How one woman is going after a $17B opportunity

CNBC – You never know what can trigger a breakthrough moment. Christine Hunsicker can attest to that. The serial entrepreneur who has helped launch two high-tech start-ups — including RightMedia, a direct marketing advertising firm purchased for $850 million by Yahoo in 2007 — is now busy building her latest venture: an online subscription rental clothing service for women sizes 10 to 32. The idea for her company, called Gwynnie Bee, was spawned in part by her fond memories of sharing garments with her cousins as a child.

But Hunsicker’s decision to target the plus-size women’s apparel market may give her an edge in an increasingly crowded field. “This is a huge business segment, but traditional retailers have never really capitalized on its potential,” explained Laura Sossong, a senior consultant with Boston Retail Partners. According to NPD Group, it accounts for more than $17 billion in sales.

Gwynnie Bee’s ability to get into the black won’t be for lack of opportunity, retail experts say. “I think the company is pretty brilliant to tap into the plus-size segment,” said Sossong. “They’ve created this community on their site, where it’s more than just a clothing rental service. There’s a social support element to their model, where plus-sized customers feel welcome and accepted.”

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