“Stop comparing yourself to others. It’s a hard one, and something I think we’re all guilty of, but it’s getting easier to stop constantly comparing what we’re doing to other boutiques.” Carrie, Co-founder of The Real Wedding Collective
As co-founders and sisters, Carrie and Sadie of Staffordshire-based bridal boutique, The Real Wedding Collective say on their website: “it’s all about love.” Catering for the fashion-forward bride with the likes of Watters, Nicole Couture, Lillian West and Love First Bridal hanging from their curated rails, this lovingly run bridal studio is dedicated to helping brides find their dream wedding dress, and feel “beautiful, confident and comfortable” in the process. Swept up in their love for weddings, the pair decided to finally unveil their vision of a modern bridal boutique during the pandemic (a vision that had been brewing for years prior), delivering with it a truly unforgettable bridal experience. I managed to catch up with Carrie and Sadie of The Real Wedding Collective to talk about their business journey and their version of Taking The Plunge, including the highs, the lows, the first jobs, the worst jobs and the tech they can’t live without…
#1 In a nutshell, describe your business/brand – what do you offer?
“The Real Wedding Collective is a fashion forward bridal boutique. We offer varying designers to make sure we have most brides’ needs covered, these include Watters, Nicole Couture, Lillian West and recently Love First bridal. We like to create a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere to our brides and their bridal party making sure brides feel relaxed, confident in their own skin and looked after. We want people to feel like they’re being welcomed into our home. We always have a great time with our brides and find they relax as soon as they walk through the door. We know how daunting it is, so by having fun we aim to make the experience an unforgettable one. There’s no judgement here, both Sadie and myself pride ourselves on the customer service we provide. We hope that shows.”
#2 What’s your career background? Has it always been in the wedding industry?
“As two sisters we both have very different career backgrounds. Sadie the eldest is a qualified accountant (and still works full time in this profession). I, Carrie, the youngest, have a background in hair and makeup. I’ve worked within the bridal industry creating hair and makeup for brides for many years.”
#3 What planted the seed of your business idea? Did it strike you suddenly?
“I, Carrie, had the idea about owning a bridal boutique many years ago after helping a friend plan her wedding. When I told Sadie about it, it turns out she wanted to do the same thing. But sadly, life and finances (or lack of) got in the way and the idea was shelved for 15 years. Fast forward to the pandemic and being a bit older and wiser we decided if we didn’t pursue the dream now, it would be too late. So we put our heads together and started researching.”
#4 Describe the moment you decided to TAKE THE PLUNGE (what did this involve? Handing in your notice?)
“We both decided in 2021 that we really wanted to do this. So, we started looking at potential areas to rent a shop. The one thing that the pandemic bought us was time, time to really research and plan. We agreed that I, Carrie would be the “face” of the business and Sadie would continue to work full-time but help out at weekends. Being a mobile hairdresser and makeup artist, I had to break the news to my clients that I’d be leaving them after 17 years of working for myself, it was emotional to say the least, but so worth the gamble.”
#5 Describe how the first day of building your own business felt:
“It was scary, we found a premises that was perfect for us, but then we had to get the designers we wanted on board. So, we planned our trip to Harrogate in September of 2021. We were very lucky to secure our three designers, but it was all still very daunting.”
#6 The highs – what have they been so far?
“The highs have definitely been seeing the images in our heads become reality and the brides smiles and happy tears when they find their dream gown with us. We still have to pinch ourselves to remind us that this is ours.”
#7 The lows – how did you move past them? What did you learn?
“No lows as such, but there was a bad fire two doors up from our boutique literally two weeks before we were due to open. Luckily, it didn’t reach our premises so we were very lucky indeed and so relieved. We could have done without spending a week between Christmas and New year freezing cold painting the walls in the shop as well, but every time we look, we’re reminded of our hard work!”
#8 If you could tell yourself three things when you first started the business – what would they be?
“I think it would be to firstly trust the process. It’s been a strange year for weddings in general as most are postponements from over the pandemic so we can’t gauge how busy we’ll be going forward. Also stay in your lane, if you have an idea of how you wanted your business to be, then stick to it, don’t deviate and compromise who you are. And lastly, stop comparing yourself to others. It’s a hard one, and something I think we’re all guilty of, but it’s getting easier to stop constantly comparing what we’re doing to other boutiques.”
#9 Your tips for those dreaded lying-awake-at-3am times? (Counting sheep? Glass of water? Get up? Meditate? Read?)
“We had a lot of these moments before we opened. I would probably get up, give myself a stern talking to, put on some meditation music and try and go back to sleep. Sadie would probably pour herself a cup of tea and try not to let it bother her too much. It’s so difficult because we all get nights like this. Talking it out with someone close or in our case, each other, always helps.”
#10 Your top organisational tip?
“Lists, lists and more lists. As simple as that. Everything gets written down, whether on my notes in my phone or on paper. We’re never without a list. Also spreadsheets for everything!!”
#11 Who inspired you? Or inspires you in business?
“Our parents and their work ethic are always an inspiration. We’ve always been a grafting family.”
#12 An app/piece of tech you now couldn’t live without for your business?
“Videoleap, a great app for editing videos together and either VistaCreate or Canva. Oh and my phone!!”
#13 Your first ever job was…
“Sadie did a stint in a butchers shop. I was an evening girl in a chemist.”
#14 Your top social media tip?
“Consistency! It’s the one word we’ve had drummed into us when it comes to all things social media! I’m in charge of that side so try to be proactive on a daily basis.”
#15 The brand you’d love to collaborate with and why…
#16 Name a business/social media account(s) – that have helped/inspired you with your business?
“Originally The Wedding Club inspired me. I’m lucky that I know both Clare and Emma who own The Wedding Club. It was the boutique my friend bought her wedding dress from 15 years ago and ever since then it got me thinking. I’ve helped them out in my younger days modelling for them when they used to do showcases and way before they became the powerhouse that they are today. They had a small beautiful boutique in a suburb in Birmingham when I first met them, now they have three massive flagship stores in Birmingham and London and are the go-to boutique for the famous and the not-so famous. Total inspiration.”
#17 Your fav social media tool: (Pinterest? Instagram? LinkTree? Etc.)
“Instagram, definitely. Its user friendly (for me) and easy to navigate.”
#18 Your advice to those looking to TAKE THE PLUNGE…
“Do your research, be brave, don’t deviate from your blueprint. Know your ideal client and have an action plan of where you want to be in five years and 10 years.”
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS | THE REAL WEDDING COLLECTIVE
#1 Most inspirational book you’ve read?
Carrie: “The Secret by Rhonda Byrne.”
#2 You’re in Starbucks, what do you order?
Carrie: “Strong coffee with milk, no sugar.”
Sadie: “Earl Grey tea, milk no sugar.“
#3 Instagram feed crush:
#4 Your worst job was…
Carrie: “Saturday girl in a hairdresser, was just constantly cleaning, hated it (love cleaning now though!).”
#5 If you didn’t do what you do…what would you do?
Carrie: “I’d still be doing hair and makeup.”
#6 Work day pick-me-up?
Carrie: “Coffee and a Belvita biscuit for me!”
Sadie: “Having a walk.“