You Need to Meet: Marley Alles, founder of the peer-to-peer clothing rental app, rax
With each rental, you reduce your water, waste, and carbon emissions by 8%
Marley Alles is a 27-year-old entrepreneur and the visionary Founder behind peer-to-peer clothing rental app rax. She has dedicated herself to positioning Canada as a premier innovation and tech hub, all the while shattering the barriers young women founders often confront in the business world. Marley’s impressive blend of education and industry experience has been instrumental in driving rax’s success. She earned her degree from the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University in 2018, and in July 2022, she completed her Technology MBA from Hult International School of Business.
Marley’s professional journey has included significant roles in advertising and marketing. She honed her skills at Ogilvy, where she crafted advertising strategies for some of the world’s most renowned brands. At Ernst and Young, she led go-to-market initiatives for Ontario, showcasing her strategic acumen. As a Growth Strategist at Bell Curve, Marley excels in ideating and implementing strategies that empower startups to expand their businesses.
What inspired you to start your business and Canada’s first peer-to-peer clothing rental app, rax?
The inspiration for rax came from a combination of personal experiences and a deep concern for the environmental and social impacts of the fashion industry. Witnessing the excess in my own closet and the closets of those around me, I realized how underutilized our clothing was. I would buy outfits and wear them once to an event and never again.
On the flip side, I was seeing a market shift towards the sharing economy and with social media and quick trend cycles, people often wanted access to an outfit vs. ownership. At the same time, I was increasingly aware of the ecological toll of fast fashion and the lack of inclusivity in fashion representation. rax was born from the desire to make a positive change. We wanted to provide a solution that reduces clothing waste and extends the lifespan of garments.
What were you doing before you became a business owner?
Before rax, I was working in the marketing and advertising field while pursuing my MBA in Technology. This combination of professional experience and academic knowledge equipped me with essential skills, such as branding, market positioning, and user acquisition strategies to kickstart rax.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned as an entrepreneur? How has this shaped how you conduct yourself in business?
The most significant lesson I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is the importance of periodically coming up for air and taking a step back to look at the big picture. In the early stages of entrepreneurship, it’s easy to become deeply engrossed in the day-to-day tasks, from handling PR and social media to building your own website. This sometimes leads to a very tactical approach, focused on ticking off items on the to-do list, rather than thinking strategically about each aspect of the business.
This lesson has profoundly shaped my conduct in business. I’ve become more mindful of the need to strike a balance between the tactical and strategic aspects of running a startup. Taking a step back allows me to reevaluate our overarching goals and ensures that each task aligns with the broader vision of rax. It’s a valuable perspective that guides our decision-making and ensures that we are always moving in the right direction.
What are some of the unique challenges women still face in the world of business? Are there any challenges you overcame that you can speak to?
Women entrepreneurs continue to face formidable challenges in the business world. One of the most glaring issues is the stark gender disparity in venture capital funding, with women receiving a mere 1.8% of these investments. Access to adequate funding is undeniably a significant hurdle that women-led startups confront.
Mentorship is another critical aspect where disparities exist, and it plays a pivotal role in the success of budding entrepreneurs. Breaking into networks and securing the guidance needed can be an uphill battle. Moreover, sexism still lingers in the business landscape, presenting unique challenges for women entrepreneurs. It’s crucial that we address these biases and stereotypes head-on to foster a more inclusive environment.
In my own journey with rax, I’ve explored opportunities such as accelerator programs to connect with the startup community and access advisory support. Additionally, I’ve pursued grants and pitch competitions to secure the resources required for the growth of our platform. Recently, I was fortunate to be awarded a $40,000 grant from Coors Legacy Lift. This grant has been instrumental in our journey, as it enables us to launch a new app and invest in marketing efforts to acquire more users. It’s a significant step toward levelling the playing field and making strides in the tech industry.
What is one of the most important things you’ve learned about yourself in your time as an entrepreneur?
One of the most profound realizations I’ve had during my journey as an entrepreneur is the importance of balance. In the early days, I was consumed by the business, dedicating every available moment to its growth. However, I’ve come to understand that entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve learned that it’s crucial to value personal time for relaxation, rejuvenation, and engaging in activities that bring joy. By finding this equilibrium, I not only enhance my well-being but also bolster my effectiveness as a business owner. This newfound perspective has allowed me to approach entrepreneurship with a more sustainable and holistic mindset, ensuring that I’m in it for the long haul and that I can bring my best self to the journey.
What do you love the most about what you do and why?
What I love most is the potential for meaningful impact. rax isn’t just about fashion; it’s about shaping a more sustainable and inclusive future. With each rental, you reduce your water, waste, and carbon emissions by 8%. Making a positive change in the world is incredibly fulfilling.
What advice would you offer to aspiring entrepreneurs?
If you’re contemplating the path of entrepreneurship, my advice is simple: take the plunge and start your own business. The knowledge and experiences I’ve gained as a founder surpass what I learned in business school, during my tech MBA, or in my prior work experience. The entrepreneurial journey is an unparalleled learning opportunity that will push your boundaries, challenge your abilities, and shape your mindset in ways that traditional education and work can’t match. So, if you have an idea or a dream, seize the moment and embark on the entrepreneurial adventure — it’s a path that can lead to incredible personal and professional growth.
If you had an extra hour in your day, how would you spend it?
Catching up with friends over wine or watching a movie with my family!
What excites you about the future?
We’re launching rax 2.0 this winter with increased app speed and features! Stay tuned.