Grid110 Founder Story: APRL

Emmanuel Chan
Feb 11 · 8 min read

I think it is absolutely necessary to have a growth mindset when creating a company. A lot of people will tell you to find a co-founder with different skill sets than you. While I agree with this, also know that skills can be developed. If you find a co-founder equally committed to the success of the company and has the ability to learn and develop skills — I find this more valuable than specific domain knowledge.

In this special February edition of Grid110 Founder Stories — we explored the meaning of love. Not necessarily the St. Valentine’s “struck by an arrow” kind of love, per se — but one that still takes a special kind of chemistry: the co-founder connection.

Enter Nick and John, co-founders of APRL (pronounced apparel). The co-founding pair first kindled their connection over some sakes, basketball banter, good-hearted clowning, and a wager of who will beat the other in a 1-on-1 bball game (has yet to be settled.)

But the duo eventually solidified their bond over a shared passion for fashion, tech, and sustainability. It led to the birth of their…lovechild (we’ll stop)…APRL. APRL is an app that allows guys to rent dope clothing, rather than buy clothes for occasions they rarely use. Dope clothes without the waste of (over)consumption? Sign me up! Nick, as an actor, saw the need to obtain high-quality clothes for parties and premieres but was always struggling to upgrade his closet without sacrificing a pretty penny.

With LA’s backdrop as an emerging tech scene combined with its fashion-forward ethos, Nick and John built APRL from the ground up sourcing items from close friends. They came into Grid110’s Idea to Prototype program searching for some extra support and mentorship and left with more clarity on their problem-solution statement and what value they were providing for their customers.

Now, this tandem — built and fueled by a synergy of hustle, flyness, and adherence to the growth mindset — is trailblazing a path for men to upgrade their wardrobe without ever having to buy anything new.

Download the app and enter the code: 110110 (gives instant access to the curated APRL closet). Learn more at aprl.la.

Instagram: @aprl_la

Full Transcript:

What is your venture? How do you seek to change the world?

Our venture is APRL (pronounced apparel) — a style platform for millennial men looking to dress their best, save money and make a positive impact on the planet. We do this by giving fashion seekers access to high-quality already existing clothes that they can rent + buy. Think Rent The Runway for Men.

Our mission to change the world, on the micro level, is to empower the modern male w/rad existing style to look & feel their best wherever they go. And on a macro level, to create the world’s most sustainable way to consume fashion so we can massively reduce the destructive impact fashion has on our planet.

What prompted you to start your venture? Where did the idea come from?

Nick: 1) I was in the entrainment industry for years & many times needed high-quality clothes for different premiere parties/photoshoots and was always struggling because I was a broke-ass actor.

2) A friend told me about women renting their clothes out & it hit me like a wave…this needs to exist & exist for not just women, but for all the guys like me who like fashion, but have no entry point. I knew I had some cool clothes as did my friends and so we started looking into how to create a rad collective closet for us.

3) Started digging, found that no one was really taking care of this problem for guys & that there was a HUGE global fashion waste problem hurting tons of people & ecosystems. And that really sealed the deal.

So we figured out that 1) tons of clothes are just sitting there, 2) tons of guys want to wear rad clothes and 3) there was nothing out there to make renting stylish men’s clothes — safe, easy & cool.

Enter…APRL.

What’s special and advantageous about being in LA (if applicable, DTLA) for you and your venture?

Nick: We feel so lucky to be beginning our APRL journey in LA for many reasons:

1) LA is the “social fashion” capital of the world. It has such a vibrant intersection of rad streetwear (Fairfax/La Brea) & high fashion (DTLA/Rodeo).

2) LA is also the media capital of the world & a town filled with all types of image-conscious individuals who are constantly looking to keep their image fresh. And we see ourselves as a perfect sustainable choice for the growing conscious consumer segment.

3) LA’s hungry talent pool, huge business network & fast maturing tech scene has already helped us grow so much. We’ve been the beneficiaries of programs like: Mayor Garcetti’s “LA Talent Tech Pipeline” — which helped bring us high-quality interns here at APRL & Grid 110’s Idea to Prototype (I2P) program. The I2P program specifically helped us crystallize our idea/offering & helped bring our MVP to market.

John: LA is a fashion/style hub. People from around the world look to LA for trends and style inspiration. LA also has a burgeoning tech ecosystem. We have positioned ourselves at the confluence of the two industries.

