With Pitch@Palace Australia 3.0 Boot Camp and Finals next week, we caught up with Murdoch Alumna and finalist Dr Genevieve Hohnen, founder of The Volte - a designer fashion rental marketplace, market aggregator and technology platform.
Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Genevieve Hohnen and I am one of the co-founders of The Volte – an online fashion rental market place.My journey at Murdoch began in 2003, where I studied a combined Bachelor of Law and Arts. This was the first time I experienced life at Murdoch, but it wouldn’t be my last. I came back in 2007 to study a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and International Studies with honours, and again in 2009 to complete my PhD in Philosophy – Politics, where I focused on Explaining North Korea's Nuclear Weapons Program: How I focused on North Korea’s Weapons Program.
In between studying, I’ve worked in the public service sector as an assistant to a judge, in the education sector as a program co-ordinator and lecturer in Politics, International Relations and Counter-Terrorism and as a co-founder of The Volte.
Tell us about your idea, The Volte.I co-founded The Volte in 2017 with friends Kym Atkins, Bernadette Olivier and Jade Hirniak. If you’re not familiar with the idea, The Volte is an online designer fashion rental marketplace connecting borrowers and lenders, allowing women to access designer fashion to look and feel a million dollars.
This idea of lending and borrowing removes barriers and allows women from all demographics, regardless of size and budget, to access designer fashion at a fraction of the price. It also allows individuals to make money from their fashion ‘investment’ pieces, which otherwise would have only been worn once or twice. The Volte means that fashion is no longer disposable.
What was your motivation behind creating The Volte?I remember going to hire an outfit for an upcoming event and the options were very limited. Most rental companies were marketed to people in their early 20s who are a size 6-10. The moment came when we realised we all have these wardrobes full of designer clothes and bridesmaids’ dresses, that had only been worn a handful of times, so it made sense to create The Volte. We also were really concerned about the impact of fast fashion on the environment and wanted to offer a way for individuals to make a difference.
We wanted to create a way to monetise wardrobes and allow women to share their designer clothes with each other.
What did you study at Murdoch University? How did this help in setting up The Volte?I’ve spent quite a few years at Murdoch University, between studying a combined Bachelor of Law and Arts, Bachelor of Arts in Politics and International Studies with honours and a PHD in Philosophy – Politics, I think it was a total of 11 years.
My law degree really helped with understanding governance, implementing policy and evaluation. This has helped when setting up parameters around lending and borrowing and understanding the transaction element behind The Volte.
My politics and international studies course allowed me to think creatively, adopting the free-thinking philosophy. It also allowed me to be critical, to analyse, and explore different avenues to achieve the best outcome.
Why did you choose to study at Murdoch?I chose Murdoch because it was a good fit for me. The courses focused on areas that I was interested in and wanted to explore more about. I was also very interested in the University’s strong links to the Asian region through the Asia Research Centre. I loved how accommodating the University was towards learning. I got to complete a semester in New York at Ithaca College, which was amazing and something I would recommend to everyone.
Another thing that set Murdoch apart was that I had the opportunity to undertake a parliamentary internship in my first year, so it meant I got a first-hand look at where my law degree could take me; I don’t think many unis offer this, especially in the first year of study.
How did you hear about Pitch@Palace?The Volte was part of the Startup Catalyst mission at London Tech Week. We were sponsored by the West Australian Government and Startup Catalyst to present our idea to the world's leading innovation entrepreneurs, investors, global business leaders and policy thinkers. While we were in London, one of my co-founders got chatting with a friend who mentioned Pitch@Palace to us, one thing led to another, and next thing you know we’re submitting an application.
What advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs?Think creatively about what you want in your career. Just because you study law, it doesn’t mean you have to be a lawyer. Degrees are evolving and changing, and the opportunities are endless.
For my fellow entrepreneurs, my biggest advice is to have a co-founder. I wouldn’t have been able to create The Volte if I didn’t have my co-founders. All of us have different opinions, and different skills sets, which means we can bounce ideas off each other to find the best outcome. Setting up a new business is a big risk, but it’s worth it if you’re determined and have done your research.
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