Being adaptable is the key to being an entrepreneur. Our next guest has had many roadblocks placed in her way, and yet she’s rammed through them all. Lets hear from her…
Please introduce yourself to our readers…
You once started your own business – what was it?
In my early 20s, with $200 in my pocket, I drove cross-country alone to Los Angeles for the first time. This was a place where I knew no one and had never been. My mom stood in the yard and cried, but she never tried to discourage me; she said she knew that I was destined for bigger, better things and that this was my path.
I cried as I drove away, but I did manage to leave and it was the best decision I ever made.
Thank goodness for the fearlessness of youth! I immediately found a job waiting tables at a wonderful Italian restaurant on Sunset Plaza on my second day there. I applied at every small and large fashion company I could think of until I found one willing to take a chance on a girl with zero experience and 100 percent dedication. I worked as an unpaid intern during the day and waited tables at night. I eventually moved up to Assistant Designer for a variety of small, independent design houses. I gained experience hand cutting samples, learned manufacturing from the ground until I knew enough to launch my own labels.
My first was a swimwear label “Anais.” I worked with many of the “Baywatch” girls on calendars and custom designed suits for their photo shoots, as well as a variety of movie and television stars. I also launched my favorite line of sleepwear, “Sweet Dreams PJs.”
I was the first designer in Los Angeles in the intimate apparel market to make body conscious pajamas. The “low rise” and stretch jean trend was just becoming popular and I designed low rise, body conscious pajama pants in bright patterns and colors. At that time, sleepwear was made with soft knit fabrics and mostly in pastel colors. With my line, you could actually wear them to the store. Other designers loved them. They were a huge success for me. It was the beginning of “loungewear” that is a mainstay category in fashion today.
Fred Segal was and still is one of the most popular and respected apparel stores in the country. Having your product in Fred Segal is a status symbol at the exclusive apparel level that all budding fashion designers aspire to. I tried different sales reps and none had any success in placing my line and some could not even get an appointment. Undeterred, I made the call for myself and got an appointment. When I walked into Fred Segal and pitched my line myself, modeling many of my items for the other, she offered me the very first private label in sleepwear for the acclaimed Fred Segal in Santa Monica CA. “Anastasia for Fred Segal Twilight” debuted in 2003.
What made you decide to go out on your own vs work for someone else?
I loved spending hours at the Fabric warehouses; I would bring my lunch and stay all day. I made friends with all the sales reps, it was a happy place for me! Oh to be surrounded by a rainbow of gorgeous dupioni silk! I was like a kid in a candy store. It was such a wonderful feeling to see a fabulous fabric and imagine it as a dress, PJ set, etc and then see it come to life. I loved hand cutting samples, shopping for ribbons and buttons and trim; every part of the process was exciting and fulfilling.
I love bright colors and I would often go to the flower mart as it was parallel to the fashion district in downtown Los Angeles.
I often remarked that I had the same feeling looking at all the gorgeous flowers in their bright colors and the endless possibilities as I did when choosing fabrics.
Lizzy Shaw, (of Lizzy Shaw PR in Los Angeles) organized and hosted most of our sample sales . She taught me so much and is still one of my favorite people in the world. Edward An is a line that is now no longer in production, her coats are magnificent, I still have an active EBAY search and collect as many as I can. Maura Peters candles, Sarah Shaw handbags, May Yeung jewelry.. it was a fabulous group of women that taught me so much. It is vitally important to surround yourself with like-minded people, especially women, that understand the hard road to success and support and encourage you.
Did you take any outside funding?
Did you have any partners?
No. I did not want to take on any partners or indebt myself to anyone; the line just would not be able to proceed on its own under those terms.
What was your vision/goal for the company? (Did you meet that?)
To create a line of gorgeous and functional loungewear that was entirely different from others.
I do not see it as an utter failure. I had a glorious time and made quality apparel that many people enjoyed and still do. Success is what you feel at the end of the day. Did I try my best? Did I give everything I had, was I honest in the delivery of my vision? Did it make a positive impact on my clients? Did it make me happy? I can say yes to these things and that makes me feel I successfully fulfilled a dream.
