Kaleena Eugene-Louis founded Zero To Wear, a virtual closet application to help users save time, money and stress when choosing clothes. A wife and mother, Eugene-Louis says her business ideas lived in the Notes app of her phone for more than seven years before she was inspired to “give it a chance.” The catalyst she needed to begin validating her business came by way of Start Studio Discovery, TechTown Detroit’s entry-point program for tech-based and tech-enabled businesses. In May 2021, Kaleena shared her business idea with other cohort members and the team of Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EIRs) in the TechTown community.
During the Start Studio Discovery program, participants are asked to focus on their target customers and the problem their business aims to solve for them. Eugene-Louis began her Start Studio journey believing that her customers wanted her to come to their homes and style them. But by working closely with her then-EIR, Jeff Ponders, Eugene-Louis went through the sometimes-uncomfortable journey to understanding the impact she wanted her business to have.
“There are some things you need to learn about yourself and learn about your customer,” Eugene-Louis says. To that end, she learned that the women she caters to through her business were not asking her to come into their homes and style them. Eugene-Louis also realized that she didn’t enjoy that as much as she thought she would. “Fashion isn’t the problem; it’s learning how to use what you already have to appear your best.”
Zero To Wear helps clients avoid the time-consuming task of figuring out what to wear by allowing them to see everything all at once through the mobile app.
Start Studio Discovery helped Eugene-Louis get clear about her business vision. Now she can confidently say, “I transform and empower women through their closets as is. We all open our closet doors that are full of clothes and say we have nothing to wear, [when in fact] we do. It’s in there somewhere, you just have to find it. Everything that I think we often look for on the outside, or go somewhere looking for, is already within us. We just have to find it.”
While nailing down the business vision, validating her business idea, and completing the customer discovery process (which required 100-plus interviews), Eugene-Louis gained much more from participating in the program. “My biggest achievement from participating in Start Studio Discovery is intangible,” she says. “It was the confidence I gained, the knowledge that I became more aware of as a founder and the out-of-the-box thinking and resources I learned. The relationships that I built, I still hold near and dear to my heart today.” Eugene-Louis talks to some of her fellow cohort members daily. They support each other through business development and life changes, they hold one another accountable and inspire one another.
“I didn’t have any expectations outside of the curriculum,” Eugene-Louis adds. “I did not expect to gain a community, what I consider family now, and a continued relationship with TechTown even when I don’t feel at my best as an entrepreneur.” In those moments of feeling inadequate, TechTown helps her stay motivated. “David Webber is an EIR who I continuously work with. He says, ‘Kaleena, you have to pull into the community, not outside of the community, so we can help you.’”
To any emerging tech founder considering applying for the next Start Studio Discovery cohort or hoping to engage with any of TechTown’s Tech-based Programs, Eugene-Louis says this: “Do it afraid. I think that’s the number one reason why we’re not apt to jump as quickly as we should but there’s a whole community of people here rooting for you.”
For more information about Start Studio Discovery, visit our Tech-based Programs page.