Need help deciding what to wear? She's building an app for that
UC student wins pitch competition with virtual closet, personal styling app
Deciding what to wear soon could be a lot easier thanks to a virtual closet and personal styling app being created by a team led by a University of Cincinnati business student.
Camryn Ellis, a third-year senior who plans to graduate in August, is creating an app that provides custom outfit recommendations and the ability to try on clothes virtually. With the app, Sty/e (pronounced style), she was one of the three winners of a pitch competition hosted by Main Street Ventures, called 2023 Launch It: Cincy.
As a winner of the competition, Ellis will participate in an eight-week program this summer in which she will receive assistance and have an opportunity to earn funding to help her launch her app as a startup business.
With the assistance from Main Street Ventures, Ellis hopes to begin beta-testing her app in August and then make it publicly available by the end of the year.
“I wanted this app for myself,” the UC student from Marysville, Ohio, said. “It started as a passion project, then the more I told people about the idea, they were like, ‘Why doesn’t that exist? I need that. I would use that.’”
Passion for fashion
Ellis’ desire to create the Sty/e app was borne out of her personal experiences. While fashion always was something she enjoyed, she didn’t feel confident about her own fashion sense.
When she studied abroad at Audencia Business School in Nantes, France, during summer 2022, she was impressed by French fashion and was inspired to take her clothing choices more seriously.
“That motivated me to dress better because no one there wears sweats ever, barely even as pajamas,” said Ellis, who is double majoring in international business and entrepreneurship in UC’s Carl H. Lindner College of Business with a minor in Spanish. “That trip, that three months, shifted my style and really elevated my passion for it.”
Back home in the United States, Ellis sought inspiration from Pinterest and Instagram. However, she felt she didn’t have the right clothes for the outfits she saw online.
“I would just get so frustrated because I couldn’t figure out what to wear,” she said. “I felt like everything that I was putting together was just inadequate and didn’t make me feel confident.”
To get the outfits she wanted, Ellis turned to shopping. However, she quickly discovered that wasn’t sustainable as she was spending a lot of money on fast fashion and finding the clothes soon went out of style or weren’t good quality.
In search of a solution for her dilemma, Ellis looked for an app that could give her advice on what to wear using her own clothes. She discovered a few fashion apps but found them to be lacking in their capabilities, such as offering suggestions of what to wear.
So, she decided to create her own app.
An innovative mind
Ellis has always been interested in innovation and problem-solving. She came to the Lindner College of Business to study international business and thought she would like to pursue a career in corporate innovation.
During the past few years, though, she has been drawn more and more to entrepreneurship.
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020, Ellis saw videos of people bleaching clothing. It looked like fun, and she had nothing better to do during that time, so she began trying it herself.
Soon thereafter, people were complimenting her on her clothing and asking her to bleach items for them. That led Ellis to create an Instagram page to showcase and sell her creations.
With a growing interest in creating a business, Ellis decided to double major in international business and entrepreneurship. She also became the director of marketing for Bearcat Ventures, UC’s student-led venture fund and professional organization.
“Watching something go from just an idea to a huge company was very interesting to me,” she said. “You need to innovate in a thousand different ways.”
While Ellis had a passion for fashion and knowledge about starting a business, she needed technical help to make Sty/e a viable product. So, she built a team in the UC community.
Sty/e’s team is made up of current and former UC students, including people she knew prior to her endeavor and others she’s met during the process of building the app.
Among her team members is a person who is working on software development, a filmmaker who is helping with content creation and marketing, a person in data analytics who is helping develop the app’s algorithm and a team of students who are working on the app’s machine learning.
When Sty/e is ready, users will be able to build their virtual closet. The app will have the ability to scan a user’s camera roll to detect their clothes and recognize recent online purchases. Users also will have the ability to upload items themselves.
The app then will make outfit recommendations based on what the user has available and their indicated preferences. Also, users will be able to view outfit options or even try them on virtually, similar to how filters work on other apps like Instagram and Snapchat.
As users make selections, the app’s machine learning will gain a better understanding of the individual’s preferences and be better able to make suggestions.
Ellis envisions both a free version of the app, which would give users the ability to coordinate items including shirts, pants and shoes, and a premium version that would expand offerings to include accessories such as hats, bags, jewelry and gloves.
Other features potentially could include chat support, daily challenges and periodic updates about a person’s outfit trends which users could share on social media or with their friends, similar to Spotify Wrapped that highlights users’ most-played songs.
A supportive environment
Ellis’ work to turn her app into a viable product will accelerate this summer with the support afforded to her by her victory in the Launch It: Cincy competition.
During June and July, Ellis and other winners will receive office space, funding for living expenses, mentoring, accounting and attorney services and more.
At the end of the eight-week program, Ellis will be eligible to apply for funding from Main Street Ventures, an organization that provides support for budding entrepreneurs, particularly those who have been historically underrepresented in the startup community such as women and minority founders.
To get to this point, Ellis has relied on support provided to her at UC, including through the Center for Entrepreneurship.
Ellis has met frequently with Kate Harmon, executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, for guidance on developing her app. She's also worked with Josephine Dalton, assistant director for the center, to prepare for competitions.
In the classroom, Ellis also has gained knowledge during her time at UC that has helped prepare her to create a business.
“My entrepreneurial classes have definitely helped me with how to be adaptable and innovative,” Ellis said. “It’s made me think that whatever I’m doing now is probably not going to be the final product, so be willing to pivot.”
Featured image at top: UC student Camryn Ellis presents at a pitch competition hosted by Main Street Ventures, called 2023 Launch It: Cincy. All images courtesy of Camryn Ellis
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Need help deciding what to wear? She's building an app for that
March 15, 2023
Deciding what to wear soon could be a lot easier thanks to a virtual closet and personal styling app being created by a team led by a University of Cincinnati business student. Camryn Ellis, a third-year senior who plans to graduate in August, is creating an app that provides custom outfit recommendations and the ability to try on clothes virtually. With the app, Sty/e (pronounced style), she was one of the three winners of a pitch competition hosted by Main Street Ventures, called 2023 Launch It: Cincy.
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