| The Bridal Loft: Women Business Owners Band Together to Create Unique,
Hassle-Free Wedding Planning Experience
Successful entrepreneurial businesses tout the importance of joint ventures in putting their businesses on the fast-track. By forging partnerships with other entrepreneurs that offer complementary services, a group of seven women has positioned The Bridal Loft into one of the most well-known bridal service providers in the region.
Offering a “one-stop shopping” experience for brides and grooms, owners of The Bridal Loft offer a variety of services: bridal gown design, sewing and alteration, custom jewelry, event planning, professional makeup consultation, and more. Making their home in a three-story office space in northeast Portland, the women work with clients on all aspects of event planning and preparation.
The Bridal Loft concept arose from the collaboration between Andrea Agana-Hoyt and Sarah Mansfield. Andrea, who has years of experience making bridal veils and headpieces, was the co-founder of another bridal business in town. She decided to sell her shares due to health problems during her pregnancy. Sarah ran her own dress design and alteration business, and the two spent time working on projects in each other’s homes.
|Top row, from left: Andrea Hoyt, August Veils; Sarah Mansfield; Katherine Sealy of Event Cosmetics; Alex Van Pelt of beadALEX. Bottom row, from left; Emee Pumarega of EJP Events; Christa Barton, Christa Michelle Clothing; Kim trickey of Sewing Solutions; and Anna Pruett of August Veils.
“We were committed to our children but also had businesses to run, and only had time to do in the middle of the night. We realized that we needed to find a place where we can do our work and meet our clients,” says Andrea, owner of August Veils.
Sarah soon became so busy with design projects that she needed help with some overflow alteration work. She began collaborating with Kim Trickey, owner of Sewing Solutions. Through the bridal industry grapevine, the group learned of Christa Barton’s newly formed venture, Christa Michelle, a custom dress design and alterations service. “For a while, all of us worked in separate locations. The first space we rented was on 57th and Fremont, but we soon outgrew the space very quickly,” says Andrea, who is of Japanese and Filipino descent.
The four women found an ad for their current space in 2001, and decided to move into the location. When partnerships with a travel agency and a DJ equipment rental service fell through, the group knew they needed other collaborators to make efficient use of the space.
Andrea met Katherine Sealy, owner of Event Cosmetics, at a wedding. Katherine, a professional makeup artist, has more than 15 years’ experience working with Estee Lauder Companies before moving to Portland. “Our common denominator is that we are all Moms, married and have home lives. Here, we created a space where we can work and serve as a refuge from our other life. It’s often difficult to run a business form your home and give it the attention it requires, and give your family the attention that they need,” says Katherine, who is originally from Barbados.
After meeting Andrea at a bridal show, Alex Van Pelt became interested in bringing her beadALEX custom jewelry venture into The Bridal Loft co-op. However, her husband was a little cautious about the prospect.
“He was looking at it like – you don’t know these women and you’re going to go into business with them, how’s that going to work?” says Alex, who is Korean-American.
Alex and her husband set up a meeting to meet with The Bridal Loft partners to talk about business. As conversations often do, the topic gravitated toward something completely unexpected.
“I don’t know why and how it happened, but in the course of conversation, I said something Star Trek related. There are a few of us here that are closet Trekkies, and we all started talking about Star Trek,” Andrea says.
Star Trek became the deal-maker for Alex and her husband, she says. “He told Alex: those are great girls,” says Andrea.
Emee Pumarega, owner of EJP Events, came into The Bridal Loft midst wile scouting for office space for her event consultancy business. She was impressed with the partners’ unique approach and the diversity of offerings for wedding clients. “There are a lot of bridal salons that simply refer to other services. We’re unique in that we offer all vital bridal services under one roof,” says Emee.
“Our dynamics are great. We work very well together and are able to promote our businesses in a very positive way. Anyone who looks at our web page and sees our picture have told us that we look like the U.N.,” Andrea jokes.
For Alex, working with other like-minded women business owners has provided a strong support network for her entrepreneurial venture. “One of great things about working here is that we all really enjoy what we do. That joy rubs off on everything we’re working on,” she says.
The group’s commitment to doing top-quality service to ensure memorable and flawless events is unparalleled in the industry. Designers Christa and Sarah create beautiful gowns and dresses for the wedding party, while Alex designs and creates custom jewelry. Andrea creates tiaras, veils and headpieces, while Kim specializes in professional alterations and fittings. Katherine provides on-location professional cosmetic artistry to ensure classic and timeless wedding images, while Emee brings her event planning expertise into the mix. Andrea complements the partners’ services by providing “Ladies in Waiting” services on the day of the wedding, offering gown delivery, onsite pressing and dressing assistance.
“We take our roles very seriously and we really enjoy the process,” says Katherine.
In an industry where topnotch service separates the leader from the pack, The Bridal Loft remains focused on the ultimate goal: to effectively serve the needs of their clients. In some cases, that means abandoning “territorial” modes of competition to deliver the best service.
“We’re a good source for referrals, because we don’t treat other like businesses as competitors. We embrace others in the industry, because our ultimate goal is to make that bride happy. If it’s a service we do not offer here, then we make sure we send the bride to a reputable business,” says Katherine. “Satisfied clients came up with the term ‘lofties’ to refer to themselves. We’re glad that for our clients, this is their home away from home during the wedding planning period.”
As the event planner often mired in technical details of event execution, Emee appreciates having colleagues on hand to help resolve any “behind-the-scenes” issues.
“I tend to focus on very technical and dry stuff – electrical diagrams, room layouts, contracts, budget and money. I’ve been doing this since 1997, and before I met these gals, I very rarely stepped foot into many dressing rooms,” says Emee, a Filipino-American. “The ‘getting ready’ time period is crucial for the whole event to go well. Vendors may show up on time and everyone’s producing as planned, but if there’s something going on in that dressing room, it’s going to change your whole game.”
Emee says she likes being able to draw on her partners’ strengths for inspiration. “We all have different strengths. By bringing our talents together, The Bridal Loft is technically savvy, organized and creative. Together, we are a creative and technical powerhouse.”
Yet, the group acknowledges that working with other business owners with busy family lives comes with its own unique set of issues. Coordinating meeting dates to make operational decisions often is a challenge. “We have to be extra sensitive to other people’s schedules. It helps to be aware of what’s going on outside of your own little world. I feel like it’s a minor miracle that seven people – women – have been together for five years,” says Emee.
“It’s kind of like having six other roommates: you just have to get used to everybody’s working styles. We’ve been very fortunate because our personalities just mesh really well together,” Alex says.
The Bridal Loft is located at 2808 NE Martin Luther King Blvd., Suite 3. For more info, call (503) 788-5280 or visit www.thebridalloft.com.