My wife Robin and I opened our first bridal store in 1994 in Allentown, Pa. In 1999 we opened our second store in Tampa, Florida. With our Tampa store I was primarily responsible for the business operations while Robin was responsible for all buying and inventory control. Occasionally, I would travel with her to the national bridal markets in Chicago, New York and Las Vegas.
At the bridal markets, since I was not the one doing any buying, I had a lot of time on my hands and I would attend the seminars that were offered. I quickly realized that the presenters were primarily manufacturers and the information was not really on target many times when it came to benefiting retailers. I often felt that the real purpose of the manufacturer given seminars was just a way for them to get a foot in the door and establish a relationship with the retailers that were not already their customers. Of course, there were some valuable nuggets of information to be gained, but overall I felt that these manufacturers did not really understand the day to day challenges that faced retailers.
After one of the markets I came home and wrote an outline of what I felt should really be covered at a market seminar and asked Robin to approach the heads at the next set of markets with my proposal for a seminar. The head of the Las Vegas market agreed to give my proposal a try and I was scheduled to give my seminar at the Fall Market in Vegas in 2005. Up to that point it was my observation that the average attendance at a market seminar was about 30 people. When I showed up in Vegas in 2005 to give my seminar I was informed that almost 600 tickets had been requested and given out to the store owners. Clearly there was a strong need for some retailer to retailer interaction.
I then went on to give seminars at the Spring markets in Atlanta and Las Vegas in 2006. Soon after that, due to manufacturer objections my seminars were canceled. We have all heard the expression about a door closing and a window opening. When my seminars were canceled I harnessed what I considered an unmet demand for retailer to retailer interaction by doing two things. In 2006 I created a forum board called the Better Bridal Group where membership was restricted to brick and mortar bridal store owners who did not sell wedding gowns over the internet. I also set up what I called the Better Bridal Group Annual Seminar where owners could get together and enjoy several days of retailer to retailer information sharing. This educational convention has now been continued every single year since 2006 with exponential growth in attendance every single year. I remember Peter Grimes, the owner of Vows Magazine telling me that our group was the only place that bridal retailers could get truly “unfiltered” information.
One of my proudest accomplishments has been the creation of the Better Bridal Group. Initially started as a way for me to “pay it forward” and give back some of the blessings God has bestowed upon me and my family through the bridal business the Better Bridal Group has grown into so much more and exceeded my expectations in so many ways.
Over the past 10 years I have seen this group grow from being a place where retailers could just exchange information to a venue where bridal retailers could escape their sense of isolation and form lifelong friendships. I have also seen many smart retailers recognize the value of the BBG forum board and use it to grow their tiny fledgling businesses into amazing prosperous enterprises. The Better Bridal Group has truly afforded me with a legacy I will always cherish. Thank you to everyone who has left me richer in so many ways that have nothing to do with money.
In December of 1999 I opened The Wedding Shoppe – Veils & Accessories. Owning a bridal boutique can be very lonely and isolating. I am lucky to have my sister, Danielle Simone, on board as my General Manager. But I know many owners that work alone or don’t have anyone to confide in. I joined BBG in 2007. At the time my boutique, The Wedding Shoppe, was a bridal accessories store and we were struggling.
I attended my first seminar later the same year. I can use all kinds of cliche terms to describe my experience at the first seminar I attended…mind-blown, amazed, in awe, humbled. It really changed the way I approached my business. I love being able to ask questions in a closed, safe environment. That’s what can be scary about other groups, you never know who is lurking and reading your vital business information. On BBG, you are territory protected, you can see who the other members are, you get to know them at the seminar and see them at markets.
With the encouragement of BBG, I took the leap in 2008 and began selling wedding dresses. I feel I learned how to sell dresses the right way from so many store owners that willing shared their experience, their missteps and their successes. I feel very fortunate to have had their guidance. The impact they have had on my life is immeasurable.
I'm honored to lead BBG into the future. I'm passionate about helping other store owners to grow their business. I wouldn’t be where I am today without BBG. I am forever grateful.
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