A wave of technology-enabled clothing rental services has disrupted the fashion world, pushing the industry toward greater sustainability while making high-end designs more accessible to the average consumer.
But while that disruption has created new opportunities, it’s led to a crowded market filled with companies seeking an edge; Barcelona-based startup PiSlow found its in Stevens Institute of Technology student Caitlin Haggerty.
A junior in the Information Systems program at the School of Business, Haggerty spent the summer as an intern with the company, channeling her knowledge of tech and fashion trends into the design of an app for the rental service, and expanding its offerings to include a user-to-user platform.
“They had me developing an extension of their business model,” she said. “I was doing competitive research and bringing in what I know about rental culture in the United States.”
Her interest in fashion and e-commerce was piqued during a panel at the School of Business, which included managers and decision makers at Liz Claiborne, Jet and others. One speaker was Stevens alumnus Kevin Ospina ’06, who discussed his experiences working in digital solutions for Louis Vuitton.
“I was fascinated by what he said,” she said. “I love the fashion industry and how it constantly refreshes itself. I decided that I wanted to go into e-commerce.”
Prepared for challenges because of Stevens coursework
She was drawn to the startup world because “everyone is so motivated and driven,” but working for a nascent company comes with its own set of unique challenges. With only two other employees at PiSlow, Haggerty often had to work independently. But she said her School of Business coursework, including her information systems and project management classes, gave her the tools she needed to tackle these tasks.
“Kevin Ryan’s Programming for Mobile Applications was really helpful and interesting — not because it’s a lot of coding, but because it’s an interface-based class where you're designing what an app would look like and how it can be used,” she said. “It helped me be creative in my internship, as well, because I had to use that same mindset.”
PiSlow founder and CEO Maria Jose Gonzalez called Haggerty “proactive and a fast learner,” which allowed her to trust her intern with greater responsibilities.
“I let Caitlin have creative and innovative freedom in designing the app, and I think the end result is very nice,” Gonzalez said.
It’s clear Haggerty enjoys that level of responsibility — alongside her studies, she’s now working as an intern at Peace Trade Love, a Hoboken-based e-commerce startup.
“They expected a lot of me at PiSlow,” she said. “It was definitely a challenge, but it was something I felt prepared for.”
A foundation for success
Haggerty entered Stevens prepared for success, with a solid STEM foundation after graduating from the Academy of Information Technology in Scotch Plains, NJ. Her high school took a class trip to Castle Point, which sparked her interest in the university. She found the blend of technology and business she was looking for at the School of Business.
“I like technology, but I also like the business side of things — interacting with people, management, trying to sell something,” she said. “And the Stevens ROI ranking certainly didn’t hurt.”
Haggerty’s favorite part of studying at Stevens is the “community of driven people” that surrounds her: “We’re very motivated to get things done and learn, and we’re also very future oriented.”
She’s taken on a leadership role in this community, serving as vice president of the Stevens Women in Business, a peer advisor for the Pinnacle Scholars Program — and, not surprisingly for a student who interned abroad, a global ambassador for the Office of International Programs.
Studying abroad, Haggerty said, “is one of the most valuable experiences you can have as a college student.” Her time working in Barcelona — and bridging language and cultural differences — taught her how to “embrace discomfort.”
“I feel more confident in being out of my comfort zone now, and I want to be there because I’ve had such great experiences outside of it.”