Wonder Woman Wednesday: Maria Ryan

Everyone here at Bridal Buyer is wishing Maria Ryan from Catherine Parry the happiest of birthdays and celebrating all her achievements before hitting 40

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Maria Ryan and her husband Simon winning their second Bridal Buyer Award
Maria Ryan and her husband Simon winning their second Bridal Buyer Award

To celebrate her 40th birthday on 14th December, we’re putting the co-founder of Catherine Parry, Maria Ryan, in the Wonder Woman spotlight this Wednesday. With the help of her husband Simon Ryan, we’ve gathered facts about Maria’s background, greatest achievements, secrets to success, typical working day and more.

Check out Regine Ellis’ Wonder Woman Wednesday profile to learn more about her role as the Design Director at Ellis Bridals.

Maria’s Background

Before she entered the realm of bridal, Maria gained three degrees, including one Masters and had a career in public health that included over a decade as an environmental health officer. Here, Maria progressed up the ranks to work for the Welsh Government, where she helped to shape their public health policy.

Find out more about the founder of occasionwear and mother of the bride line Katherine Hooker by reading Katherine Hooker’s Wonder Woman Wednesday profile here.

Breaking Into Bridal

In 2012, after Maria was made redundant from her Government position, she and Simon started their bridal boutique, Sentiments.

The pair had no prior experience in bridal and worked extremely hard to get the business off the ground. In the initial years of Sentiments, Maria would spend evenings and weekends doing appointments and Sundays attending wedding fairs.

Despite the heavy commitment Sentiments brought, Simon told us that his wife was “not content with starting one business” and, “at around the same time as opening the doors, Maria launched a community interest company, Community Wellbeing Coaches.”

Using her background in public health and a lifelong passion for tackling health inequalities, Community Wellbeing Coaches was able to support vulnerable people and those with health barriers to employment.

The project took people with health issues and low self-esteem, mainly from areas of high deprivation, and gave them training and qualifications in health and wellbeing before embedding them back into the community to help other people with similar issues.

Read Kirsty Voce’s Wonder Woman Wednesday profile to find out how the UK Operations Director at the popular bridal brand Rachel Allan found herself working in bridal.

Work-Life Balance

At the same time as running their businesses, this power couple were bringing up their two children. Simon explains more: “We did everything ourselves in the early days, even the bookkeeping. I remember spending many nights together preparing VAT returns, often until the early hours of the morning, and then getting up at 7am to get ourselves and the kids ready for the day ahead.”

Catherine Parry was Born

In 2014 Maria and Simon started the Catherine Parry brand. “At the time,” Simon explained, “Maria was still running the boutique and Community Wellbeing Coaches, and I was still running my own marketing agency full time.”

Maria’s bridal retail experience had enabled her to gain a unique insight into the challenges her stockists faced, which has allowed the pair to build a recognised brand name with other 40 stockists over the last five years.

After selling the boutique in 2017, Maria spent more time on Catherine Parry and started their own alterations business which now carries out more than 400 bridal alterations a year.

Interested in learning about how the award-winning bridesmaid brand Motee Maids was established? Read Rosanna Garden’s Wonder Woman Wednesday to find out more.

Maria’s Greatest Achievement

Simon told Bridal Buyer that Maria’s “greatest achievement would definitely be winning the Bridal Buyer Award for Best Supplier Customer Service 2018 after having only launched the label four years before.”

Simon continued, “Maria really champions customer service, and with Catherine Parry, she has built close relationships with many of our stockists over recent years. It was a massive achievement to win Best Supplier Customer Service, especially against such strong competition.

Read more about the 2018 Bridal Buyer Award winners here.

What’s the Secret?

Simon explained how Maria lives by the following saying: “It’s nice to be important but more important to be nice,” and he reckons Maria’s friendly personality has been a big contributor toward her success. Maria’s husband also explained, however, that his wife’s incredible determination is the most important factor.

Maria’s Typical Working Day

Maria’s typical working day usually begins at 7am when she responds to any messages received the previous night from the factory Catherine Parry work within China. These requests are normally dealt with whilst Maria’s making tea, running a bath or getting her young children ready for school.

At the office by 9am, most of Maria’s days start with a short meeting with Simon to discuss the day ahead and what’s on their respective to-do lists. The couple sit opposite each other, so this meeting usually takes place whilst checking emails and responding to any urgent enquiries.

Later in the day Maria usually has a catch up with the seamstresses to ensure they’re aware of everything that needs to be done that day and to see if they have any other concerns. As part of a small team, it’s also Maria’s duty to oversee quality checking and the dispatch of orders to all their shops.

Maria will spend most afternoons speaking to her retailers, adding new orders to her production schedule and raising the order confirmations. In the weeks before any trade show Maria will ensure all dress samples, accommodation and travel arrangements are in place.

During September and October Maria will usually spend her afternoons working with the seamstresses to create new designs and patterns to take out to the factory during their annual November trip.

Maria will dart from the office to collect her children from their after-school clubs at around 5pm. The work doesn’t stop there, however, “One downside to working as a couple”, Simon explains, “is that the work conversations are rarely left at work and often continue in the evening after the children are in bed.”

In the evening, Maria and Simon unwind with the latest episode of whatever they’re watching on Netflix before heading to bed at around 10.30pm.

Read Chantal Khoueiry’s My Diary feature to find out how the founder of Brides do Good spends a typical working day.

Three Interesting Facts About Maria:

  1. Catherine Parry was Maria’s grandmother’s name and her inspiration for the brand. Nan, as she was to Maria, always had an incredible sense of style and inspired Maria’s love of fashion, so it was an obvious choice when naming the label.
  2. Maria’s first language is Welsh and she’s fiercely proud of her Welsh roots. The couple’s children are currently learning Welsh and go to a school where everything is taught in the medium of Welsh.
  3. Maria loves horror movies and zombie films and enjoys nothing more than watching The Walking Dead when she gets a rare hour to herself.

If you loved reading about the founder of the successful bridal label Catherine Parry, read Sanyukta Shrestha’s Wonder Woman Wednesday profile to find out more about the talented bridal designer and advocate of sustainable fashion.

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