Kendall Herbst chose MIT’s MBA program because of its focus on technology and entrepreneurship.
Kendall Herbst just might care more about what you wear today than you do. And if you subscribe to her new digital fashion service, you won’t have to think twice about it.
Herbst, who graduates from MIT’s Sloan School of Management in May, launched StyleUp earlier this year after beta testing it with friends— both the fashion-minded and the sartorially impaired. The service provides each member with a free daily e-mail featuring the weather forecast and an appropriate outfit customized to her taste. Upon joining, members can choose a daily style—from conservative suiting to more creative, fashion-forward looks—as well as a body type and budget. And of course, they can shop the look, too. Herbst’s friends liked it so much they spread the word. Before she knew it, she had a business.
After graduating from Bates College in Maine, Herbst interned at Versace, then worked as a fashion editor for New York magazine and Lucky, and later freelanced for J.Crew and InStyle. But after five years of writing about shoes and bags, Herbst, now 29, was looking for another challenge. “I saw Gilt Groupe and Rent the Runway emerge,” she says. “I was attracted by what they were doing with fashion online and thought there might be more opportunities for innovation on the Internet.” She had ideas, but no idea how to turn any of them into a viable business.
Herbst chose MIT’s MBA program largely because of its focus on technology and entrepreneurship. Her first idea—building digital closets—didn’t seem practical. She couldn’t get people to input their items in an online system. “I’m still intrigued by this idea, but it’s not quite right yet,” she says. Then she briefly toyed with the idea of e-commerce in China: “I was totally out of my element.” In January of last year, while busy running between classes and her own projects, she had the idea for a service that would help women plan their outfits in the morning and get out the door fast—something a print magazine couldn’t do on a daily basis. StyleUp was born.
Herbst partnered with a teaching assistant, Ryan Choi, who could add his technology skills and help her scale the model to work with more than friends and family. Now the duo is headed into fundraising, looking for angel investors and venture capital, while they also focus on growing their subscriber base.
Although fashion remains her passion, Herbst believes that StyleUp can truly make women’s lives better. “How you dress affects how you feel about yourself,” she says. “We can help women shop smarter and faster and put their best foot forward each morning. In my head, we are a channel to connect women to what they love.” thestyleup.com