“It was the ending of my own marriage that pushed me to realise my dream. I was ready to start a new chapter in my life.”
Caroline Potts finally made the decision to start her own business after a change in her personal circumstances. And with the support of Transmit Startups she’s created a successful bridal boutique. She tells us more…
The irony of starting a wedding business as my own marriage was ending isn’t lost on me!
But I’m an old romantic and I believe in love. I’m an optimist and always push for better so the ending of one thing became the beginning of something far more beautiful!
On the first day of lockdown, I moved into my parents’ home with my two children. I realised that I had absolutely nothing to lose. When you have the eyes of your children on you, you have to show them resilience and to dream big!
I wanted to take back some control in my life, so I poured my energy into making this happen.
Being in lockdown allowed me time to plan out exactly how my dream boutique would look and create my business plan.
It’s a family affair as my step dad brought the vision to life. We’d sit at the breakfast bar discussing it and he produced the architectural drawings. He learnt a lot about the bridal industry that he didn’t know he wanted to know!
To this day he helps me transporting to and from wedding shows and my mum is also an invaluable support.
Once I had a clear idea of what I wanted to achieve, I researched how to finance it. I came across the Start Up Loans scheme and Transmit Startups.
The experience of applying for the loan was all very straightforward. I simply couldn’t have got started without the financial support I was offered.
I created my business plan using the templates Transmit provided and took advantage of the support of my business advisor Shirley if I had any questions.
Although the business plan took a long time to produce, it’s an invaluable part of really defining what you want to achieve and how you’re going to do it. So I’d advise others not to be too daunted by it.
I received £25,000 and this covered the vast majority of my startup costs.
Caroline's Business Advisor Shirley
I used the money to renovate an old bank into a beautiful boutique. It also helped to buy stock and get started with my marketing.
I named the business Ellison Gray Bridal after my two children who are my motivation for everything. We opened 5 September 2020.
Covid was my biggest barrier from day one but things are getting easier all of the time.
Looking back at when I started my planning, I never imagined the pandemic would last so long or that so many new hurdles were to come.
We couldn’t view properties as quickly as we wanted to and getting tradespeople in to do renovation work was tough.
Some of my first poor brides had to try on their wedding dresses while wearing a mask – not quite the look you dream of.
But I am an optimist so I made the best of it. And because I was a brand-new business, I didn’t have anything to compare it to. I just kept adapting and accepting things as they came, knowing things would come good!
Managing to agree exclusive deals to stock some incredible designers was my first real taste of success.
I opened my doors as the exclusive North East stockist to two of the biggest bridal designers: Suzanne Neville and Lyn Ashworth. I have recently added another, Watters, a huge American brand.
Being nominated for Best Newcomer by the Wedding Industry was pretty amazing too.
But the thing that makes me most proud is the five star reviews I get from my brides – their happiness is what really matters – and the fact my boys’ names hang over the door makes them even more special.
Before starting my own business, I worked for big corporates, handling their internal communications and engagement.
It might seem like a huge leap but my old life and my new life actually have a lot in common. Ultimately, they’re both about getting behind a goal and making people happy.
A lot of my communication and customer service skills were very transferable. I knew from my corporate experience that I work best when I’m under pressure against exacting standards.
I’m a perfectionist – anyone who knows me would agree! So, a bridal shop is the perfect fit for me.
A wedding dress is the most important dress you’ll ever own. I wanted to make the experience of choosing and wearing it absolutely perfect.
I’d never worked in a bridal shop and no experience of the sector – just a passion for perfection and a willingness to throw myself in!
Has Caroline’s story got you thinking?
Transmit Startups can take your business from a dream to a reality, with a Start Up Loan and support to get started. Find out how we can help on our Start Up Loans page.