If you’re like me, you’re in the process of packing up your winter coats (Thank Goddess!) and moving in your spring and summer clothing. If you’re like me, you’re on the prowl for help organizing your closet.
Enter Jessica Moore and the Stylebook App.
In 2009 at the age of 23, Jessica, along with her boyfriend Bill Atkins, founded their own company and launched the Stylebook closet management iPhone App. The app has since been covered by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Harper’s Bazaar UK, InStyle Magazine, Refinery29 and many other media outlets around the world.
I chat with Jessica about her company, business opportunities in the mobile market and the importance of women at male dominated tech conferences.
What is Stylebook?? What’s the story behind the idea?
Stylebook is a closet management iPhone app that lets you keep your actual wardrobe - and everything about your personal style, including sizes, packing lists, outfits, and style inspirations - on your phone.
You can organize photos of your clothes and easily create many outfit combinations from your current wardrobe. The app helps you buy clothes you’ll actually use by allowing you to try out potential new purchases with what you already own - either by taking Stylebook with you to the store or by using the in-app shopping feature. You can use the calendar to plan outfits for work or vacation in advance, so you don’t need to stress about what to wear. There are actually over 90 features in the app to help you keep track of your personal style but those are some of the heavy hitters.
I came up with the idea while I was working as an assistant: there was a lot of pressure to look fashionable but I had very little time and an even smaller budget. I needed something to help me plan and record outfits. I was also inspired by my time as an intern in the fashion closets at Vogue and Modern Bride. Both magazines used binders and handwritten forms to track their clothing samples, and I knew there had to be a better way. So, when Bill and I decided we wanted to make an iPhone app for a fun side project, I convinced him that we should make a closet management program.
You just came back from SXSW. As a women leading a tech company, how important is it that you have a presence at male dominated conferences like SXSW?
It’s definitely important because I want to see other women empower themselves by creating their own businesses. Creating software or websites is a great way to do this because you don’t necessarily need anything but yourself and maybe a few other collaborators/co-founders. You can literally create an entire business from your living room or a coffee shop if you have the right skills and you’re willing the put the time into making it happen. Just look at all the fashion bloggers out there who make money by sharing their personal style online!
Are you naturally a risk taker? If not, how did you develop enough "gumption" to start Stylebook?
I’m not a risk taker at all, unfortunately. When we started Stylebook, it was really meant to be a hobby that made a little extra money. When it started to take off, Bill and I did a lot of careful planning before deciding to leave our full-time jobs. We made sure we had a viable business model, a good lawyer, an accountant, and a roadmap of our goals for the app. Once everything was lined up, Bill worked on it full-time for about six months and when that went well, I joined him!
Do you have to have a "programmer" background to develop a mobile app company? If not, what are some tools a "normal" person can use to develop a mobile app? If yes, how do you find a programmer to work with you on your big idea?
I don’t have a programming background, but my co-founder Bill was a computer science major - he does that part of the work. I do the branding, marketing, advertising, PR, blog writing, testing, event planning and work with him to come up with new features.
I think you or your co-founder needs to be a programmer. It will give you a better understanding of what is possible and help you develop a better product. If you want to start a company but don’t know any programmers who want to be a co-founder, you’ll probably need to get some kind of funding so you can hire one.
What's next in mobile? Where are the growth opportunities in this field?
Near-field communication is very exciting! This is the technology that allows you to transfer data or pay for something just by putting your smartphone near another device. I think it’s going to make life a lot easier. Imagine if it was no big deal if you left your wallet at home or if you could pay for a parking meter without having to carry change.
For more thoughts on women, technology and business, please follow Kathryn on Twitter at @KathrynFinney