“With hindsight there is only one – don’t choose a name that is deliberately misspelled, it’s not big and its not clever – it’s a spellcheck nightmare that results in dozens of lost emails and wasted time.” Emily Plunkett, Owner of Unbridaled Boutique on the one thing she’d tell herself when she first started the business
Get ready to fall in love with pretty much everything at Scottish bridal boutique, Unbridaled. I’m talking about everything from the achingly cool interior aesthetic (it blends sleek minimalist vibes with dashes of high-voltage glamour and mirror balls) to their curated selection of contemporary designers (they stock the likes of Alena Leena, Made With Love Bridal, Love by Enzoani, Liretta, Catherine Deane, Viktoria Chan, Innocentia and soon, Tina Valerdi) and, in a nutshell (a mirror-ball embellished nutshell), Unbridaled’s overall refreshing style and approach. Scottish brides? BOY are you in for a treat with the Ayr-based bridal studio. I managed to catch up with Unbridaled owner, Emily Plunkett 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…
Name: Emily Plunkett
Business: Unbridaled Boutique, Ayr, Scotland
Date you took the plunge: “The seed was planted in January 2013 and we opened September 2013, coinciding with my 30th Birthday. But, I didn’t fully commit and take the real plunge until a year later in September 2014 when I gave up my part time job.”
#1 In a nutshell, describe your business/brand – what do you offer?
“We are a relaxed and down to earth bridal shop offering Scottish brides the best choice of less traditional and effortlessly stylish gowns. Our rails are all killer and no filler, perfect for the bride who, for lack of better syntax, wants something that still feels special but ‘not too wedding-ingy.’”
#2 What’s your career background? Has it always been in the wedding industry?
“Not even nearly. A mixed education of accounting then switching to law and somehow ending up in the travel industry as sales, then marketing and finishing as a product manager (I basically negotiated, built and priced the package holidays you see online). I feel like my career made the business side of things really easy so I only had to study and learn the fashion element.”
#3 What planted the seed of your business idea? Did it strike you suddenly?
“I always knew I would have my own business one day. I threw a million ideas at the wall to see what stuck. The bridal shop was born from my friend’s shopping experience which was lack lustre and quickly went from a ‘I could do that’ to ‘I’m actually doing that.’”
#4 Describe the moment you decided to TAKE THE PLUNGE (what did this involve? Handing in your notice?)
“After 12 months of working weekends and evenings in my shop and mid-week in the day job, I realised that there was no more of me left to give. If I wanted growth for the shop I had to leave the day job and the security blanket of knowing all my outgoings would be met and the psychological crutch of being self sufficient instead of relying on my partner in a bad month which was difficult for my pride. A particularly annoying week at work coinciding with that time of the month and I took the plunge to ditch the day job rather irrationally at the time! But if I over thought it any more I reckon I would have held myself back another six months, so cheers to hormones!”
#5 Describe how the first day of building your own business felt:
“Buying the domain name is the day I think made it real. A modest £30 investment but it was the difference between procrastinating over drinks with friends, scribbles in notebooks and day dreaming and actually doing something tangible. “Action is the first step to success” and that was the first thing that took it out of my head and into the world.”
#6 The highs – what have they been so far?
“One of my favourite achievements was finding ‘the one’ for all three sisters from one family. It’s the closest thing to repeat business as you can get in wedding world. It was so nice seeing them all again each time and their lovely mum who pretty much had a permanent direct debit set up with us! I LOVE getting our brides photos – it is a constant source of inspiration to keep going. And then when brides tell me how far they travelled to visit or how long they have followed us on instagram for, often long before they are even engaged and finally get to visit. These mean far more than any other kind of stereotypical marker of success such as industry accolades or growth/expansion like moving into our newer larger premise.”
#7 The lows – how did you move past them? What did you learn?
“The only real low for me was the Covid lockdowns, that really killed my soul by taking away my reason to get up each day. Other hiccups and bumps along the way I take in my stride by having a very small circle of similar minded and respected boutique owners, whom I chat to regularly and share my woes and jubilations with and vice versa. This keeps me grounded knowing that I’m not alone in taking things to heart or thinking something is unreasonable etc. They know who they are and I really appreciate being able to vent with instant empathy because they understand exactly what I mean or had the same thing a month ago. My friends are wonderful but any kind of real advice from them would involve me giving a full on Ted Talk into Bridal Ownership 101.”
#8 If you could tell yourself three things when you first started the business – what would they be?
“With hindsight there is only one – don’t choose a name that is deliberately misspelled, it’s not big and its not clever – it’s a spellcheck nightmare that results in dozens of lost emails and wasted time.”
