TDT Interviews

Who runs the world?

Our TDT bridal boutique owners!

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Starting out in a new business venture is almost always a daunting prospect and still in the 21st century there is a huge discrepancy between the number of male to female CEO's, founders and leaders. However, the bridal industry is full of incredible women making their mark, from the designers themselves, boutique owners to accessory designers and wedding planners (hurray) - So in light of International Women's day today, we decided to shine the spotlight on some of our own kick ass female entrepreneurs that grew their bridal boutique business from one to multiple stores...some even up to 18!

Our pioneers on TDT that have grown their retailer business include a&bé Bridal with 7 boutiques in the US, the Iconic The Wedding Club, with lucky number 3 shops, in the UK, Lovely Bride with 18 (yes 18!) US boutiques with the latest opening in London and The Mews Bridal with 3 boutiques - 2 in the UK and 1 other in New York.

For this feature we sat down with the ladies Anna & Breanna behind a&bé Bridal and Clare from The Wedding Club about the story behind their bridal businesses and listened to their advice is to any budding business owner.

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a&bé Bridal - What are your backgrounds? Did you always love bridal?

We met working at a branding and marketing firm (Breanna was on the creative side and Anna was on the strategy side). It was through our own disappointing personal experiences with the wedding industry that we hatched the plan for anna bé, the original bridal concept that we opened 14 years ago (and is still thriving in Denver). After having been in the wedding industry for a number of years, we found that there was a new creative energy in wedding dresses, and that the industry felt ready for something new and different. We wanted to support these new designers and this new energy, and definitely did not want a mega store, so we launched a second brand, a&bé bridal shop. 

What was your journey like from 1 to 7 stores?

a&bé bridal shop opened in Denver with a vision of having a national footprint. We wanted to bring our authentic experience, curated collection of the coolest designers, and our fun vibe to all brides. In our first year, we even had a whole pop-up concept of traveling stores, but that concept was a little bit of the 'cart before the horse', as our brand was not yet well-known. 

After opening in Denver, it was our designers who first started telling us where there was an opportunity to bring our brand. Slowly we added about one boutique a year starting in Minneapolis, then Dallas, Miami, Portland, Seattle, and last year we added Sacramento.  

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Tell us how The Wedding Club got started

The Wedding Club started as a wedding planning company for brides getting married in the US and then it organically moved towards bridal fashion. I (Clare) joined 14 years ago when I left my project manager role at the BBC, very different vibes! My business partner, Emma who started the company was a former accountant. When the project started in Birmingham, I saw it as a really interesting project as we wanted to bring bridal fashion to brides which didn't really exist at the time to build a network of suppliers and focused on proper marketing.

What was the journey to having 3 boutiques in the UK?

We quickly outgrew our small boutique in Birmingham quite quickly which is when we moved to another shop there. it grew then very very quickly from then on. We then made a decision 6 years ago to open up in London, firstly the Knightsbridge store then the South Kensington store 3 years ago. We now have a great team of 15 women!

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a&bé Bridal - What kind of brides comes into your stores?

Our brides are the best. The brides who come to a&bé appreciate great design and are also people who want to genuinely connect with their stylist. They're looking for more than just a dress. They're looking for this part of the wedding process to be fun, memorable, and not at all stressful. And we're here for that. We're here to support every bride, and to lift everyone up as they celebrate their love! 

What time is it? Sometimes that's the hardest thing to keep straight is the different time zones - but it's energizing being able to rally around different shops, and to see and hear different stories from brides from all across the country. It's pretty awesome to have small boutiques that are part of the local community, and that can also take a step back and get the support of their bigger family if needed!  

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The Wedding Club - What kind of brides comes into your stores?

If you're a stylish person why would you on the biggest day of your life, decide to wear something traditional? We try to encourage brides to reflect their style in their gown choice. Luxury is an element that runs throughout our boutiques and this is reflected in our price point. Our gowns start from £2000 but we do have phenomenal sales where you can buy a gown for £450 if you time it right.

Each store has a very different vibe as we showcase different designers and different collections, we want to show our brides a style or vibe rather than simply a collection of dresses.

We pride ourselves on being the 'friendly face of luxury', we are not intimidating and we really train our team to make every bride feel welcome and supported. When I hear of brides having gone to other stores and having felt intimidated or made to feel pressured or that they are not worthy - it makes me angry! We cannot accept that anyone is better than anyone else. A luxury service is about being welcome, a subtle service done really well.

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a&bé Bridal - What is it like managing 7 boutiques

What time is it? Sometimes that's the hardest thing to keep straight is the different time zones - but it's energizing being able to rally around different shops, and to see and hear different stories from brides from all across the country. It's pretty awesome to have small boutiques that are part of the local community, and that can also take a step back and get the support of their bigger family if needed!  

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How would you say the bridal industry has changed in the 14 years that The Wedding Club has been going?

There was a slight disruption going on back then with brands such as Jenny Packham coming in with heavily beaded, 1920's style gowns. We brought Israeli brand, Berta to the UK 7 years ago which turned the bridal industry upside down here in the UK. Suddenly brides realised they could be sexy, show off their figures and feel good about themselves in a dress and not have to conform.

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a&bé Bridal - tell us about "Babes on a mission"

We realize that there is so much happening in the world around us beyond the magical experience of wedding dress shopping. That's why a&bé is committed to spreading the love within our community & across the nation by financially supporting women focused non-profit organizations such as I am that girl, girls Inc, Movemeant foundation and a few more that are working relentlessly to make a difference in our world.

A total of $23,511 was given to Charity in 2019

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The Wedding Club - What is your favourite part about running a business?

Having flexibility and freedom is amazing. The buck stops with me, which can be seen as good or bad but I like being able to make a decision and having the freedom to take a risk. I realised looking back that when I worked in a corporate environment, my mind was constantly full of ideas and it was frustrating not being able to execute them. When you have grown up watching people, in my case my mum and dad, take control as they were also self employed then it's in there it's in you - if your hands are tied you will feel frustrated. I'm very lucky in that my business partner, Emma and I share the same ideas so we think the same in terms of risk taking.

What were the challenges?

Any risk that is taken will affect everything and everyone, if you make a bad choice, this could have a dramatic impact on your staff, there is a lot of responsibility when it comes to having a work force.

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a&bé Bridal - best things about running a business?

Our favourite parts of running a business is getting the chance to help individual team members grow. As we have grown as a brand and as a business, we have been lucky enough to have some of our key members grow right along with us the entire time! 

Biggest challenge?

It's tough to turn it off at times - there's always something else that feels like it should be getting done, but sometimes you got to take a break.

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The Wedding Club - I've been very lucky in that I have a business partner, starting a business alone must be such a daunting prospect as you don't have any one to bounce ideas off. Emma and bounce off each other, we quite often don't agree with each other and we do have arguments however this can have its benefits as will come to a decision based on two sides. I would suggest having a support base even if you dont have a business partner to guide you along the way and receive honest feedback from, I dont think I could sleep at night without that! (we couldn't agree more!)

a&bé Bridal - I think it's important to be realistic with timing. This business has been built over 15 years now - it didn't happen overnight, and there were many moments that were hard, but it's been really fun too! I think it's important to make sure that you are making it fun - it's your business and you get to say no to the things that don't resonate with you. 

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