While I enjoyed phenomenal success on the West Coast, I returned home to Savannah when I could. When my mother became ill, I realized it was time to be there for them more permanently. They, who had always been advocates for me and the steady, supportive presence in my life needed me to be dependable for them. When my mother did pass on, I realized I lost my best friend; the person whom I had called every morning and shared my dreams and successes with, the ins and outs of my career in Los Angeles and her life in Savannah was no longer there.
I decided to stay and help my family rebuild, and part of that was to find a new vision for myself there (as there aren’t many calls for fashion designers in Savannah.) I remember my best friend from prep school , a wildly successful entrepreneur herself, whose opinion I respect very much, asking me what I wanted to do now? and I said “I like parties, cooking, flowers…. maybe I could do that?” and she rolled her eyes, laughed at me and poured me another glass of wine.
I know at the time it sounded like a joke, but I was determined. I made it my profession and it has served me well for almost a decade.
I immediately saw the need for a destination wedding planner in Savannah. So, I became the very first. I knew a beautiful and informative website would be a major key to my success. After hiring someone and paying thousands for a woefully sub-par website, I decided to build my own and searched the internet for tools to do so.
This set me apart from other planners as most did not see the need for a website for local business at that time. Times have changed dramatically in the past 10 years. I also figured out how to “cut out the middle man” very quickly. Like my mother had taught me, you can do it all!
So I did! I bought chairs and went to the bamboo farm and we made our own arches. I know how to source beautiful fabrics, of course .. so we still offer one of a kind custom arches that no one else has in Savannah.
I catered, I became a florist, we provided almost every service in house. My officiant is the father of a childhood friend I have known for 32 years.. He is amazing! Everyone loves him! It also doesn’t hurt that I have a wonderfully talented and generous man in my life who is super handy at building things!
This was exactly what destination brides were looking for, a local wedding company with a family feel that offered everything and they could just show up!We provide a one stop shop that made it as easy and stress-free as possible for them.
Wedding packages were exactly what the client was after and we gave them the best quality at reasonable pricing, as well as items, services and décor that were not offered elsewhere in town.
There are so many amazing wedding vendors in Savannah, I stood out by focusing solely on the needs of the destination bride because no one else was.
Like designing clothing, wedding design was an opportunity for me to take a “blank canvas” and make it beautiful. I love working with fabrics, flowers and décor and realizing a vision that make others happy! I love beauty in all forms and this was another creative outlet for me to create a gorgeous scene for someone.
What was your company culture like? Did it ever change?
The digital age has had a huge impact on the wedding industry. I quickly saw the writing on the wall. As a DIY wedding planner myself, I saw that brides can easily access, on the internet, all of the information that used to be a wedding planners “trade secrets.” Our value was dropping at an alarming rate.
Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, thousands of wedding blogs and websites.. all offered DIY wedding info on how brides could “cut corners” and do it themselves.
While I do love Pinterest, this was obviously a very real threat to my livelihood and in real time, brides began to inquire less about complete packages and more requests came in for just “day of services”. They are “doing their own flowers, décor, catering “ etc to “save money”.
YIKES! So, it was time for me to re-evaluate. Instead of begrudging the bride’s their new found knowledge and cursing the dratted Pinterest, how could I adapt and make this work for me?
Why are you not with that business anymore?
After a lot of brainstorming and market research I knew that eventually most people will do most things from mobile devices.
I decided to offer brides wedding planning at their fingertips, guidance through their DIY wedding journey from a true professional planner and someone that is a DIY veteran as well.
After a ton of research into app development, like the vision I had for my website early on, my vision for the apps was not easily realized.
I interviewed and parted ways with multiple developers and began from scratch many times before realizing I had to do this myself as well.
Most apps are extremely limited in content because they cannot take up all the memory on a device. This conflicted with my vision of providing a completely comprehensive app. I wanted brides to have everything they needed, complete guidance.
By developing the apps myself , I was able to use new build tools that allow brides to plan not only on their device, but using online sources so that they can plan on their computers, phones and tablets.
This allowed me to give limitless sources and information and images for my apps instead of the standard 3-6 pages most apps give. most of my apps have 25+ pages!
I also quickly realized that many types of couples did not have wedding apps dedicated to their specific niche. I created the first completely comprehensive: Jewish, Gay, Military, Destination, Savannah, DIY and coming soon: Eco-friendly wedding apps.
I also do not have any ads or charges for upgrades which is proven to enhance user experience. No annoying ads!