As you think back to your Grid110 experience, what are the 1–2 lessons or takeaways that still stick out to you?

Nick: 1) To really understand what problem you’re solving & what value or solution are you bringing to your customer. 2) Practice pitching & crafting your business daily.

Considering what Grid110 provides and offers, what has been the most impactful to you as a founder and business? How has the Grid110 experience influenced your entrepreneurial journey?

Nick: The expertise & care of the mentors and the network that we’re now a part of.

How did you and your co-founder meet, what’s the origin story?

Nick: John & I met at a birthday party at Sake House on La Brea 7 years ago, had a several sakes, EXTENSIVELY clowned each others b-ball games & ended up with a drunken $900 wager that John could beat me to a game of 10 spotting me 9 points — btw still haven’t played this game (b/c John’s afraid of my lockdown D!) Needless to say we’ve been friends ever since.

John: We had a mutual friend and spent a long time as good friends/ hiking buddies prior to founding APRL. Someone explained to us the idea of women renting clothing and we realized that no one was renting clothes for men. We saw the opportunity and created APRL.

How do you and your co-founder complement each other? What’s the process in which you use to make decisions together?

Nick: John & I complement each other really well in our different personality types & tastes in style.

We try to 1) identify the need/problem 2) gather as much relevant data as possible 3) present our cases & 4) consensus building to move forward.

P.S. We also use the crap out of OKR’s!

What’s the secret sauce behind your co-founder dynamic? Nick: A solid healthy friendship, a deep trust that the other one has the other’s back & our ability to let our egos take a back seat to the progress and success of our company.

John: We are both super fly dudes, super hard workers, and we both subscribe to a growth mindset.

What advice do you have for people who are considering to join forces and start a business? What should they be mindful of, any pitfalls to avoid? Nick: 1) Don’t rush the process — find one or two small specific milestones to work on together that move you towards building that business, set a designated trial of time & let that help inform your decision on whether or not to commit more seriously to working with this person. 2) I’d also try to make your agreement dynamic w/specific life events or performance milestones so it can have some flexibility as the roles & life situations will inevitably change as your company grows. 3)Also be willing to exercise the “tough conversation” muscle sooner rather than later so you can build a solid foundation of healthy communication & trust.

John: I think it is absolutely necessary to have a growth mindset when creating a company. A lot of people will tell you to find a co-founder with different skill sets than you. While I agree with this, also know that skills can be developed. If you find a co-founder equally committed to the success of the company and has the ability to learn and develop skills — I find this more valuable than specific domain knowledge.

Fun Questions

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Nick: A renaissance man — loved the idea of getting to explore math, science & the arts for a living (actually feel like I’m kinda getting to do that now w/APRL in tech/fashion)

John: Pro Basketball Player and Musician (saxophone)

What is your spirit animal?

Nick: Lion

John: Hawk

Who is your personal role model? Nick: The human amalgamation of Gandhi, Richard Branson & Jean Michel Basquiat

John: Kanye West

If you could have a meal with anyone, living or deceased, who would it be? Nick: Barack Obama because I’d love to talk about ideas & solutions for the future, Chicago Sports & learn more about how he thinks & lives.

John: Kanye — I want to be around that supreme confidence and see what it is like. Internalize it and absorb some of that juju.

If you were a superhero, what would be your superpower? Your super weakness? Nick: Wait — like a pretend Superpower or like a real Nick Superpower!? hahaha

Pretend superpower: would be to manipulate & wield the subatomic energy around me to change the forms of matter & move it however needed. Real superpower: My passion & its ability to affect others :)

Pretend superweakness: That if I’m cut off from the sun I lose my powers Real superweakness: Overthinking things

John: Superpower: shapeshifting- able to hide in plain sight and observe people unnoticed (not creepy way but to observe patterns, habits and apply them to our business)

Random Fun Fact — Wild Round!! (aka have a random fun fact? Please share!) John: I have stretchy face skin. Come find me to observe.

About Grid110

Grid110 provides mentoring & key resources for early-stage entrepreneurs in underserved regions. We support early-stage companies by connecting them to office space, mentors, and important resources during the most critical phase of their business life-cycle through education programs.

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Emmanuel Chan

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Program Lead, Grid110

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