Egyptian e-commerce startup La Reina builds a reputation in niche space

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Just two years ago, Egyptian e-commerce startup La Reina had six bridal dresses listed on its platform. Now, it has an inventory of over 1,500 different items and is planning expansion to other countries.

Founded in 2016 by husband and wife Ghada El-Tanawy and Amr Diab after they experienced their own problems getting hold of a bridal dress, La Reina allows women to rent their evening and bridal gowns to each other. It caters to women standing on either side of a demand and supply equation, with designer dresses as their meeting point.

“Our website builds a bridge between dress owners and those who seek couture for more affordable price tags. We connect dress owners and renters who share the same taste in bridal and evening dresses. On the other hand, it opens a new market for younger fashion designers,” said El-Tanawy.

The platform has been a big hit. La Reina now lists 1,500 dresses, both bridal and evening, and has dealt with more than 300 brides and 1000 clients so far. It has even bigger plans, however, having secured a US$1 million Series A funding round led by Algebra Ventures, Egypt’s largest venture capital fund, with participation from global VC fund 500 Startups, back in May.

El-Tanawy said La Reina, which takes a percentage of each rental transaction made through its platform, was planning expansion into the Middle East and Africa on the back of its initial uptake.

“Our dress owners have successfully made a total profit of EGP3.5 million (US$195,000) during the past two years. Meanwhile, our numbers have been growing in a healthy method since our early days,” she said.

The gap in the market spotted by the La Reina team, she said, was in the major difference between designer dresses and high-street options.

“Before La Reina, it was quite expensive and difficult to wear a couture dream dress for just one occasion. Meanwhile, those who made the investment often ended up with cluttered wardrobes; full of valuable dresses that they would not wear again,” she said.

“As a market leader, we still do not have competition in the local market, where women often sell their pre-owned dresses on their own through social media. Meanwhile, the regional and international markets are full of worthy competitors that truly inspire us to constantly up our game.”

Social norms have always been the startup’s biggest obstacle.

“When we first started, it was not quite common for local women to make money out of their dresses. Meanwhile, it was even more difficult for them to announce in public that they are wearing a rental dress,” El-Tanawy said.

“Nonetheless, those traditions have changed tremendously in the past two years. Now the majority of women find it smart to invest in their dresses and rent them out.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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