The Camellia Bridal journey, from a home-based start up, to a successful long established bridal boutique. Read about how we got started!
Camellia is a family business, and was started by myself and Lyn (mother and daughter). The idea was born when Lyn was looking for her own wedding dress… it wasn’t the best of experiences and both of us felt that warm, friendly service was missing from most of our bridal shop experiences.
A few years passed, and in 2003 Lyn had her first child and took a break from her career. Whilst at home, Lyn started a bit of buying and selling of bridal gowns on eBay, with great success. Together Lyn and I decided we might like to scale this up… Luckily I had a lovely big house and lots of space!
The first step was to refurnish our small back bedroom with pretty furnishings, a large free-standing mirror, a dressing screen and a clothes rail. The second step was to acquire some dresses to sell! This proved very difficult because suppliers were generally not supportive of home-based businesses. We did find a supplier of new dresses on eBay but these were one-offs and not re-orderable.
What we desperately needed was a supplier from whom we could re-order and who would stock a home-based business. After lots of research we found one! The third step was to take the plunge and spend some money. We travelled to North London and met our potential supplier. We bought 14 sample dresses, more rails and point of sale material.
Now it was time to relocate from the small back bedroom to the large front room downstairs. We were now ready to sell and place orders. Then all we had to do was target some brides!
Our first task was to advertise, and in those days it was just a case of fliers through doors! We also took the plunge and exhibited at a local bridal fair. Now we were on our way. The telephone was ringing and the diary was filling up. We soon secured two of the mainstream bridal suppliers, who after visiting our showroom were happy for us to take their dresses.
For four years the business was flourishing and, in fact, was taking over my home. My dining room now housed deliveries and accessories, one bedroom housed dresses for storage and home life now had no privacy. We begain to build relationships with local seamstresses, dry cleaners, wedding planners and more. We were growing. One day, out of the blue our telephone rang and we were invited by the Warwick brothers to view a potential site for us to expand. The opportunity to rent the space above a well respected menswear retailer such as Warwicks was too good to miss!
The next few years saw us developing our shop interior, a fabulous website, and growing our reputation as a must-visit bridal shop in Northampton. We began to see brides from Kettering, Wellingborough, Corby, Milton Keynes and even further afield. We were finding sisters/friends/cousins/colleagues of our brides were now visiting when it was their turn, which was a real compliment. Our social media following continued to grow, and we were now able to stock well respected labels, such as Sottero & Midgley, Kenneth Winston and Veromia. Our team grew as we had Saturday and part time staff to support us in the shop.
During 2015, my other daughter Zoe joined the team, helping out every now and again. The ‘now and again’ became more permanent as Zoe developed a love for the business and was getting itchy feet in her own career. Seeing Zoe enjoying the business so much,, Lyn began to think about spreading her wings a little. Now that her children were older Lyn was feeling she may like to go back to her old career in design and marketing. Knowing Camellia was in safe hands with myself and Zoe was enough for her to take the plunge! This was music to Zoe’s ears as she was now able to manage the shop, and put her own stamp on it. With my ongoing support Camellia Bridal started a new phase, with Zoe managing with her fabulous part-timers Rohanna and Rochelle to support her.
We love what we do, as a family we care very much about the business and every single one of our brides. We have found dresses for brides from Northampton, Wellingborough, Daventry, Kettering, Corby, Milton Keynes, Leicester, London and beyond (even as far away as Ireland!) and are always especially proud when brides visit us through recommendation, and are prepared to travel for the right dress and service.
In the future we would love to move to a bigger premises with a lovely big window and no stairs!! But for now we are happy in our little shop, doing what we do – and doing it well!