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Wharton’s Kembrel.com launches first private retail sales store on Facebook

Kembrel sells clothing, shoes and accessories for men and women. It’s recently moved into the gadget market, too, offering add-ons for iPhones. Since a soft-launch in April, Kembrel has racked up 20,000 registered users through word of mouth marketing efforts.

Last week, as students at Temple University began their first week of classes, across town, Cherif Habib and Stephan Jacob were putting finishing touches on the official launch of a six-month project before they, too, hit the books.
Sure, the two second-year Wharton MBA students might have planned the launch before they became brain-deep in business studies, but it’s more likely perfect timing for Kembrel.com, their online retail store aimed at the college student apparel market.
Kembrel sells clothing, shoes and accessories for men and women. It’s recently moved into the gadget market, too, offering add-ons for iPhones. Since a soft-launch in April, Kembrel has racked up 20,000 registered users through word of mouth marketing efforts. It’s also began promoting a “pop-up” shops at local universities where the team sets up a small merchandise shop and explains the site to students.
Founded in April, the company had early success during Wharton’s Business Plan Competition, and Kembrel received the $3,000 People’s Choice Award, as we reported in May.
Their success hasn’t been by chance— the pair both had a background as software engineers and with entrepreneurial backgrounds.

Habib founded and successfully sold equity stake of Canadian mobile phone acessory distributor and online retail store puremobile.com. Jacobs founded RealAcad, a nonprofit initiative dedicated to nurturing entrepreners worldwide.
But the apparral market is a new one for both business partners. As Habib tells us, flash sales companies like firewalled GILT, which promises young, East Coast professionals exclusive access to up to 70 percent off of luxury retail brands, are an inspiration.
Many flash sales sites approach brands with the pitch that their overstock product — apparral for which too much was ordered, is perhaps past season, or that a large retailer might have cancelled an order of — could be sold at discount, but better than not sold at all.
Kembrel is trying to tap into a similar model, yet with a twist. It pitches true engagement to its audience of the lucrative, yet hard-to-reach college demographic.
“These [students] are in college now and poor. But they’ll graduate in a year or two, they will make a lot of money and are going to continue using your brand. For that reason, [brands] give us good merchandise,” he says.
And the site activately engaging students where they are every day: on Facebook.
The company, which self-funded, even launched what it claims is the first ever private, retail sales store on the social network. The application allows customers to browse products and purchase with a credit card apparel within Facebook. And items added to the Kembrel Facebook shopping cart can be viewed later at Kembrel.com or vice versa.
Habib says the company plans to launch more social commerce solutions, offering ways to integrate its shop into Facebook profiles, for example, and possibly sharing a cut of revenue with customers during conversion on their pages.
Habib compares its reach to Red Bull’s often-seen convertible promotion. A souped-up Mini Cooper drives around town, a custom-fit icebox trunk full of the energy drink, stopping to give away free samples.
“Not every company—especially apparel companies—has that kind of reach, that model of reaching students. We figured we could be that lead gen and consumer acquisition channel for these brands,” Habib says.
In just a few short months, retailers like Original Penguin, American Apparel, C&C California, Laundy by Design, Life after Denim and iPhone accessory-makers Dxeim & iSkin, have come onboard.
“We don’t say, ‘This is a channel to get rid of your bad stuff. We really want to acquire new customers you didn’t have access to before. Those are magic words to any brand.”

Companies: Kembrel / Wharton School

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