PEORIA — That suit that you’ve only worn once and is exiled to your closet, or that prom dress that cost hundreds of dollars for just a one-time use — they could earn you some bucks under an award-winning idea by a Rantoul resident.
With two other students at Bradley University, Nik Hess developed the idea for DYME — an online clothing rental business that allows the owner to make money from clothing just hanging in the closet. It would also benefit those who need a clothing item for one-time use.
The DYME idea was a second-place winner for Hess and his cohorts in the Turner School of Entrepreneurship & Innovation’s Big Idea competition at Bradley.
A fifth-year senior who will graduate in May, Hess said he has been getting encouragement to make DYME a real business.
“A lot of professors have been encouraging me to pursue this further,” Hess said.
Hess and teammates Natalie Grande and Michael Mounce earned $5,000 for their second-place finish and agreed to put the money back into further development of the idea.
“We are going to be reinvesting the money we won from this competition and start building the brand,” said Hess, an entrepreneurship major in the school of business who had the original idea for the project.
‘WE COULD START SMALL’
The capital requirement would be to start a website and an app development, “which can be pretty expensive,” Hess said. “We would start small. Maybe we could even have a Bradley student make it for us for $1,500-$2,000.”
Hess said they have received “a ton of guidance and mentoring” from the university.
“It’s been an incredible experience.”
The DYME name came from a slang term, meaning it stands above the rest, like a girl is a “10,” Hess said. “It was a little play on words.”
The trio’s entry was part of a class in which everyone had to come up with a random idea.
Necessity turned out to be the mother of invention in this case. In his dreams.
Hess didn’t have a suit and was starting the job-interview process for post-college life.
“I didn’t have a lot of money and didn’t want to keep hitting up my parents (Art and Kenda Hess of Rantoul) for money.”
Hess said he wished an online app was available for one-time clothing use.
“This could be a huge market for women especially,” he said. “Many women can’t be seen in the same dress more than once.
“Another good scenario is high school boys grow really, really fast. Say you are going to a family wedding and your 15-year-old doesn’t have a suit to wear.
You don’t want to spend $250 on something he will use one time.”
Hess said the online app would give a history of the item, “and you can feel comfortable renting it.”
COPYRIGHTING AN OPTION
The idea isn’t something that can be patented, Hess said, but copyrighting it might be an option.
“We have had some meetings with an intellectual property lawyer,” he said.
“Eventually we will be able to copyright the code and the business plan. We will pursue a trademark.”
There are companies such as Poshmark that are similar that are strictly buy-sell. It doesn’t have a separate niche, which is formal-wear rentals. Under the DYME app, there would be an option to buy the clothing item.
In addition to a cost savings, they could market DYME as an environmentally friendly service. No buying an article of clothing, wearing it once or twice and then throwing it away.
In making their pitch to the judges, the three budding entrepreneurs said that with every purchase, 5 percent of the proceeds will be donated to Oceanana — a nonprofit whose goal is to preserve the oceans for future generations.
The Big Idea competition was open to both students and alumni at Bradley who had an idea for an innovation, product, service or solution to a social issue.
The ideas were pitched to judges, then presented in a trade show booth visited by hundreds of people. The DYME crew and other finalists then created a business plan that included financial projections for the next three years. They also gave a 10-minute presentation to judges.
Hess said the first-place winning idea was to create an extension of a flatbed on a truck to carry larger-than-normal loads.
Hess has also been a member of the Bradley cross country and track teams all five years of college. Hess, who runs the 3-kilometer and 5-kilometer, was named all-conference honorable mention in cross country last year and helped
Bradley win its third straight conference championship. He was the fourth runner on the team. Bradley finished fifth in the NCAA Midwestern Regional.