Jemma Palmer owner of three-time award winning boutique Halo & Wren shares her advice on entering bridal awards.
Although initially it can feel daunting and leave you feeling vulnerable to judgement, the overall positives outweigh the negatives when it comes to entering for awards. There are so many benefits for bridal retailers and it is a chance to celebrate your business. As awards are normally held by industry leaders who have a large audience and peer reach it is also a great marketing opportunity. It makes a fantastic talking point for you as a business owner and is a super conversational topic across all platforms, whether that is with your brides in store, through email marketing or on your social media channels.
For me entering for an award is fun and I must admit, I love participating as it makes me feel proud to say why I think Halo & Wren is one of the best. If you are lucky and the wonderful happens where you are short listed or make to finals, that is a fantastic pat on the back, a moment to share and feel acceptably smug about. Of course, to receive the nod of approval and a shiny award is obviously the cherry on the cake, but it is a great feeling taking part and an important process for authentic celebration of you and your business. There is no shame in a little self-promotion.
Halo & Wren is very grateful to now be a multi-award-winning business and if the C-word (covid) had not arrived, I would most certainly have entered for awards this year. I first entered for an award in 2018 with The Bridal Buyer Awards. I had launched Halo & Wren in 2017 and so I was eligible to enter the New Bridal Retailer Category. The awards are judged by a panel of business professionals from different sectors across bridal industry. To enter, you needed to submit a detailed response to several questions relating to your category and your business, this entry is then preliminary judged and the finalists are shortlisted and judged further until a winner is decided.
Winners of The Bridal Buyer Awards are announced at a ceremony in Harrogate, coinciding with The Harrogate Bridal Show. It is a glam affair and the perfect opportunity (which is another reason to enter awards) to get dressed up, meet friends in the industry, network, have boogie and an overall great time. This being the first award I had ever entered I made some fundamental mistakes. I wore spanx that were too tight, I was so nervous that I couldn’t even taste the three course meal, and my plus one was my over-excited husband who when the winner was announced banged his hand down on the table sending a glass of red wine flying. Of course, it was an amazing feeling to hear Halo & Wren called out as the winner, especially as it was in front of hundreds of my peers and so many incredible boutiques who I admire.
The next awards I entered were The Bridebook Wedding Supplier Awards 2019. This was very different to The Bridal Buyer Awards as the award is based upon your reviews and testimonials. It was a tough competition with over 25,000 reviews left for businesses, but I am so proud to say that Halo & Wren won Wedding Dress Supplier of the Year. These awards are held digitally so entry is digital and there is not an awards ceremony as such, but you receive a wonderful congratulations email and a lovely award in the post.
2020 was the year that Halo & Wren won The UK Wedding Awards ‘Best Bridal Boutique’ in association with Hitched and You & Your Wedding. This awarding body is different again, as the is award is won by votes. I felt so incredibly grateful to win this award as it meant that people with busy lives, jobs, day to day worries and time pressures took a moment to say, ‘you deserve to win’. It was incredibly humbling. For this award you are entered digitally and are required to answer questions regarding your business, I needed to be able to justify why I was entering and why I think my business should win. These answers are then then judged and if you are lucky enough, you go through to the final which is another glitzy affair. This years award ceremony was held in London at The Biltmore, Mayfair – which gave myself and my husband a very a rare chance to get out some actual real glam clothes, book a hotel for a night and enjoy ourselves. The night was made even sweeter when Halo & Wren was announced the winner and we finished off the night by getting suitably drunk and feeling extremely proud.
Awards really do allow you to show everyone why you believe your business is the best and not only that, but to receive that congratulations and appreciation that you deserve. Even if you don’t win, it’s an opportunity to get your dancing shoes on and have a wonderful evening out!
When considering awards that I would like to enter it is key for me to define which categories are best for Halo & Wren. I only enter a category for an award if I feel H&W is the best at it. I will not enter something that I know is an area that I do not have expertise in or that I can’t demonstrate strengths in. However, if you have not entered for an award before, I would recommend entering a few categories as this will allow you to understand where your strengths lie. The questions will help to create an evaluation for you of your business as you will need to justify your answers. Make sure to carefully read the criteria of entry and to review all the categories in depth beforehand as it will allow you to recognise where your business’ best chance sits.
My approach to entering awards is like how I prepare for my blog posts. I want my entry to stand out, to be informative, helpful, and inspiring. I make sure the content of my applications really goes into detail about what makes H&W deserve the award. I will spend anything from one to three days preparing for a single entry, mainly because I have too much to say and I have to edit several times to ensure I get the magic across whilst meeting the strict word count. There is an art to selling yourself and I find that confidence in your brand and your business allows the words and descriptions to flow. I focus on the sections that I consider the most important which are normally the ‘why?’ questions and I use the other sections to elaborate on my points. It’s important to make sure that I am not repeating myself. At least once a year I try to have professional photos of the boutique taken, as the business evolves so rapidly, I sometimes do this twice a year. Up-to date imagery is as crucial as your written description and the use of stunning imagery will help to laminate your words. On a side note I would like to add that I am using the same head shot from 2018 as we all know that does not need updating!
What would be your three top tips when entering awards?
1. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Period.
2. Get very familiar with talking about how amazing your business is.
3. Buy a new fancy dress and shoes, it’s a great feeling!