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Bridal Fashion It seems like a daunting industry to break into, but you'll be surprised how easily one entrepreneur did it.

By Elizabeth Wilson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Bridal Fashion

Startup Costs:$5,000 to $50,000
Home Based:Can be operated from home
Franchises Available?No
Online Operation?Yes

Business Overview
What:Design and manufacture bridal fashions or wedding-day attire.
Advantages:Start part-time and build your business without making a huge investment; it's creative and challenging.
Challenges:Advise the bride and groom on appropriate wedding attire protocol and options. Must be creative and passionate about fashion design and able to keep up with bridal trends.

The Market
Clients are couples seeking traditional wedding-day attire or clients seeking bridal-related wedding attire, such as bachelorette-themed clothing.

What You'll Need to Get Started
All that's really necessary besides talent and experience in fashion design are a sewing machine, design drafting table, patterns and pattern-making materials, a manufacturer/supplier for materials, a phone and business cards.
To get attention:

  • Attract business through ads in the local Yellow Pages, in the society or wedding section of your local paper and in special bridal supplements.
  • Establish a relationship with local wedding-oriented vendors--florists, photographers, videographers, caterers, hotels and country clubs, bakeries and cake decorators, jewelers and musicians.
  • Leave your brochures with all contacts and ask for referrals.

Q&A With Designer Heidi Kolas spoke with bridal fashion designer Heidi Kolas about how she started her successful business, Rock Star Bride.

What would you recommend people do first if they're interested in starting a wedding fashion business?Get to know the wedding industry first. Whether as a bride, groom or complete outsider to the wedding business, I recommend doing research before jumping in. The wedding industry is unique and full of information that you can only learn by being a part of it. Attend wedding networking events, visit industry websites, connect to those already working in it, even visit a bridal expo and talk to both brides and vendors. By doing this, you can determine how your fashion concept can fill a market need for brides and grooms.

How did you get started?The concept of Rock Star Bride came to me after my own wedding. It's very popular for brides to wear a matching hoodie/pant set while getting ready for [the] big day, often featuring "Soon to Be Mrs." or "Bride." However, I felt many of these products didn't match my own personality and style, and that was my "aha" moment. Rock Star Bride was developed as an edgier, more fashion-forward bridal apparel line; something that even looks like what the bride might already have in her closet. Once I had the initial product line developed and ready, I started attending local bridal shows and events to get in front of brides and, I hoped, sell my line. As the enthusiastic response increased, I optimized our website, [including its] shopping capabilities, and expanded the product line.

Do you think now is a good time to start up a bridal attire business?My own motto is, "No time like the present." The wedding industry has not been immune to today's economy, despite its being claimed as recession-proof until now. However, if you have a unique idea or product line, you should move on it before someone else does. Ideas bubble up quickly in the wedding industry! My advice in this economy is to move slowly (but not too slowly) and test ideas in front of brides, if you can, before going all out. Brides have no problem telling you if they like something or not. Take advantage of this while finalizing your line.

What kind of person does it take to do what you do?You have to be ready to wear all hats, whether it's marketing, sales, fashion design, web development or sourcing and securing vendors. If you don't know something, be ready to learn even if it's just the basics. You also have to have a strong sense of what you want and what your final products should look like. A fashion line is your vision, and you'll be leading others in executing that vision. Without this, your line is not going to be consistent, and you'll leave your team and customers confused.

What kind of training and background are necessary?I personally have an advertising and marketing background, and a love for creativity and fashion. But that's not to say someone from a finance background can't launch a wedding fashion line. If you have that conviction of an idea being successful, you'll find a way to fill in the other gaps. Always hire people smarter than you, they say. Find people who "get it" [and] what you're trying to do . . . It's not hard to find these people, just have a conversation with them [about] what you're trying to achieve. You'll see the telling smile or spark in their eye if they want to help you with your idea. Avoid working with people who don't get your idea--they won't be passionate about helping you achieve your goal.

Would you say it's common for those planning their own wedding to decide to start up a wedding-related business?I would say it's common for former brides and grooms to start wedding-related businesses. It's often based from a bride or groom not finding a particular product for his/her wedding or receiving bad service from a wedding vendor. I did this myself with Rock Star Bride . . . Plus, the wedding industry is fun! Attend a bridal show or wedding networking event, and it's a very social scene. Everyone is excited to be there. Someone is always handing out martinis. Who doesn't want to work in a fun industry every day?

How much capital did it take for you to start your business?The first year, the initial capital for product materials, creative services, marketing, web development and events was approximately $5,000.

How did you establish your prices?A number of factors went into determining prices for Rock Star Bride. First, we examined our competitors' prices to ensure we were comparable. We looked at what we were offering brides vs. what competitors had available. Was our product unique enough to justify a higher price? Or were we on par with them? Next, we examined similar non-wedding products that brides might buy for their own everyday wardrobes. What would they pay for a "normal" screen-printed hoodie to wear over the weekend? The prices for Rock Star Bride are set to be comparable to both sides. We don't believe in jacking up the price just because it's bridal. Our prices have stayed pretty consistent since we started; however, we do send brides shopping offers and discounts.

What are your closing words of advice to would-be wedding fashion designers?The wedding industry loves creativity and new ideas! The response and support are practically immediate. But be sure to protect your name and important assets, as weddings are still a lucrative business. Also, it's OK to be a small vendor in the wedding industry. There are a number of small wedding companies, as many can only offer services in a certain geographical location. So don't be afraid to enter the wedding industry just because you won't be the biggest vendor or the product line with the most depth. It's perfectly acceptable to be small, niche and local.

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