Q. What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
There are lots of reasons. I have been in the wedding business for over 20 years and wanted to have my own business.
Q. Tell us about your business.
BoHo Bride is a specialist bridal boutique catering for the sophisticated bride looking for Gatsby glamour, simple elegance, boho chic, film star glamour or full-on vintage. We use top British designers who are passionate about attention to detail, so you can be sure your dress will look and feel amazing.
I plan to open another boutique at the end of this year, showcasing mother of the bride, bridesmaids and prom gowns plus a collection of wedding gowns in the mid-price range, while my existing boutique will continue to showcase gowns of a slightly higher price range and our own Boho Bride designer collection.
I only ever make appointments with one bride at a time to make each consultation feel special and so she is not rushed. Fantastic customer service is very important as a wedding is the one time in a woman’s life that she dreams of and wants to be perfect – and it is my job to make the dress shopping part of it, which can be a long process, as simple and easy as I can.
Q. How did you go about setting up your business?
As I have strong experience in the sector, I believe that I have found a niche and wanted to set up a store that offered “alternative” gowns that are not seen in standard bridal boutiques. I want to expand the business to be the leading boutique in this area that offers brides a collection of designer wedding gowns which are not available in other local boutiques. I want our boutique to be known for having a very different collection from other stores, and known for our customer care, service and knowledge.
Q. What has been your biggest challenge so far with running your own business?
Finance has been the major challenge. Even though I have no bad credit, banks wouldn’t even consider providing an advance on overdraft facility, as they wanted to see evidence of income beforehand. This leaves me and other start ups in a Catch 22 situation. I believe that banks lend to companies with more than 20 employees, but I needed finance to enable me to employ 20 people. I needed investment as I needed to buy dresses before opening the shop and pay rent.
Q. How did/have you overcome these challenges?
I tested my idea for 12 months before I approached CWRT – therefore I knew what was working and what was not. I knew it was viable so needed extra money to buy in new sample gowns to keep momentum going. It’s great to have fresh stock, and knowing I could count on support from CWRT.
Q. What do you love about running your own business?
Every day is different – I never know what brides will walk through door and what they’re looking for so it doesn’t feel like work. I am passionate about my business and to me coming in every day doesn’t feel like work – I am doing something exciting and important. Made brides day comes with huge responsibilities so cannot be overlooked. I am helping young women create their dream wedding. Everything else can be worked around but the bridal gown is key, and I am privileged to be part of her journey. If only in this for money get out – duty of care to make memorable and beautiful experience from walking in the door to walking down the aisle.
Q. Are there any top tips that you would like to share with others thinking about starting or growing their own business?
Ideally, you need to have capital of own – at least to get started. You can then realise and understand your target market – and how to communicate with them. Mine is young women on social media, and I have found that advertising in magazines is not the only way to reach customers. I would also recommend researching competition in area to ensure that you are offering a better service.
Q. How much did you apply for and over what term?
£20,000 over five years.
Q. What support did you receive from CWRT? i.e. did you find the process simple? Were you helped to improve your business plan and financials? Anything else?
The support from CWRT is brilliant. Companies like mine need to know that there is support out there for them – even if not just financial, but help and advice and assistance to help business owners promote and manage their business. With CWRT, there was always a team of dedicated people on hand to give me the mentoring I need whenever I needed it.
Q. How has the loan provided helped you?
I am going to use CWRT start up loan to buy new sample wedding gowns for the boutique, a new collection of accessories and to create my own collection of wedding gowns under my own label. This will enable me to keep my stock fresh and interesting, and will attract new brides and brides that have already visited the boutique but may not have ordered yet. It will help me to market my brand to a wider audience and can also be used for PR, social media and marketing campaigns.