For the past fifteen years I worked as a Vice President of a luxury bridal boutique. While weddings have changed significantly, the bridal fashion industry has not. In Summer 2017, the boutique I worked for was listed for sale. Within weeks, we had new owners. Ten days after the new owners took over I had my first child. I realized change is inevitable in business and to not change is the biggest risk of all. There was a risk staying so why not take a risk and open up a new bridal boutique. In an area with over twenty bridal boutiques, I decided I was only going to open a boutique if it filled a need. The new concept provided me with the spark to open our doors. My business partner and I set an unrealistic opening date and worked around the clock to get our doors open. We opened on November 20, 2017. The exact date we wanted to open.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
We had to open our boutique in 90 days or we would be broke. We had no wedding dresses, no lease, and no money. We decided to get into designer resale because we didn't have money to purchase stock or the credit history. Also, we knew the Orlando market was ready for something different. Resale was a key part to our concept. It gave us the opportunity to have inventory without any upfront costs and it provided our clients with better quality for their money. We noticed a trend toward shorter engagements. Not everyone wants to wait nine months for their dress to be made. In a world shifting toward a shared economy, now felt like the best time. At first I had two wedding dresses at my house. The goal was to get to 80. At night I would try to find people on social media looking to sell their dress. It was so time consuming. At the rate we were going we would have 20 dresses by opening day. Then, I decided to call every designer and ask them if they had any duplicate dresses, canceled dresses, production dresses. One day, a designer said she had a few things for me. She emailed me a list of 28 dresses! Yes, we were in business. We opened our doors with over 90 dresses in stock.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?
How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
I dealt with more personal doubt than from my family. My husband and family members were on board and said that I should have started this years ago. My personal doubt had a lot to do with uncertainty of how LLCs and business licenses work. I built it up in my head to be these huge, impossible tasks. Some of my friends seemed a little confused by the concept and maybe concerned whether I could help support a family off of this. I think it helps when you have no option. When you have to succeed, you find a way.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
Finding problems in the industry and solving them. Once we had our concept down. We sat there for hours asking ourselves what else do brides complain about. What are the pain points? We wrote down every single issue and every day we would work toward solving them.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
People support people. I thought my local vendors supported me because of the brand name I was associated with. I was wrong. They will support me where ever I go. If I had known that earlier, I would have opened the boutique with less fear. At the same time though, the fear kept the little money we had tight.
What advice would you give to an upcoming young and old entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Business is about people. You have to master the art of relationships before opening a business. People love to help new business owners. Share your story with them and they will want to help.
All Photos Credit: http://tabmccausland.com