What began as an idea in high school to buy secondhand clothing to be more sustainable has turned into a lucrative business for Anna Dorris, BS’22. As she wraps up a finance degree in the Undergraduate Program at the Kelley School of Business, Anna is working full time on Everewear, a mail-order personalized styling service that uses secondhand clothing.
“My sustainability idea came from high school, when you don’t have a lot of money to buy environmentally friendly clothing, thrifting was the most viable option to reuse and re-wear instead of buying new,” Anna said. “That’s when the light bulb clicked: I care about sustainability, and I’m willing to put in the work of finding the items to make it more accessible to the everyday shopper.”
Anna had a small resale business when she enrolled at the Kelley School, but the idea for her subscription business came to her during I-Core, the cornerstone of the undergraduate program in which students solve real-world business challenges using what they learned in their courses. She started asking professors about the idea of moving her resale business to a subscription service similar to popular styling service Stitch Fix but using secondhand clothing.
“My professors recommended that I pitch my idea at JagStart Showcase, IUPUI’s pitch competition. I went there with the shape of an idea, and they really helped me refine it and define the problem I’m solving,” Anna said. “That’s how the business model was born. I won that competition in 2021, and one of the judges invited me to pitch at the pitch competition at Elevate Ventures. I won that as well. This was the catalyst for taking this idea seriously.”
The pitch competition success connected Anna to venture capital firm Next Studios, which helped her build a prototype and find her first customer. Through a beta launch of her new company, Everewear (pronounced “everywhere”), Anna attracted 100 customers and began networking and fundraising for technology. She’s using an algorithm through a style survey of each customer to determine how to build each style box. Customers pay to receive a personalized style box, and they pay for which items they keep.
“I went from zero to 100 customers in six months. Now I’m sending out personalized styling boxes to around 300 customers in a paid pilot to ensure it’s working. I’m getting the infrastructure in place to scale it later,” Anna said. “I did $10,000 in revenue through the paid pilot. It really showed me that I can prove my idea with a little money and time. Now I’m focused on fundraising to build out the technology.”
Through JagStart, Anna connected with Kim Saxton, clinical professor of marketing at the Kelley School, who is heavily involved in the Indianapolis startup community and helped Anna refine her initial idea. Anna also continues to meet quarterly with Barb Cutillo, lecturer of management, to discuss investment strategy.
“Barb has a lot of real-world experience and connections in Indiana, which is so valuable in a professor,” Anna said. “She’s very familiar with investment structures and putting together a solid strategy. I like to meet with her to bounce ideas, and she gives me great advice.”
Anna currently works around the clock on Everewear and is excited to start building her team. She’s hired three interns from the Kelley school, specifically from the Women in Business club. Anna says she’s using the business principles she gained during her finance degree at the Kelley School to run Everewear. She relies upon her finance skills as she creates pro forma statements for potential investors, and applies the marketing, operations, and accounting skills every day.
“I-Core was very helpful for marketing because we talked a lot about the psychology of why people buy things and the psychology of choice: people think they want a lot of options, but in reality, they don’t,” Anna said. “I‘m applying this to secondhand clothing choices. People are exposed to millions of options, and for business to thrive, you really need to cut out that choice to avoid analysis paralysis. That’s what Everewear does.”
I-Core was very helpful for marketing because we talked a lot about the psychology of why people buy things and the psychology of choice.”
Anna says the biggest obstacles she’s encountered as she’s founded and grown her business are in capacity: it’s not a one-person job. She’s had to expand her network immensely to answer technology, logistics, and marketing questions. While the learning curve was steep, Anna says the help she’s received from the venture startup community and Kelley School have been invaluable. She encourages other students to pursue their entrepreneurial interests by relying on the help that surrounds them on campus.
“A belief in yourself is crucial, but it’s also important to start asking for help. People are willing to help you. They know you are starting from scratch, and they can help get you moving in the right direction,” Anna said. “That’s something I was not expecting – there’s so many experienced, knowledgeable people. What can I offer them? But they’re willing to take a meeting with you and share advice. Always reach into those networks.”