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Building a Dream from Scratch

“This isn’t really about fashion. It’s about the feeling you get when you walk out the door."
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Elizabeth Shrout, NKU student

Elizabeth Shrout, founder of Avasha

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Throughout high school, Elizabeth Shrout dreamed of creating her own business.

When she learned about Northern Kentucky University’s business accelerator program—the INKUBATOR—during her first campus visit, she knew NKU was the perfect place to make that dream a reality. Not long after Elizabeth became an entrepreneurship major, Avasha was born.

Elizabeth, along with her co-founder Ally Creech, created the virtual personal styling service at affordable prices. Elizabeth and Ally have been best friends since they were in the seventh grade, and creating a business together brought them closer than ever.

Throughout high school, Elizabeth was self-conscious about her appearance and knew others felt the same way. She began to pay attention when in public to see how others talked about themselves.

“Everyone wants to fit in,” she says. “It’s the worst feeling in the world when you don’t feel confident in your own skin.”

Elizabeth originally had the idea for a version of the company when she was 15 years old. She envisioned a database that would allow users to scan the tag on a piece of clothing and receive a list of other items which would match.

Those ideas for the company progressed over the next few years while Elizabeth was in high school. When she began the INKUBATOR process in her freshman year at NKU, she and Ally conducted thorough research on current styling options and noticed that there aren’t any affordable solutions.

The duo found highly priced personal styling options and subscription boxes, but they wanted to provide a real solution rather than offer another service which pushes users to purchase more clothes.

During the INKUBATOR process, Elizabeth worked with professors Zach Strobl and Jeff Varrone. Varrone was the first professor Elizabeth met at NKU, and she immediately informed him of her business plans at the beginning of her first semester. He became her mentor, and they have remained close.

“I basically have him on speed dial,” she says.

Elizabeth says that even though Avasha focuses on styling and trends, there is more to the company than one may think.

“This isn’t really about fashion, she says. “It’s about the feeling you get when you walk out the door. It’s about creating something that I wish I had back then that I wish I had now.”
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Ally Creech, co-founder of Avasha

Ally Creech, co-founder of Avasha

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“We wanted to do it virtually because our generation has grown up in a digital world. A virtual option bridges that gap and makes it less scary.”

Avasha functions as a source of confidence for its users. Elizabeth and Ally created their platform in a way that makes it affordable because they believe everyone should have access to the luxury of being confident in their appearance.

The company also recognizes the importance of giving back to the community. The price models were set at a level which allows for the independently contracted professional stylists to be paid fairly while also allowing for 10 percent of proceeds to be donated to social causes.

Elizabeth says that they would love to make their donations in ways that will leave lasting effects in the community. The funds from that 10 percent would go toward acts such as providing outfits and styling sessions to people who aren’t able to afford their styling service or to the Coronavirus Relief Fund.

Plans for the company were severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Avasha was officially launched on Jan. 1, 2020, with hopes to continue fundraising to increase brand awareness and to allow for further development of a new mobile app platform.

“We haven’t had the opportunity to go out and market like we wanted to,” Elizabeth says. “We had planned to go out to malls and just go crazy with our in-person marketing. Obviously, we weren’t able to do any of that last year, so it’s just really slowed down the process.”

However, the world’s increased reliance on technology in the wake of social distancing may prove to benefit Avasha. The company was designed to be completely virtual, and the promise of affordable video conference styling sessions could draw in customers who are uncomfortable with face-to-face meetings with personal stylists. Avasha’s app allows users to chat with stylists via direct message and video call for virtual styling sessions, which teach customers how to use their appearance to boost their own confidence. This way, users can customize their experience and control their personal cost. 

Elizabeth also pointed out that many younger people don’t feel comfortable meeting with new people intimately, like visiting their home. In the case of personal styling, especially, she knows that these sort of meetings could be intimidating because they need to be so personal.

“We wanted to do it virtually because our generation has grown up in a digital world,” she says. “A virtual option bridges that gap and makes it less scary.”

Avasha recently won the People’s Choice Award and received third place at the KY Pitch competition. The funds from this competition will go toward the creation of the company’s new mobile app for Android and iOS. The current Avasha app can be found through the Mighty Networks app, which is available for Android and iOS.

Elizabeth, who also has double minors in marketing and business administration, keeps herself busy with balancing her classes, personal life and Avasha, but she wouldn’t trade it for anything.

“I know this is what I’m supposed to be doing,” she says. “My favorite quote is from Tony Gaskins. He says, ‘If you don’t build your dreams, someone will hire you to help build theirs.’ It just lights a fire in me. Avasha is my greatest passion. It’s just what I do.”

Her advice to others who are interested in business is to find their passion, whether that is building their own dream or helping someone else build theirs.

“Do something that’s worth your time," she says. "Don’t settle.”

For more information on the company or to subscribe to the service, visit the official Avasha website and follow @avashastyle on Instagram and Twitter.

About This Article

Danielle Heiert
Danielle Heiert
Editorial Intern, NKU Magazine
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Published January 2021
Photography provided by Elizabeth Shrout and Ally Creech
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