Sara Hassan, owner and director of Pretty White Dress in Cheshire discusses opening her own bridal boutique after years in the industry
After completing my BA Hons degree in Clothing Design and Technology I always thought I wanted to be a stylist. I styled photo shoots and catwalk shows for various clothing brands and absolutely loved it, however, I never fully felt content.
After having my first child, early location shoots no longer fitted with my new lifestyle and I accidentally fell into a part-time role at a bridal boutique in Cheshire. I remember the sheer joy and happiness I felt when helping my first bride find her dream dress, and it was at that moment I knew I wanted to have my own bridal boutique one day.
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Yes, prior to opening my own shop, I worked a total of seven years at two different boutiques.
The most enjoyable part of opening my own boutique was when I walked through the front door for the very first time. Now every time I do it, I want to do a little happy dance! It’s such a small thing, but it reminds me of how far I’ve come and how I’ve turned my dream into a reality. The most enjoyable part of having my own boutique is still the feeling I get when helping a bride choose the dress of their dreams! This is what makes it the most satisfying and lovely job in the world.
Choosing which designers to stock was definitely a much bigger challenge than I had imagined. In previous years, attending White Gallery was such a fun, exciting experience as we had already established our designers and were just there to choose which dresses to stock, any new designers was an extra bonus.
However, this year, attending as a brand new business was a very different experience. Many of our desired designers were unavailable to me due to the exclusivity radius. This was quite a hard knock, but it drove me to seek out other designers, which I am now so pleased with.
I’m local to the Altrincham area in Cheshire, so I knew I wanted something closer to home. I have two small children, so I still need to be there for the school run in the morning. I also wanted an area where brides could make a day out of their bridal shopping. With local eateries, bar, shops and a carpark nearby, this location was perfect.
I knew I wanted the shop to be light, pretty and modern, but most of the décor evolved organically whilst we were renovating the property. We have kept the walls a clean ivory colour and added pretty gold rails and detailing which we have combined with modern floral displays. We love our big shop window and love creating eye-catching window displays.
It wasn’t a quick process! The first thing I did was register my limited company name, bought my web domain and set up my social media accounts to ensure that the business name wasn’t taken. I then completed a ‘Women in Business’ course, followed by a Natwest Pre Accelerator business course which helped to steer me in the right direction and keep me focused on proper business planning. Having a great business plan and financial forecasting was massively helpful for me and definitely helped with getting my business loan and premises.
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We have attended The National Wedding Show in Manchester central and this really helped us with our launch. Apart from this, all of our brides have found us on social media, either through designer stockist listings or word of mouth. We have been absolutely blown away by the number of brides we have had through the door already.
I left my job in March 2018 to start planning this venture and we officially opened our doors in September this year.
We stock Madi Lane, Theia, Catherine Deane and Rasha alongside our two newest designers, Mikaella and Eliza Jane Howell. The boutique also stocks accessories by Rainbow Club and Katie Loxton.
All of our appointments can be booked through our request form on our website or via email/phone. Although this is more time consuming than brides booking time slots directly from the website, I really value the initial first contact with a bride where we are able to discuss where she’s up to and what she’s looking for before she arrives for her appointment. Customer relationships are hugely important to us and we believe a bride should have that personal touch from start to finish.
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In five years’ time, I hope the boutique is still in the same location, however with an expanded premise to cater to our own bespoke collection. I’d love for us to have an additional space where brides can have a full bespoke consultation and fittings separate to the main bridal area.
Do your research! Knowing how the bridal industry works and understanding the needs of a bride is key. I had an advantage in this area as I came from a bridal background. However, I did fall short on the business side of things and this is where related courses really helped. If you don’t have a business background, I would definitely recommend going on some of the courses I mentioned. Running a successful business is bigger than knowing your customers well and providing a beautiful boutique with lovely dresses. If you put the work in, you’ll see the reward.
Found this fascinating? Read more about another new bridal boutique, Anna Wood Bridal, here.