On January 7, 2023, Darianna Bridal & Tuxedo will be 10 years old! A true milestone and marker of success.
A decade of running a family bridal business. All of the memories, people, experiences, the highs and lows, too many to list.
I did some reflecting as I looked over old calendars, journals, photos, and posts and thought I would share my perspective on a decade of business, success, and life.
When I first pitched my business idea to my husband in 2012, he was intrigued. Ever the businessman, he wrote the plan, signed the lease, incorporated us, and then we jumped into the nuts and bolts with all the enthusiasm of newbies in a world we knew nothing about with endless possibilities. It was ridiculously exciting! And scary.
Many people think if you own a business you are filthy rich. I used to think that. There are definitely positives, but owning/running a business is not easy and this is not true. It can be incredibly rewarding, though, IF you commit. If you are not interested in working almost every hour of every day for however long it takes, then don’t start one. It will become your life until you reach a point where you can step back a bit. That point depends on so many things and is a topic for a business forum, not this blog.
It takes everything you have to be successful – and you need to be clear on what “successful” means to you and what that means to any business partners you may have. I used to think of it in terms of money, but it is much more to me now than 10 years ago. The financial part of it is lower on the list.
Some of my expectations with this business were spot on and some I never saw coming. Mainly I thought it will take a while for us to catch on, but just six months in and we won Best of Bucks/Mont bridal store. I couldn’t believe it and I still remember the moment I found out. It was my first feeling of becoming successful. Since then we have won many awards and I have realized that is a great source of pride and certainly a measure of success, however there are many others that took a bit to come to light.
Another one I did not see coming: the bonds we would create with our staff. Because we are the owners it is our responsibility to protect and encourage our team. We care about their safety, mental health, and growth. It is very important to me that each team member feels wanted, important, and respected when they come to work. I realized that being able to provide this environment makes me feel successful.
From the start, and each consecutive year after, we hired high school girls for prom consultant positions. Ten years later and I am in touch still with many of them, think of them often, and have been blessed beyond words to participate in their weddings! To meet 15- and 16-year-old girls, train them to be prom consultants, move them up to bridal, cry as they left the nest, and then welcome them back for a wedding dress is like a literal time warp. I feel so much gratitude and they have each left their mark on me.
I stumbled upon our listing on Glassdoor a few years ago (I had no idea what that was) and I would be lying if I didn’t say how touched I was to read what employees said about us and their experience working in our company. We left our mark on them, too. Our commitment to our team makes me feel incredibly successful.
Our company has become well-known and respected in the community. Schools and theaters know they can count on us for donations and participation. We are so proud of the theater and music productions we have been a part of, the sports teams we have supported, and the chorus and band programs we sponsor! Daria is a Wish Granter for the Make-A-Wish foundation and we are very proud supporters of St. Jude’s. Our commitment to community and children makes me feel grateful and successful.
Reflecting on the past 10 years has also brought to light the importance of authenticity. When we first opened, we noticed other stores quickly trying to update their image, improve customer service, clean up, and copy what we were doing. It frustrated me at the time watching stores replicate our social media, sometimes verbatim.
We then had employees from other stores stalking ours, even posing as brides and going through Bridal appointments to see what we did. Once we had a phony bridal appointment that turned into that “bride” opening her own store. They still do it. Recently we had a phony appointment and that bride was actually training to work at another store, they sent her to us to learn how to do it.
While it is a complete waste of our time, I know they will never be us nor have a team like we do. They will never have the energy or the vibe because ours is genuine. You cannot fake who you truly are. A pushy and overbearing sales person will always be that. A store with a motto of “tell them anything to get the sale” and shady business practices will never be who we are. Our commitment to running an honest business that reflects our values definitely makes me feel successful.
I know we are seen this way, too, as honest, trustworthy, and truthful. Also friendly, patient, kind, compassionate… I know from our reviews. While we try very hard (we know we will never please everyone) our reviews are overwhelmingly positive and reading their words make me so happy.
After all this reflecting, I asked myself if I would do it again. My answer is 100% yes. I know some things I would do differently that would have made my personal life more manageable, however, that aside this venture has given me the greatest success of all, and I didn’t see it coming.
Because we work so many hours all year long, we must take a break to regroup and recharge. We have done it almost every year since we opened (save for 2020) and the family memories we have made on these breaks are definitely my biggest success. Some of our tips over the years:
Being able to share these experiences with our daughters is worth more than anything and it is because of the store that we do it.
My advice to everyone, always, is TAKE THE VACATION.
I often hear people talking about places they want to go or they have “always wanted” to see certain things. I ask when they are going, and there are always reasons why they can’t. I get that. But I also get very passionate about encouraging them to take the vacation because every day a memory pops up (in my head, on Facebook, in my camera roll) from one of our family vacations and there is nothing in the world worth more than my memories with them. If you book the trip, you will find a way to pay for it, get the time off, enjoy the break, make the memories, and realize the world will keep turning no matter where you are.
Ten years have passed. Our daughter Deanna who was starting kindergarten when we opened is now 15 and has joined the prom ranks (success!). We grew from a tiny store into a much larger one and trademarked the Darianna name (success!). We went through Covid where we thought we would lose our business, but actually gained an even closer team because of it (success!). Then there was my life-altering accident. Finding a new role for me meant turning much of the store management over to Daria, and we got to watch her take right over (success!). Franco and I got married last year (success!). And over all of these years we have had close to 60 employees work for us, head to college, and become adults who understand the importance of treating everyone kindly. SUCCESS!
A decade has passed and I suppose I will end with a little more on the passage of time. They say time marches on, heals all wounds, goes by in a blink, waits for no man. Don’t waste it because life really can change in an instant so do things and go places you can be proud of and grateful for! I like this one because it ties life together for me: Time flies, but you’re the pilot.
Here’s to planning and working hard for continued success(es) in our next decade!