Macy’s. Nordstrom. Forever 21.
What is your favorite retailer? Imagine searching for a specific color and style of dress at all these stores, and more, but with one simple click. That is exactly what BYU student Jeremy Penrod has done with his online startup, The Dress Spot.
Penrod, a graduate student from southern California, is evolving the way consumers shop for retail online through his retail search technology. The Dress Spot is his first display of the technology that lets users search for a dress by color, sleeve length, skirt style and price. Users can even narrow their choices down by brands and stores.
“We got all these retailers on board, Nordstrom is down,” Penrod said. “We have about 30 of them now, which gives us access to their inventory; then we pull out the dresses and run image analysis to get the true colors. We get a bunch of other stuff, and in the end we’re able to let people search by really specific options.”
To BYU students and others who have trouble finding modest dresses, Penrod said, “That solves the ‘it’s so hard to find modest dresses’ problem completely.”
Former Miss Provo and current BYU student Kaitlin Purse said she shops for retail about once every two weeks. A dress is her favorite thing to wear because it is “one step.” However, being a couple inches short of 6 feet, she says it is hard to find dresses that are long enough.
“(The Dress Spot) lets you select your exact hue, price, length and everything,” Purse said.
Purse, who got engaged last week, said her first thought after seeing The Dress Spot in action was shopping for bridesmaid dresses.
“For someone who’s a dress addict like me, this is perfect. I like it; I like it a lot,” she said.
The idea for The Dress Spot came when Penrod and his wife, Sierra, were planning their wedding two years ago. She could not find her blush and slate-blue bridesmaid dresses despite searching a long time.
“They were crying, there was drama, and I was like, ‘I’m a web developer,'” said Penrod. “I just thought, ‘That’s bizarre. I can find anything I want to buy in seconds; how come women’s apparel is so bad?’ It’s just time somebody made an aggregate, powerful search engine for retail, for apparel more specifically.”
Penrod works in a team with his wife and a friend, Craig Nordstrom, both of whom graduated from BYU last April. “Craig and I do the heavy lifting,” Penrod said, referring to the technical side of things. “Sierra, my wife, helps with the sort of creative direction, you could say, making sure everything is tailored to the female eye. The user experience for women is very different than for the generic web.”
The team was part of an accelerator program this summer in Provo called BoomStartup. BoomStartup gave The Dress Spot mentorship and legal help, among other things, in exchange for a percentage of the company.
“I mean, you give up a little bit of equity, but they just zoom you forward in your business development,” Penrod said.
BoomStartup had great things to say about The Dress Spot and Penrod.
“Even more important the idea than the company is the person running the company, and Jeremy is a winner,” said John Richards, BoomStartup co-founder and co-managing partner. “No matter what Jeremy does, he is going to be successful. We love Jeremy.”
Penrod is currently studying information systems management and will graduate with a master’s deegree in April 2014.
The Dress Spot can be found at www.thedressspot.com.