom, we focus a lot on the economic diversification and sustainability priorities of the Qatar National Vision 2030. So when we discussed business ideas, we all agreed that it would be functional but also for the greater good.”
They named their mobile app “Vault”, successfully making it through the 90-second pitch elimination round on the first day, which saw around 50 business proposals reduced to the final 17 competitors. “Clothing rental apps are really an emerging market and changing the fashion world. But it’s not currently available in Qatar, and we got a lot of positive feedback from people who said they’d love to have this option locally,” added Sara.
Using an understanding of economics principles, international economics major Normeanne made minimizing cost a business plan priority. “One way we focused on economic viability was by building the digital prototype of the Vault app by using a free website.”
Besides clinching the popular vote, the trio also walked away with the 3rd place finish, winning a GoPro Camera and the chance to receive entrepreneurial training and funding from the Qatar Business Incubation Center (QBIC) to develop their idea into a working business. For Normeanne, another important takeaway is her newfound perspective on entrepreneurship. “I learned you don’t need a business degree, you just need to have an idea and a solution to a problem.”