After two decades in fashion, Kristy Caylor was disheartened by the industry's sustainability issues. Too much inventory and incentivized high consumption created so much waste. That's why, in 2018, she launched For Days, which let customers exchange worn-out clothing basics for new products, while it upcycled the returns. Caylor thought her original subscription business model would solve fashion's waste problem. But she'd gravely miscalculated. --As told to Anna Meyer
Right after we launched For Days, we started hearing from customers that our subscription model made them feel pressured to get their money's worth by using more clothing than they needed. My gut dropped--we'd hung our hat on sustainability; I was like "Oh, no. This is big. Like, this is not a little shift." I already had press, seed-round investors, momentum, customers, and revenue. I honestly considered moving forward anyway. But I couldn't pretend I hadn't heard about the problems.
It was a tough call, but we closed our doors in February 2019 while we reorganized. For four months, we took no new customers and held intense strategy meetings to discuss new e-commerce products, change our messaging, and brainstorm new pricing models with insight from our small existing customer base. By November 2019, our company had relaunched with our current model: When a consumer is finished with a For Days piece, we will buy it back to be properly recycled--all on the customer's own timeline.
Ultimately, even without the subscription, annual customer retention improved, as did customer feedback. It taught me that as a founder, being wrong is part of the job description. Own it, be confident in it, and realize that it's inevitable.