Benjie Davis’ wife, Rachel, was having a hard time finding a new style that really made her feel confident and herself. Naturally, she tried a personalized styling site — it was convenient, easy and would ship her some outfits to help her create a new style.
Unfortunately, the outfits were overpriced and didn’t represent the style she was looking for. She looked for personal stylists online to help her shop in a brick-and-mortar clothing store, but typically their rates were over $100 for one shopping session.
That’s when Benjie realized there was a need in the marketplace, and he was going to found his startup, Wirl, to help meet this need.
Wirl provides a two-sided marketplace to help everyday people find a personalized stylist at an affordable rate while allowing personalized stylists a platform to connect directly with consumers. The startup is based in the RTP area and will officially launch today in beta for the Raleigh-Durham area. You can sign up at the Wirl site.
Unlike other online personalized styling websites, Wirl allows consumers to connect with personalized stylists online. If the consumer and personal stylist have a fashion connection, then they will set up a time to meet in-person to go shopping. The company currently has about a dozen personal stylists on Wirl, all of whom Davis found through word-of-mouth. Being a personal stylist is meant to be a flexible job where they can create their own schedules. The payment process is all online through Wirl.
Personal Shoppers on Demand
“It’s kind of like how there are things that used to be accessible to only wealthy people and now they are available within reach to a lot of people,” Davis said. “It didn’t use to be that you could easily find people to buy your groceries, drive you around, or walk your dog. But now there are sites that help you find somebody to do that for you or with you, and personal stylists is the next on the list.”
Wirl’s personal stylists act as independent contractors and set their own rates. The rates range from $25 to $90 an hour depending on the stylist’s qualifications. The startup also requires that consumers book a minimum of a two-hour session. Wirl takes 25 percent of the hourly fees.
Davis founded the company but also works with a team of seven people, three of whom are based in North Carolina and four are remote. Davis is working with software developers for the mobile-responsive site, and he’s also working with a designer, a lawyer, and some marketing employees.
Although Davis has an understanding of tech, he’s not a developer, he said. Before founding Wirl he was a project manager at a software company, where he straddled tech project management and marketing.
“I’ve always had one foot in the tech side and one in the people side,” said Davis. “I’ve always been entrepreneurially focused. I’m always coming up with crazy ideas and I love to mull them over and think about them and usually within a couple of days I come up with a reason why they would never work. (Wirl) was one of the first ideas that the more I thought about it, the better it was for everyone involved.“
Davis said he wants to focus on growing Wirl in the Triangle area before he expands, but eventually, he wants to expand regionally and then nationally.
“We really feel strongly that wearing clothes that you feel great about can change your whole outlook on your day,” he said. “When you get dressed in the morning you’re deciding what kind of image you want to portray to everybody. And when people do that and they don’t like what they have, it can put them off to a bad start. We really think that helping people look and feel their best is a great way to help them.”