Would you do it again?
I love floral design and fashion design but I fear both markets have changed so dramatically that there is no option to do either as a career.
I am very happy with the app development and supporting women in business with my website! I do have a few weddings on the books, but I am focusing on the apps. The landscape for a full service wedding company is drastically changing and I believe more brides will be primarily digitally planning as time goes on.
It is also exciting for me, a new adventure! I am having a ball and getting to be creative in different ways that really make a difference.
I am really proud of the diversity of the apps and the opportunity to focus on Green weddings, Gay weddings, Jewish weddings, DIY weddings.. Everyone deserves an awesome day! Too many blogs and wedding websites focus on the same limited types of weddings. There is not enough information out there for niche wedding planning.
My plan is to change all of that one app at a time!
What are you doing now?
Well, that old saying is so true “If you can’t beat them, join them”.
I have a lot of new, exciting apps launching in the next year! If there is a “Steampunk” bride out there, discouraged because she cannot find comprehensive guidance on how to have a “Steam Punk” themed wedding.. Have no fear! You will soon!
I decided to do the unthinkable. Jump ahead of the trend and share my “secrets.” As great as Pinterest is, brides are not qualified florists, planners and designers. There were not getting all the information and experience needed to have a wonderful and successful event.
You can find thousands of stories online in wedding forums about DIY wedding horror stories and everyone has seen the hysterical “Pinterest Fail” posts!
The DIY app has access to thousands of DIY wedding videos in the app! Brides can watch videos on: creating floral bouquets and centerpieces, wedding planning, DIY makeup tutorials, hair braiding techniques, DIY paper flowers and décor.. the possibilities are endless and the tutorials are comprehensive.
Brides can plan every aspect of their event from their phone or tablet and computer with checklists, registry, advice from wedding professionals, highly touted vendor recommendations, bridal craft tutorials, wholesale resourcing and so much more. Brides will have all the tools necessary, at their fingertips, to plan their wedding like a true wedding professional!
The value of the apps is unparalleled. For $3.99- $4.99 a bride has access to wholesale pricing, invaluable information and saves them literally thousands of dollars while giving them peace of mind and control over their wedding planning experience. Most brides are DIY in some part to help save on their wedding budget. I wanted the apps to be affordable, so by designing and building all of my own icons & logos, websites and the apps , handling and building all of my social media accounts myself, I was able to pass along a quality product that reflected my vision at a great price. Soon I hope to expand and have more help, but success is built on hard work and for now, I am up for the challenge of doing it myself.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting their own business?
It may be something you have heard again and again, but it is the foundation for my success. Believe in yourself. The first step to failure is to never try.
You must pick yourself up and try again, success comes from failing and revising and trying again. My biggest regrets are things that I “gave up” on. Everyone may not understand your “vision” people will discourage you. Remember, it is YOUR VISION, if they “got” it, it wouldn’t be unique.
Fear is your enemy. To be truly innovative, you must step outside the “box.”
My career paths have been like recipes, trying new things, a pinch of this and that, if it doesn’t work, revise and try something else. Always expand upon your ideas. Always keep researching, seeking new information, stay ahead of your competitors, trends and the market in your niche.
Be aware of what consumers want and need; Always evolve to suit your market.
Stay true to yourself and what makes you happy, take pride in what you do and others will see it.
Be exemplary, be the best you can be and success will follow.
You have to commit 100% to succeed. That is why choosing a path that gives you personal joy and satisfaction is so important.
Choosing a career based solely on making money is a sure path to failure. Chase your passion, not monetary things. Find your own passion, believe in it and turn it into something you can really be proud of. You must LOVE what you do to give that kind of 24/7 commitment to excellence.
You have to be ready to work long hours and sacrifice your spare time to build a business. I have worked 13 hour days for the last 6 months straight. Taking a nap and getting up again to work until 2-3 a.m. and back up at 8. I have only spoken to one of my closest girlfriends on the phone in 2 years. She lives 10 miles away. Launching the apps has been an incredible and exhausting experience. But, Be ready to give up your “life” at times, to make it happen.
Of course, The most important thing: NEVER GIVE UP!!!
What is your favorite song?
“Our Lives” by The Calling
Thank you for sharing Stacey-Marie! You can find her on Twitter @diyweddingapp