When Parker Moore was a senior at Clover High School, he was conflicted about going to his senior prom.
It would be expensive to rent a tuxedo. He would have to drive 35 minutes to Rock Hill and back three times to get fitted, pick it up and drop it back off. In the end however, he relented.
“It was such a hassle,” he said.
But Moore, now 22 and a senior marketing major at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business, had an idea: What if the tux came to you? He even came up with a name for the business: Tux on Trux.
“I just kind of filed it away and never did anything with it,” he said.
But in November, Moore was taken by surprise when his existing business, a scheduling app called MyUTrack, didn’t qualify for the Moore School’s Startup Weekend. So he quickly resurrected the Tux on Trux with partners Jon Rice and Jonathon Peterson
“We just kind of winged it,” Rice said. “We’re still winging it.”
The premise is this: The partners drive to a location – such as a fraternity house or a high school – to fit customers and return a week later with the tuxes. They also pick up the tuxes at the same location.
By eliminating the overhead of an actual store, they are able to rent tuxedos a rates lower than traditional outlets – about $79.99 for a basic black tux up to $189, depending on customization and accoutrements.
The trio – all roommates – pitched the idea during the competition, which is designed to help students launch their businesses with the help of local businesspeople who volunteer to help the budding entrepreneurs.
There were more than 50 entries. Tux on Trux finished second and drew the attention of Jeannie Sullivan, a consultant and certified business coach.
“I had a 17-year-old son who went to prom, so I had a unique perspective,” she said. “The convenience, the fun factor and all aspects of the business model were attractive to me as a parent.”
Sullivan helped the partners build a financial model and discovered “if we could get 80 percent of all the high schools in South Carolina, we were looking at millions of dollars in potential revenue.”
Sullivan added that she is continuing to offer her services to Tux on Trux, without charging a fee.
“I believe in their idea because these three young men are so positive and so willing to take action,” she said. “I could see the passion and courageousness to get this done.”
Last week in a pilot project, Tux on Trux fitted 39 students from nearby Irmo High School for prom tuxes and had 17 orders. Customers who returned the tuxes to the school on Monday said they were pleased with the service.
“Starting to finish up senior year, you got a lot of stuff going on,” Irmo student Barron Coleman said. “This is super convenient. It looks beautiful. I got so many compliments on it. I have nothing but thanks for these guys.”
Robert Sherr, parent of Irmo student Carter Sherr, also enjoyed the convenience.
“We didn’t have to worry about getting him fitted and picking up and dropping the tux off,” he said. “It just worked out real well.”
The partners had geared the business to high school proms. But they also decided to pitch the idea to a meeting of USC fraternity presidents, because fraternities host and attend frequent formal events.
Turns out, the service was more popular with college students, most of whom opt for the basic $79.99 black model. They have rented about 60 tuxes. High school students want something flashier for prom.
“We thought the fraternities would be a sideline,” Rice said. “But the roles reversed.”
The partners plan to market their service to wedding parties this summer, interacting with far-flung groomsmen via Skype and Facetime, teaching them how to fit themselves.
“We want to come to the customer,” Rice said.
So far, the business is doing better than the trio expected.
“In three months, we’ve gone from idea to launch to sales to profit,” Rice said.
But it’s still in its infancy.
“Tux on Trux doesn’t even have a truck, yet,” Moore said. “We deliver them from the back of my Jeep.”
The partners rent the tuxes from an Atlanta wholesaler, and they are shipped to the trio’s house in Columbia. There’s about a 50 percent mark-up on the tuxes, but they are still cheaper than rentals from traditional outlets because there is very little overhead.
“I hope we never have a store,” Moore said.
Rice noted that Uber bills itself as the biggest taxi service in the world and doesn’t own any taxis.
“We want to be the biggest tuxedo store in the world,” he said, “and not have a store.”