Unicorns are having a major moment; it’s reflected in everything from kids apparel, to rainbow unicorn food of all types, and even in terms of endearment — if you’re dating a “unicorn,” consider yourself lucky. These unicorns of retail are killing it while other companies are going bankrupt left, right, and centre.
Now, the term “unicorn” has become a coveted title for startup companies with a valuation of at least $1 billion. As the name suggests, these companies are rare and there are only 404 unicorns worldwide.
This year, four beloved online retail startups – Away, Casper, Glossier, and Rent the Runway – officially gained their unicorn status. Notably, three out of these four companies were founded by women.
While these companies are quite different, there are a few similarities. For example, each company has taken a basic product, and redefined the way consumers both view and interact with it, disrupting traditional industries in the process. Most notably, all of these startups began as direct-to-consumer businesses; they were able to reach and engage with consumers quickly and affordably from the get-go.
If you aren’t familiar with these four unicorns of retail now, it’s safe to say you will soon.
The youngest of the four unicorns, chic suitcase brand Away, which was female-founded in 2015, has risen to unicorn status with its trendy travel-related products. It didn’t take long for its hard-shelled carry-ons to catch the attention of the in-the-know travel loving set. In its first year, the company hit $12-million in sales and grew to $150 million in sales in 2018. Away shows no signs of slowing down. While the company has become known for its coveted suitcases, it has plans to expand its offerings as it continues its rapid growth. The next step for the brand is a move beyond the latest and greatest luggage, with foray into apparel, lifestyle accessories, and wellness products.
Since its launch in 2014, sleep-focused startup Casper became famous for disrupting the mattress industry, with its ultra-comfortable and super compactable foam mattresses. With its Instagram-friendly packaging and buzz-worthily unique product (a mattress that fits into the size of a box), the company hit the $1-million sales mark in the first year of its existence. One of the most appreciated perks of Casper – especially amongst budget-conscious millennials – is that the company lets consumers try the mattress out at home, actually sleeping in it, before committing to spending precious dollars on it. The company began online but has rolled out over two dozen stores as of late. While most associate Casper with its renowned mattresses, Casper also sells bedding and bed frames, and has a mission to become an overall sleep company.
Shaking up the beauty space, Glossier launched in 2014 with a bang and became the ultimate Instagram-friendly brand. The brand was an evolution from the popular blog, Into the Gloss, which was created by Emily Weiss in 2010. Glossier was born out of insights, feedback, and data learned and collected through the blog and its engaged followers. Interviews with celebrities, product reviews, and tutorials resulted in a solid Instagram following that would become the consumer base when Weiss launched with four beauty products. With only two bricks and mortar stores, the Glossier brand maintains its online roots.
Rent the Runway
New York City-based Rent the Runway pioneered the now thriving clothing rental game. While the company launched a decade ago to offer designer formalwear and professional wear, it has since expanded its offerings to include everyday wear and children’s clothing. Shoppers can choose between two plans within its subscription service, one for $89 per month and one for $159 per month (including shipping, insurance and dry cleaning). Most recently, Rent the Runway has moved into the home décor rental space with a partnership with West Elm that was announced earlier this year.