“I didn’t have any aspirations to be Marc Jacobs,” Bridgette Hylton, ‘09, confessed while explaining how she and Joana Florez,’09, developed “ShopRaghouse,” a Kickstarter-meets-Project Runway start-up. “I just thought ‘I have some ideas for some cool dresses, how awesome would it be to have them made?'”
Despite spending a wonderful year on Governor Deval Patrick’s campaign staff, and another exciting year as a junior associate at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, Hylton opted to return to Boston with aspirations of starting her own fashion line – aspirations that soon became paired with frustrations.
“The fashion industry is a lot different than law and government. Things don’t work on the same timeline – there really isn’t a set way to do anything and you have to kind of figure the whole thing out yourself. In the midst of trying to get my line off the ground, I called Joana and she said, “this could be way simpler, we could be the kickstarter for fashion.” Queue ShopRaghouse.
There are two components to ShopRaghouse. Amateur and aspiring designers design dresses and enter them into a competition on the ShopRagHouse website to be voted on. Winning designs are made into samples and if they receive enough pledges, ShopRagHouse produces and sells the product at no cost to the designer, who receives a share of the profits.
As intuitive as ShopRaghouse.com may seem, breaking into the fashion industry with an internet startup was difficult.
“Running a startup, you have to wear 15 hats. It’s not always the easiest transition to make because when you’re working on the firm and you do a good job they pat you on the back or say nothing. But when you’re in the startup world you don’t have that constant affirmation that what you’re doing is ‘the right thing,’ so it’s pretty scary.”
“But it’s also exciting. Law school definitely teaches you how to think on your feet and be able to react to that kind of environment.“ The pair credits their work with the Harvard Law School Transactional Law clinic as instrumental in successfully running their joint venture. They also cite former classmates as integral to the development and growth of ShopRaghouse. “People we went to law school with were some of the first testers of our business model. [They] checked out the site and gave us feedback that is vital for a new startup. Having that network has been really invaluable to us in trying to get off the ground,” Hylton said.
When it comes to pursuing alternative paths post law school graduation, Hylton seems happy with her choice. “It’s a very non-traditional path but it’s been very exciting and HLS has been very supportive of us through career services and the transactional law services.”