Chic Marie

Sponsored Content with: BDC

Flipping through the pages of women’s style magazines, with all the latest clothes on spectacular display, is enough to make any fashionista swoon. The dream of being able to rock so many different cuts, colours, and fabrics, however, typically comes to an end when ladies remember that their fashion savvy is limited only by their bank balance: so many looks, not enough money.

A bold, new Montreal-based company is disrupting the way women source their wardrobes. Chic Marie is an online clothing-rental company with a mission provide women with access to unlimited clothes at affordable prices through innovative technology.

The service works like this: customers buy memberships online, ranging from $55 to $95 monthly, and receive up to three boxes of sample clothing that arrive throughout the month. Each delivery contains three different pieces that they can wear for as long they like. Then they return the items, and new selections arrive on their doorstep. If there are pieces clients can’t live without, they can buy them.

During the shopping process, customers interact with the company’s AI (artificial intelligence) named Scarlett, who helps with their selections.

Chic Marie is the brainchild of Marie-Philip Simard, a former corporate lawyer who did graduate work in applied finance. Her strong credentials include a recent pitch on Dragons’ Den. She got exactly what she entered the Den asking for in a deal with Michele Romanow and Joe Mimran.

Multiple factors contributed to her success in the Den, according to Jasmin Ganie-Hobbs, Manager of Major Accounts at the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC). One in particular stood out.

“There is no question Marie has an impressive business plan: she’s got traction, commercial viability, market share, clients, recurring revenue, and, oh yeah, great fashion!” Ganie-Hobbs says. “She was also an articulate pitcher, and I believe that that was her biggest asset in the Den.

Regardless of how great her business is, if she hadn’t been able to communicate all the strong points so effectively in the short amount of time she had in front of the Dragons, they could have just as easily taken a pass on it.

“As a self-proclaimed techie and fashion lover, I really enjoyed this pitch,” Ganie-Hobbs adds.

“Marie is an exceptionally smart, strategic, and well-versed entrepreneur. She knows her market, her financial metrics, and her competitors. The way she carries herself indicates she’s a strong leader, and this kind of good energy can permeate across a whole company.”

Ganie-Hobbs was also struck by Simard’s back story: although she had embarked on a lucrative legal career at a prestigious firm, Simard knew deep down that she would prefer being her own boss and having more creativity in her professional life. She gave up her big salary and moved back in with her parents to pursue her dream.

“It’s a good lesson for aspiring entrepreneurs to appreciate the grit, gumption, and risk that is often required in order to get a business going,” Ganie-Hobbs says.

While it’s geared to women of all ages, the business model is especially in sync with millennials, who are comfortable shopping online and sharing clothes and who want to try out new styles without blowing their budget.

Once the company got started, Simard was committed to seeing it flourish, even going so far as to call hundreds of customers herself to get see how the service could be improved. She turned to experts at BDC to solidify her business’s footing with market research and help it grow with an expansion loan.

With its inventive implementation of AI, Chic Marie is also breaking new ground in terms of the use of technology in the retail industry. One element of her business that Simard could have underlined in the Den, this is an area that BDC specializes in with financing and support geared specifically to tech entrepreneurs.

“The one change I would have made to her pitch is to really emphasize the AI technology she has, patent pending,” Ganie-Hobbs says. “This is not just a fashion play but a cool tech play as well, and that further validates this company’s credibility.”

With her tech savvy and fresh approach, Simard is poised for a bright future.

“Chic Marie is a radical approach to current retail models but has great potential for expansion,” Ganie-Hobbs says. “As a banker, I get pitched to every single day from budding entrepreneurs.

Chic Marie stands out to me as a very well-run company, with a strong go-forward plan. I can definitely see people buying into this.

“It’s so easy to see that Marie is at the top of her game as an emerging entrepreneur,” she says, “and should continue to ride this wave of success.”​

This is paid content provided by or produced on behalf of BDC.

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