Last week, I wrote about B.I.G., a women’s business networking group based in New Jersey. B.I.G. has helped women launch their own businesses across the U.S., and I Do, I Do Bridal Studio is just one of their many success stories!
WHO: Patricia Lipper & Leia Marley
WHAT: I Do, I Do Bridal Studio
WHERE: Morristown, NJ
HOW: Patricia Lipper admits that, before opening a bridal studio, she had the “job of a lifetime.” With 20 years of experience in the garment industry, living in Asia and traveling the world, she had reached the goals she had set for herself early on in her career. However, when she was faced with a divorce and three school age children at home, she had to put her career on the back burner. “I needed to rely on myself to provide for our future, while still being there as the mom my girls have known to depend on,” says Lipper. “I needed the opportunity to rejoin the workplace.” So when a friend told her about a B.I.G. meeting in her hometown, Lipper jumped at the opportunity to share her dream with others, and get out of her own way to make it happen. At that meeting, Lipper was introduced to Jackie Somers, a former Wall Street employee who had a passion for writing business plans. “Women supporting other women is what it took,” says Lipper – and a match was made.
Somers and Lipper developed a business plan – which included buying out the inventory of another bridal studio that was closing its doors (“for a fabulous price!” says Lipper), and found a studio space after speaking with a neighbor who knew of a vacancy. Things were headed in the right direction – until her financial history kept her from getting a loan. “I was immediately denied for new business loans based on my personal information and history that included a divorce,” says Lipper, “before any of them even asked for my business plan.” Frustrated and discouraged, Lipper turned to her friend and former colleague, Leia Marley. Marley’s position had been downsized, and she’d found herself in a similar dilemma. With shared experience at the VP level in the garment industry, and importantly, an understanding of each other’s strengths, the two immediately paired up. “[Leia] was the perfect partner,” says Lipper. “We knew each other, were strong where the other was not, loved to do what the other didn’t and vice versa — while always laughing at the differences.”
The pair put all the money they had into the business, but it wasn’t quite enough. They went to private investors and shared their business plan in an attempt to get them on board. Fortunately, that plan was a success, and they were able to gather the remaining $100,000 they needed to purchase more sample gowns, renovate the storefront, and open their doors. The best part? “Our investors have become our friends in the process.” Lipper’s skill in tailoring, which she had perfected over the years by working on the bridal gowns and party dresses of friends and family – allowed her to have a hands-on approach to working with her customers right off the bat.
In the three months since they opened their doors, the pair has sold 18 gowns, and are on track to meet their goal of turning a profit within the year. “We’re on track to meet our goal of 10 gowns each month in the first year, and hope to double that by 2011,” says Lipper. They managed to land an appearance on celebrity event planner David Tutera’s show, My Fair Wedding, and hope that it will help boost business after the episode airs in two weeks. “Each month we’re growing,” says Lipper, “and we’re loving every minute of it!” Their goals include increasing sales, further expansion of their designer base, adding Mother of the Bride styles to their inventory, and even have their sights set on opening another location.
HER ADVICE: “Tell every single person you talk to what your dreams are and what you would love to do,” says Lipper. “Eventually, you will find someone that may know someone that could point you in the right direction, and find you the next part to the puzzle you need to find your whole self.”