ANY bride will tell you that finding the perfect bridesmaid dresses can be a nightmare. Do you opt for one from a bridal shop or stick with what you know on the high street?
Taking on the challenge is Polly Thompson, 34, who quit her “cushy” job in the film industry to set up her own bridesmaid shop – and she now makes a £250,000 annual turnover.
She has no regrets leaving her days as an executive assistant at Warner Brothers behind her, ditching film premieres for hard grafting on her own company. But things weren’t always so easy.
“My bridesmaids were my four best mates from uni,” she told the Sun Online. “Getting their dresses was an absolute nightmare.
“We went to bridal shops but all they seemed to have was 10 to 15 dresses at the back of the shop, in only a few styles and naff colours.
“And options on the high street weren’t that great either. We ended up going with some summer dresses.
“And then a few months later, my friend who’d moved to Miami asked me to be her bridesmaid and I was so stressed. I couldn’t find anything nice enough.”
She flew out to the States a few days early to see if she could find a dress. That’s when she realised what British bridal parties were missing out on.
She was treated to rows on rows of shops solely dedicated to the task, with hundreds of dresses on hand and a fizz reception.
“It was a whole experience that made it special. I really enjoyed it,” Polly said. And it was on the plane home she decided she was going to set one up herself.
That was back in 2011 and over the next year she spent her lunch breaks, after work and weekends putting together a business plan so she could get loan to kick off her new e-commerce idea.
She was rejected by all of the main high street banks because she couldn’t match the £20,000 she needed to kick start the company, and didn’t have two years worth of accounts.
Finally, Polly secured the funds through Fleximize who didn’t need the accounts before they agreed to lend. They’re also flexible with her monthly payments which is helpful for seasonal business.
She finally launched Not Another Boring Bridesmaid Dress – or NABBD for short – in November 2012, but within three months Polly realised that e-commerce wasn’t going to work.
The dresses were custom made by the designer so if a customer returned it because they didn’t like the style, Polly ended up out of pocket and stuck with a dress she couldn’t shift.
How to get a start-up business loan
IF you need financial support in setting up your business, you can get loans of up to £25,000 to help along the way.
- Virgin StartUP offers government-backed loans from £500 to £25,000 to help entrepreneurs launching or growing a business that’s under two-years-old in England or Scotland. It has a rate of 6 per cent interest.
- The Start-Up Loans Company, which lends government subsidised loans up to £25,000 at a rate of 6 per cent.
- The Princes Trust also offers loans, up to £5,000, at a rate of 6.2 per cent.
- Fleximize offer flexible small business loans of between £5,000 and £500,000 in as little as 48 hours.
- You can also have a look at Business Finance Guide from British Business Bank for some useful tips on how to find the right funding for your business
That’s when she settled on the idea of a shop, somewhere where she could put the dresses on display. That’s when she decided she’d have to quit her job to dedicate her time to her new venture.
“I was on a decent wage and I’d been there for five years but I’d always wanted to start my own business,” she said. “My dad’s an entrepreneur – he’s got about five or six businesses, so I guess it’s in the family.”
She settled on a store in Wimbledon Park and stocks over 400 dresses. Now, business is booming and she’s looking at moving to bigger premises.
She’s even dressed a few celebs including the Saturdays’ Mollie King and the bridesmaids for Atomic Kitten’s Natasha Hamilton.
“I wanted the dresses to be affordable without skimping out on the quality, so they cost between £150 and £400. We understand that every bride has a budget!
“We’ve dressed a few celebs now and about a third of our clientele is for gay weddings.
“I love my job and I don’t regret quitting my job at all. I had a great time there but this is what I really wanted to do.
“You just have to take a chance.”