Kelly Simants recently met with Andrea Porter, Owner of Circle Park Bridal Boutique in North Dallas. She was impressed with Andrea’s business saavy and her super cute shop! Andrea started her career in the cosmetic and fashion industries working for companies such as Estee Lauder and a leading intimate apparel company. More recently, Andrea worked in hospitality management and event coordination, overseeing daily bridal, social and corporate functions for up to 5,000 guests. In 2004, Hilton Brand Vice Presidents awarded her with the Innovation Award, given annually to just one person in the company worldwide. Circle Park Bridal was Andrea’s vision to create a beautiful boutique with incredible customer service and gorgeous gowns at fair prices. I love Andrea’s business insight! (I think you will too!)
Owner, Circle Park Bridal Boutique
What is your favorite thing about weddings?
Whether it is a huge affair or a small and intimate celebration, a couple will never feel more overwhelming love and support than on their wedding day. I encourage brides to walk slowly down the aisle, to savor the look in her groom’s eyes and to take in the joy on her guests’ faces. Relax and enjoy everyone’s company, cherish every conversation, each giggle, every smile and all the happy tears.
To have everyone that you both care about, together in one room is an incredible experience….a gift that happens just once in a lifetime. There comes a time when most would trade all worldly possessions to experience this one day over again. The day will truly feel magical and it will be the one day you will reminisce about forever.
What is your best tip for time management?
Here in Dallas, there are industry mixers, tradeshows and open houses for wedding professionals almost every night of the week. Face to face networking is extremely important for new business development but can easily take away time allocated to product research, inventory purchasing, staff training, etc. I had to get a grasp on my schedule by prioritizing which events and associations were most advantageous to attend. I learned to not over commit. Saying no to some board and committee seats was difficult, but absolutely necessary to ensure I am 100% on top of my store’s daily operations.
What is your little marketing secret?
I truly felt there was a need to shake up the way the bridal gowns were sold by eliminating the hassles that are so common in the industry and by adding a much needed fun factor. My research showed a need to ensure marketing efforts exude the experience a bride will have at Circle Park Bridal. We have a super cute retro bride logo that has been very popular with our customers and our website main page is a whimsical replica of the exterior of our two story boutique. Blogging and our presence on Facebook and Twitter have also been great for us to get our message out. We also host a lot of spirited events that are a little off the beaten path from what most bridal shops would offer, such as complimentary special advance movie screenings for our brides to movies such as MADE OF HONOR and BRIDE WARS, our annual Ghoul’s Night Out for Halloween parties, etc.
I guess it is important to explain how a bride’s experience at our store is so different. In developing the store’s concept, I looked at the way most bridal boutiques are run and realized their way of operating hasn’t changed in forty years. They are perceived as stuffy, they carry mostly sample sizes and only special order, leaving plenty of room for mistakes (wrong size, color, or style arriving or gowns arriving late or being damaged going through customs, etc). Brides relay that most shops are crammed with merchandise and charge ridiculously high prices for gowns and accessories.
I then compared the operations of a couple of large bridal chain stores and thought with their mammoth size and large number of brides serviced at one time, they were missing the mark in providing a truly intimate and special experience for brides. Through bridal focus groups, I learned many brides perceive gown shopping, whether in a “normal bride boutique” or in a chain store, to be the one thing about wedding planning they dreaded the most.
I market Circle Park Bridal as the pseudo bridal shop…the opposite of what most expect to experience. The store was created initially more as a hobby, as when it opened, it was just three days a week. By staying true to our concept: offering brides of all budgets a convenient, upscale boutique experience with “retro prices” as each bride deserves to feel special on the day she selects her wedding gown (all of our brand new designer gowns are priced below $800, up to 80% off their suggested retail price).
We work hard to ensure our store’s offerings are clear on our website. We are small and we carry just 200 gowns at one time in sizes 0 through 16. We don’t have every gown in every size, color and style. We know don’t have a gown for every bride. But when we do, it is an incredible match and the shopping experience is like no other!
Brides have really embraced our store’s concept. We work with just two brides at any one time, so it is a very intimate experience. When a bride selects her gown, she knows exactly the price, the color, the size and how much will need to be altered before she takes it home. With us, there are no rush fees, no lectures about waiting so long to order a gown and no surprises. Brides take immediate possession of their gown and can then have alterations when they want without rush fees and have bridal photos taken on their schedule.
What is the funnest (most fun) trend you are seeing in the industry?
Most of our brides are steering away from traditional veils. Birdcage veils and hair feather fascinators with antique brooches are very popular with our brides and create a ultra whimsical look that makes their guests smile and know they are in for some fun at the reception. Most of our brides are wearing bold colored heels to incorporate a splash of color and personality into their look. The Old Hollywood glamour look is a really popular wedding theme right now, complete with cigar bars, martini bars, Frank Sinatra-esque bands and crystal accents everywhere, from floral arrangements, to centerpieces to “back jewelry”.
If you were starting your business all over again, what would you have done differently?
I would never again do a finish-out in Texas during the months of July and August. I would have met with a CPA before I formed my Limited Liability Corporation. I also would have saved a large amount of time and money had I immediately created an account with a payroll company rather than allocating that task to my CPA’s office for my first six months of operations.
Thank you so much, Andrea!