Cleaning out her wardrobe, Victorian mum Johanna looked forlornly at multiple designer gowns she had worn only a handful of times.
A floor-length frock she showed off once at a friend’s wedding, a brightly coloured gown for Fashions on the Field at her local races and one more she’d saved for a fancy event.
All worn just once. All in perfect condition. All expensive items.
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She simply couldn’t bear to just throw them out.
On a whim, to earn a bit of extra cash and keep the frocks from the bin, she decided to pop them online – to rent them for a small fee.
That was 18 months ago.
This financial year, Jo’s side hustle is set to make $60,000.
“I am a typical mum who does school pickup in activewear with huge sunglasses covering my dark circles,” Jo tells 7Life.
“I have no marketing or experience in this at all.”
Scrubs to ballgowns
The 34-year-old, single mum-of-two is a full-time nurse, and has been for 10 years.
So when she was clearing out her wardrobe she had no intention of making a business out of renting her clothes.
But most were hardly worn and some were worth thousands of dollars.
She wanted to give them a new life, but didn’t know how.
She just knew she didn’t want her prized gowns to end up unappreciated or collecting dust in an op shop.
Not only this, Jo knows the impact fashion makes on the environment.
“I used to work in the agriculture business, and I know how much water goes into making clothes,” she explains.
With nearly 3000 litres used to create a single cotton T-shirt – enough drinking water for 900 days for one person – Jo hates to see clothing end up in landfill.
And living in Bendigo, 153km north west of Melbourne, she recalls being hit hard by drought.
“Those two-minute showers!” she remembers.
So, the mum decided to list her clothes on The Volte, a designer-dress hire website.
One frock was a last-season item by Australian designer Aje, which she had purchased for $500.
Using the stock image the website had on hand, Jo barely had to lift a finger to advertise the gown.
Renting it out for $140 per occasion, she quickly made her money back, and then some.
The mum realised the popularity of renting clothes and decided to buy a few more sizes of her Aje dress.
Investing a total of $1500, she updated her listing – and almost instantly received hire requests.
From that one garment, she made well over $4000.
And the demand, over 10 luxe outfits that she had listed, blew her mind.
She decided to set up her own rental company.
Starting a Facebook page, the novice paid $140 to help promote her Bendigo boutique.
“I don’t even know if that $140 did anything, I think it was more word of mouth,” she says.
“I know nothing about this world. Honestly, I’m just winging it.”
Jo went from stocking 10 dresses, in sizes 10 and 12, to more than 200, with a size range from six to 16.
Prospective wearers can hire her clothes online and receive them in the mail.
Locals can go into her store and try on the gown before hiring it.
Once the outfit is returned, Jo has it professionally cleaned by the local dry cleaner.
“I was actually in the cleaners the other day and they said to me, ‘Did you know you have paid for my staff member’s wage?’,” Jo beams.
She couldn’t believe that her simple weekend task of clearing out her wardrobe had now given someone a job.
Dressing the town
Not only this, Jo loves dressing the town.
The mother to daughters Finley, six, and Frankie, five, beams over the hundreds of women she has helped feel good walking out of her shop in a designer gown.
“I love helping mums who are 10-months post-partum and don’t know how to dress their body after the change of having a baby,” she says.
“Or women in their 60s dress up for a wedding or something, or teenagers pick something for their formal.”
After a dress has had multiple hires, Jo generously donates it – to Formally Ever After, an organisation that helps dress financially burdened teens for their end-of-school formals.
From a few of her favourite frocks, to a shop full of designer outfits, her daughters have certainly picked up their mum’s passion.
Prancing around her store, their little eyes gaze up at the beautiful dresses.
“They say ‘Mum can I wear this dress?’” she laughs.
“Or, ‘Can I wear this dress when you die?’.”
Jo is happy her passion is keeping dresses out of landfill.
But mainly she is excited that her outfits are helping women feeling good about their bodies.
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