#9 Your tips for those dreaded lying-awake-at-3am times? (Counting sheep? Glass of water? Get up? Meditate? Read?)
“ASMR literally changed my life, hypnotic little fake eye exams and focus on me routines that stop your mind spiralling and send me straight to sleep. Thank you so much you little clicky, whispering angels!”
#10 Your top organisational tip?
“I’m a good old fashioned list girly. If it’s not written down on a piece of paper, it’s not getting done, ever. No matter what amazing app or tech is invented.”
#11 Who inspired you? Or inspires you in business?
I’m not sure if inspire is the right word, but my motivation is down to making sure my dog has a nice life and probably a dose of undiagnosed Aspergers.”
#12 An app/piece of tech you now couldn’t live without for your business:
“WIX is my whole business bundled into one convenient place but it’s the online diary element that I appreciate and noticed the most.”
#13 Your first ever job was…
“I was a waitress at 13 at The Grapes Hotel for £1.50 an hour and free chips!”
#14 Your top social media tip?
“Post something every single day. Every time I build up my engagement, I get exhausted, take a break and then the views fall right back down again.”
#15 The brand you’d love to collaborate with and why…
“Chosen by KYHA, I love them and they love us, but its pushing the price point we know and trust in-store so it’s a potential different plunge for the future!”
#16 Name a business/social media account(s) – that have helped/inspired you with your business?
“@Wearetheweddingcollective who I believe started not too long before ourselves – they were marketing to the the exact same bride as we were and so the perfect directory and wedding fair for us to advertise with. And they are actually the only paid advertising we have ever done, other than boosted posts. Oh! And our recommended seamstress/fairy godmother and her team who are worth their weight in gold!”
#17 Your fav social media tool: (Pinterest? Instagram? LinkTree? Etc.)
“Bitches love the gram and we be bitches. The timing of our business and Insta blowing up was an aligning of the stars. I’m partial to the odd TikTok, but feel like an absolute plonker doing it – I have so much respect for those who create amazing content for it every day and I can see its potential in the very near future overtaking Insta for the wedding industry. I know I have not fully untapped the potential of YouTube and Pinterest yet and this is on our todo list.”
#18 Your advice to those looking to TAKE THE PLUNGE:
“The accountant in me will say turnover is vanity and profit is sanity. But I think my number one piece of advice is make sure you become a business owner and not just someone else’s business! So many start ups become completely consumed with buying and signing up to everything out there, without actually providing any net benefit to the business. There are so many businesses who only make money from fleecing new and wannabe owners excited to be in control and want to be seen as professional. Irrelevant advertising, paid networking, stationary, branded everything, seminars, design, consultancy etc. Im not saying do everything yourself and I’m not negating some of the things where an expert is needed, like accounting services. But in your first year you need to penny pinch and learn to walk before you run – no you don’t need branded notebooks, pens or candles in year one, these are nice to haves, not must haves and won’t make one iota of difference to your sales. Beware of those teaching you how to run your business, never a truer word spoken than those who can, do and those who can’t, teach! There’s nothing you can’t find for free on YouTube these days, if digging around for it and converting it into your specific field sounds like too much effort, then honestly I’d suggest reconsidering if entrepreneurship is for you. If you can avoid the pitfall of unnecessary spending in year one then my second piece of advice is don’t then penny pinch forever. Once you’ve put in the ground work and are seeing a good, regular return, treat yourself, delegate, invest and expand, speculate to accumulate!”
Rapid Fire Questions | Unbridaled Boutique
#1 Most inspirational book you’ve read:
“The Little Red Hen by Byron Barton when I was about four years old. Pretty much shaped my entire life and highly recommend.”
#2 You’re in Starbucks, what do you order?
“I don’t drink tea or coffee at all, so I’d get a small hot chocolate just for the marshmallows and cream, to be social.”
#3 Instagram feed crush:
“Randomly it’s actually @aldiuk, if you haven’t seen it go check it out, that takes some amount of planning and commitment to pull off!”
#4 Your worst job was…
“I lasted approx 30 mins at the local racecourse, I was expecting to do a few shifts behind the bar where I had lots of experience but instead they expected me to be a barista with one of those huge silver machines, as someone who has never had a coffee in their life and zero training, I ran out crying, lol.”
#5 If you didn’t do what you do…what would you do?
“I would have still been running my own company, but I’m not sure what sector it would be in. Working for myself was always the ambition. That or prime minister, seems everyone can just have a shot these days.”
#6 Work day pick-me-up:
“Any kind of food I shouldn’t be having will always bring a huge smile to my face. Our new location is much more central and I’m surrounded by amazing options full of temptation. It’s dangerous but delicious!”