Elyse Bush, MCAS ’16, gets strange looks when she tells people she’s a political science major. She’s a co-founder of ModilMe—an up-and-coming campus startup—so people assume Bush is a business student. But she sees political science as the ideal educational platform for her work.
“Political science actually has a great deal to do with understanding the needs of your constituents, and understanding the analytical framework for how to fill those needs,” Bush said. “The internships I’ve had have always been about customer satisfaction.”
ModilMe is a clothes-sharing service with a business model based on Airbnb, the website that allows users to list their homes for rent by tourists. Users post their clothes and preferred prices on the website, www.modilme.com, where they can be viewed by people interested in borrowing or buying the clothes. ModilMe connects the parties and charges a transactional fee based on the total.
“For me, ModilMe is an opportunity to rewrite one of the most negative codes society has to offer.”
Along with Daniel Lyle, MCAS ’16, Bush founded ModilMe this past summer, after she started ModelME, an informal clothes-sharing movement, last spring. ModelME was a collaboration led by Bush and five of her friends that sought to empower women on campus through fashion and celebrate diversity in personal style and body-type.
ModilMe shares the same ideals, just in a more official capacity as a for-profit exchange and sharing service. The slight change in name reflects the company’s values, Bush said.
“We changed it from an “E” to an “I” because we wanted to put the “I” in model, and focus more on individualized modeling,” Bush said. “What we said was, ‘We celebrate everyone’—everyone’s their own model, in a sense.”
Lyle echoed that sentiment when he framed ModilMe as a business with a social mission.
“For me, ModilMe is an opportunity to rewrite one of the most negative codes society has to offer,” he said in an email.
In part, ModilMe is a response to Bush’s freshman year experience of feeling like she had nothing to wear compared to her peers. She thinks of it as a more community-focused version of Rent the Runway, which allows users to rent expensive items for a fraction of the purchase price.
“One of the things about BC is that a lot of people are very well-dressed,” Bush said. “We wanted there to be a platform for people to expand their wardrobe on campus.”
Since launching in earnest at the beginning of the year, ModilMe has seen high student demand, which Bush said is reflected in the number of daily visitors to its site.
The demand is actually so high that supply can’t keep up, she said, so ModilMe is especially focused on getting more students to upload their clothes to the website and offer them for rent.
ModilMe recently won Best Service at BC’s 2015 Elevator Pitch Competition, sponsored by the Shea Center for Entrepreneurship. The exposure from the win led to meetings with representatives from Highland Capital Partners, a venture capital firm, and Tom Coburn, founder and CEO of advertising startup Jebbit and BC ’13.
Bush views Start @ Shea, the Shea Center’s student entrepreneur group, as particularly helpful as she and her team juggle running a growing business and being full-time students.
“Even just being in small groups with other entrepreneurs, I see a passion on BC’s campus where people just lift each other up,” Bush said. “Everyone’s really helpful because people just want to see each other succeed, so it’s been heartening.”
Bush stressed that ModilMe is focused on developing its model at BC, but that eventually it hopes to expand to area universities like BU, Tufts, Harvard, and Northeastern. One way it might seek to expand is through an accelerator program, a common start-up investment that involves a small infusion of money and mentorship to set deadlines and goals for growing companies.
Lyle pointed out that he hasn’t heard of an operation like ModilMe at any other school, which is one of the reasons he and Bush think the start-up has such potential for growth.
Currently, Bush and Lyle both plan to continue working on ModilMe full-time after graduation. ModilMe plans to add 10 new team-members in the coming weeks who will be involved with every step of the operation, from website upkeep to social media marketing.
“I said, you know what, I don’t want to cut myself off and just say that only our minds are going to make this happen, I need a whole body of people to make this work,” Bush said. “Eventually, we want to spread to not only the Boston area but college campuses everywhere in the U.S.”
Featured Image / ModilMe.com