When it comes to opening a small business, Grace Soave has one piece of advice, “Do your research!” Grace opened her appointment-only bridal shop, Grace Elizabeth Bridal, in Suttons Bay in May and was booked solid for through the summer. She credits this to the preparation and research she did in advance of opening. With a Masters degree in Museum Studies, Grace knew how to curate an experience. When it was time for a career change, she says, “I had worked in a bridal shop before and always knew I wanted to open my own place. The pieces all began to fall into place. The building I was looking at was painted pink already and had a fitting room set up. I found my furniture for free and did a lot of the rest of the work myself.”
Grace worked with the Small Business Development Center to get started and was connected to Venture North to seek part of her $42,925 loan to open her shop and get everything she needed — from inventory to systems. She also personally invested more than $50,000 into the business. “Venture North’s financing process required me to create my profit and loss statements, cash flow projections for the next 3 years, and market research to determine my customer base. Doing this work early on solidified the reasons I wanted to open the shop.” She also learned a lot about marketing in the bridal space and discovered that social media and digital advertising would be the best return on her marketing dollars.
Grace then used the loan to purchase 50 wedding dresses for her customers so that they could find just the right one. Her shop is designed for a 1:1 experience, along with the bride’s family. “I had a bride come in with her whole family recently and I’d put on a playlist for her while she tried on dresses. As I was putting on the veil of one particular dress, her wedding song came on the playlist and her family was crying tears of happiness. It was a lesser known song, so it was just this perfect serendipitous moment to guide her to the right dress.”
Photo by Josh Hartman Photography