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Rental Clothing Business the Right Fit for Daniels Student

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Lorne Fultonberg

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Lorne Fultonberg

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Sarah Laughlin
Sarah Laughlin

Coat
Gloves
Hat
Helmet
Snow pants
Base layer
Sweaters
Goggles
Socks

When a packing list for a ski vacation runs deeper than the powder on the hill, traveling presents a serious hassle.

For Sarah Laughlin, a professional MBA (PMBA) student at the Daniels College of Business, that hassle represented a serious opportunity.

She hopes the launch of her online company, Slope Threads, will start a revolution in the travel industry. Forget shoving all that gear into a suitcase. Forget paying to ship it across the country. Forget dropping hundreds on rarely used items.

Slope Threads allows vacationers to rent a full set of cold-weather wear—sent to the doors of their condos, hotels or homes, with a pre-paid shipping bag for its return.

“People are happy to travel light,” says Laughlin, a Littleton, Colorado, native who grew up skiing at Arapahoe Basin. “Millennials and younger generations are more focused on experiences. They’re not as obsessed with ownership and collecting things.”

Winter Carnival partnership

Launched in November 2018, Slope Threads has already proven that hypothesis to be true. A steady stream of orders have propelled Laughlin’s idea to early success, after a year of development on the University of Denver campus.

Laughlin made Slope Threads part of a class project, running financial models and bouncing ideas off her classmates in the part-time PMBA program. Their encouragement, along with support from her professors, helped bring the idea to life.

“DU has been amazingly supportive,” Laughlin says. “The classes are small enough that professors know what everybody does,” allowing faculty members to tailor the curriculum to their students’ needs. In a statistics class, she says, professor Daniel Hoffman explained how she could apply a statistical analysis to her own business model.

Through the University’s Project X-ITE program, Laughlin found a space in the new Incubator X—a collaborative space in the basement of the Cable Center where student entrepreneurs flesh out their ideas.

“There are elements of the startup world that are universal, like fundraising,” she says. “That’s not easy for anybody. It doesn’t really matter what your business is. [At Incubator X,] there’s likely someone who has been there before who you can turn to.”

SlopeThreads gear

In the outdoor industry, however, Laughlin has found female founders and owners to be more of a rarity. She feels a strong duty to support other women in outdoor entrepreneurship. The DU female interns she employs (because they were the most qualified, she notes) have the talent to help her buck the trend.

Slope Threads has focused on paying it forward in other ways as well, despite its infancy. The company advertises itself as eco-friendly, with 100 percent recycled packaging. It participates in winter clothing drives and a gear donation program, while also sponsoring ski days for underrepresented and underserved youth.

This February, Slope Threads is partnering with DU for the school’s annual Winter Carnival. A DU-specific discount code is available, which Laughlin hopes will make the tradition more accessible to all.

“I had a vision for how I wanted to build this company,” she says. “I thought it would be important to establish our values early. That way any team members coming on board or any customers coming on board will know right away what we’re all about. We should be setting an example.”