“When a bride comes in and says how highly recommended we are, or how everyone they know talks about the store as the place to go. Hearing this really is the ultimate high.” Jemma Palmer of Halo & Wren
Quite a bit has changed since Jemma Palmer (the owner of revered bridal studio Halo & Wren) filled out our WFH Diaries Q&A back in May 2020. Not only has this achingly cool bridal studio’s location changed (meet the larger, highly curated H&W space a few doors down from its original spot in Hemel Hempstead) but the brand itself has entered a whole new phase. A phase that continues to make some serious waves in the industry. Renowned for her excellent taste, envious selection of achingly cool designers and accessories and innate ability for spotting a trend before it even knows its a trend itself, Jemma Palmer is quite the force to be reckoned with. I managed to catch up with Jemma herself, to talk about her business journey and her version of Taking The Plunge, including the highs, the lows, the first jobs, the worst jobs and the tech she can’t live without…
#1 In a nutshell, describe your business/brand – what do you offer?
“Halo & Wren is a bridal store for the modern bride, we offer a relaxed bridal buying experience of world leading designer’s who create gowns for the modern bride.”
#2 What’s your career background? Has it always been in the wedding industry?
“My background was beauty and specifically education in Beauty. I have always worked in highly female dominated, creative industries with an emphasis on trends and basically making things look good!”
#3 What planted the seed of your business idea? Did it strike you suddenly?
“I really didn’t notice when the seed was planted as I was bride shopping and finding that I wasn’t catered for as a modern bride however, upon reflection after marriage I noticed a huge gap for myself as a bride – there was plenty of mainstream choice in wedding dresses and lot of lovely ladies with old fashioned boutiques which had been going for years without updating or leading with trends. I visited more fashion-forward boutiques in London but was treated as a number and the experience was anything but special. So I took the plunge.”
#4 Describe the moment you decided to TAKE THE PLUNGE (what did this involve? Handing in your notice?)
“I have always been self-employed – as an hourly paid lecturer, I was jugging teaching at three different colleges, we were also personally living with in-laws whilst we extended our home for our growing family – my son was nine months old and my daughter 18 months. There is never a good time to have a baby, extend your home or start a business so I decided to do it all at once.”
#5 Describe how the first day of building your own business felt:
“Really I felt like my first day was when I decided to visit the Harrogate Bridal Show in September 2016. I took my Mum who is a huge supporter and encourager of me pursuing my dreams, we got an airbnb and went to the show. I think we had walked down one aisle of the buying market and I knew. I could see what I wanted the brand to be and I felt so at home with such a risky decision.”
#6 The highs – what have they been so far?
“The highs are actually really tiny things and I would say the ultimate high, apart from seeing the business grow or succeed in a monetary position, is when a bride comes in and says how highly recommended we are, or how everyone they know talks about the store as the place to go. Hearing this really is the ultimate high.”
#7 The lows – how did you move past them? What did you learn?
“Naturally, staffing is a challenge, as we have gone from just me and the brides to a team of eight, and the rapid progression of H&W’s growth, was something I was not prepared for. It really is so popular that all our admin has tripled in respect. We also had to deal with one of our bride’s setting up a competitive business less than four miles away, but this in turn was a deciding factor when I found the bigger premises.”
#8 If you could tell yourself three things when you first started the business – what would they be?
No.1 “You do not have to buy gowns for everyone in mind (I could have saved myself 25k if I had listened to my gut).”
No.2 “Set up policies and procedures to protect your business.”
No.3 “Do not offer discounts – you don’t have to.”
#9 Your tips for those dreaded lying-awake-at-3am times? (Counting sheep? Glass of water? Getup? Meditate? Read?)
“TikTok, I like to use humour to reduce my stress and find it actually takes my mind off stress laughing at trivial silly stuff that happens on TikTok. I’m not the meditating half of our partnership, my husband and other Director of H&W is the meditator, the sensible calm one, he helps me deal with the 3am can’t sleep worries. He really is the most supportive and wise partner.”
#10 Your top organisational tip?
“I use a diary and whatever I don’t get finished, I make sure I move to the next day. Some things on my list have been on there a while! I do have a great team though that all have their strengths, organisation isn’t one of mine but I am always trying to improve.”
#11 Who inspired you? Or inspires you in business?
“My family are all in a way self-employed, I think it runs in our blood. I think I am really inspired by a desire to create truly based on what I think a bride deserves when looking for her gown. That continually drives me to be one of the best and to not rest on my laurels. I am quite a competitive person, driven to achieve what I can for my business and subsequently my bride, and in turn to provide financial stability and opportunity for my family whilst inspiring my own young children to seek job satisfaction and harmony.”
#12 An app/piece of tech you now couldn’t live without for your business:
“Instagram – currently is the holy grail, however I am keen to explore what’s next. Instagram has allowed my business to reach so many more brides and allowed me to really get our brand message across to our type of bride.”
#13 Your first ever job was…
“I worked at a late night Chemist whilst studying, the unsocial shift allowed me to study and attend college whilst earning a little dosh!”
#14 Your top social media tip?
“Enjoy it, it’s a love hate relationship for some people and I think if you don’t enjoy it, you’ll avoid it, so I actually enjoy the time and effort I put into socials.”
#15 The brand you’d love to collaborate with and why…
“Pallas Couture is a label that I’ve been watching for a long time, I feel like they would work beautifully in the store alongside our growing Australian based designers.”
#16 Name a business/social media account(s) – that have helped/inspired you with your business?
“The White Closet in Manchester ran by Millie is absolute social media goals, I watch the reels in awe. Every time Millie nails it and I hope to be half as good as her. Our designer’s also having plenty of video content for us to share is incredibly helpful!”
#17 Your fav social media tool: (Pinterest? Instagram? LinkTr.ee? Etc.)
“I love Instagram, although we run a presence on Pinterest too. I’m just about to join Linktr.ee so I am intrigued to see what it’s about. I love Insta’s ability to be serious yet we all know it’s completely staged. It’s a show reel of the best bits and TikTok is for fun, advice and learning. Being a business that takes the aesthetics of our brand and our designer seriously, Insta is where our brides currently are, although it will change in the future.”
#18 Your advice to those looking to TAKE THE PLUNGE:
“Just do it, make sure you have the financial support and the mental and physical support. Research and be honest and run a business with integrity – don’t copy someone else’s ideas.”
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS | HALO & WREN
#1 Most inspirational book you’ve read:
#2 You’re in Starbucks, what do you order?
“Tea in the winter, iced, decaf, skinny latte in the summer.”
#3 Instagram feed crush:
#4 Your worst job was…
“Spa trainer internationally – lasted two days when I realised the travel would take me away from my family.”
#5 If you didn’t do what you do…what would you do?
“Probably a buyer, interior designer, visual merchandiser or anything involving styling, trend spotting”
#6 Work day pick-me-up:
“Tea, chocolate and a good old natter with the team.”