Two years ago, Nicole Boyd had a problem that many women share: she was willing to invest money in looking and feeling good, but had no idea what to wear.
Since she’d just started maternity leave amid the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, she had some time to think deeply on the problem—and its potential solution. With many sticky notes and late nights, Boyd came up with a name, Prept. Soon, the feedback survey she put out would confirm her hypothesis that other women shared her problem and they would be interested in virtual style consultations.
“We got that very basic service going—I mean, we were styling people with Google Slides,” Boyd said. “I knew I wanted to start there, to further flesh out what this thing was, and how we could build an experience around it.”
Flash forward to 2022 and Prept is a platform that connects users/clients with over 50 personal stylists, makeup artists and more for live virtual style consultations.
A client’s first step to receiving consultation is to download the “Prept” app. Then, a client would either pay a one-time fee for a single consultation or choose to join Prept’s subscription-based service for more regular consultations.
After meeting with their service provider, clients would be provided with links to recommended products. Affiliate fees from selling the products service providers recommend make up most of Prept’s revenue.
The platform taps into the gig economy, with high returns for service providers, who receive a 80 to 95% cut of the booking fee. Finding service providers was an early priority for Boyd, and there was no shortage of qualified candidates, especially as pandemic lockdown forced many retailers to lay off workers.
“Stylists from Neiman Marcus or Bloomingdales or Nordstrom lost their jobs, and they wanted to continue to do this in a virtual way,” Boyd said. “There was this wave of no one coming to the stores. There were layoffs and even boutiques were slower, so stylists started to find us. On that side the platform grew pretty quickly, and that was important, because to meet the demand of clients you need to have stylists.”
While the company is digital-first, “Prept Party” in-person events, which Boyd hosted most recently this past weekend in Charlotte and previously in Raleigh, Los Angeles and Indianapolis, bring an IRL component by partnering with local businesses and stylists.
At the time Boyd founded Prept, she was living in Charlotte, fresh off of a decade-long cross-country consulting career. After a short move to Los Angeles, Boyd, a Cary native and N.C. State graduate, moved with her family back to the Triangle this summer.
“We’re back in Raleigh,” Boyd said. “It’s exciting. I just have so much excitement around the tech scene here, and I want to be a part of that growth.”
Despite her local ties, Boyd said she is committed to reaching a national audience through her virtual-first business model. This model works well to service the demographic Prept hopes to reach—women who want to look good and have money to spend on clothes but have little time to shop and no idea where to start. It also allows her to expand the number of service providers on the platform.
Even as Prept stays in cyberspace, its clients are moving increasingly towards the in-person world, and from revamped wardrobes to weddings, looking good is more important now than ever.
“People are getting dressed again, and they’re like ‘what the hell do I wear, I’ve been in athleisure for two years,’” Boyd said. “In the pandemic, the use case was ‘Help me figure out my Zoom wardrobe, help me get comfortable, help me figure out things that I can wear to the grocery store.’ Now it’s, ‘I’m going to Europe again, style me for my trip.’”
Year over year, Prept’s user base has tripled. With 55% profit margins, Boyd hopes to transition from bootstrapping to a fundraising round in the near future, and to expand her team to more full-time roles. She hopes her female-founded startup will attract local and Southeast investors that span the gender divide.
With more funding and a bigger team, Boyd looks to grow Prept from a platform used by hundreds of women to one that serves thousands by showing investors the truth that inspired her to found Prept in the first place: everybody loves to look good, and many are willing to pay to do it.
“This is not just a women’s problem. Image matters in our society,” Boyd said. “When you look good, you feel good, you’re more confident, you can show up better for your career, for your home life. It’s for everybody, and it’s a pervasive problem—that you want to look good but the process to look good is hard work. We want to help people with that.”