5 years ago.
Five years ago, I was flying to NYC after I talked entirely too many people into blindly believing in my idea.
My husband, Griffin, didn't bat an eye when I put down a deposit that was about half a year's mortgage payments with an event space for a show I hadn't planned yet in a business I hadn't started when I could have just gotten a small space at the normal show like everyone else.
My mom and cousin, Connie and Michelle, dropped everything and came to NYC with me. They ran errands, braved the subway, and never complained when the hotel gave us a King room instead of two doubles. They went, knowing I'd never even set foot in NYC before, let alone masterminded a fashion event.
Over a dozen designers (who are now dear friends, but at the time were complete strangers) sent money, packed up their collections, and showed up in NYC. Most of them after just a phone call and all with less than 6 weeks of warning.
Store owners took time out of an already incredibly busy industry weekend that their whole year of business can depend on and made the trek to our show. They've stuck around and been partners in this thing ever since. Without them, the whole thing would have been a waste.
Lives and businesses changed there.
I say that with so much gratitude and pride, because I know mine did most of all. The show and community that have come from that weekend, that I spend all my work time in now, that's creating jobs for people in my home city (#CLEpride) and growing incomes and dreams for bridal business owners, that's bringing change to an industry and beautiful options to brides...it all happened because almost 100 people who didn't know me in the least hopped in on one of my random crazy ideas. All in. Take action, make yourself visible, spend money and show up in real life kind of in. And hundreds more have done the same in the years since then.
When I take the time to remember that, it astounds me. I'm in awe of what can be brought into reality by clear vision and community. I'm in love with what I get to do.
Was the show perfect? No.
Is my vision for our mission and community the same today as it was 5 years ago? No.
So what made it so important and special? Here are the lessons I learned then (and that I often have to learn over and over as I grow.)
1- Start before you're ready. I had never seen Bridal Week. I hadn't even been in NYC. We had less than 2 months. Do I wish we had waited and researched and planned more to launch later? No! That was one of the best weekends of my life and it did more than I could have ever imagined. Take action and be ready for what it brings. You can always correct course.
2- You don't need connections waiting in your back pocket to make something happen. Saying you do and that's why you haven't started yet it a cop out. But you damn well need people who believe in your vision, so you better go about making connections fast. Be clear in your purpose and be in it for them as much as yourself. People can see through anything less genuine than that. If they get that you're sincere and they believe in your vision, though, you'll never find a better support system. "You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.” - Zig Ziglar
3- Take action, ask questions, and be ready to adapt. Plans are great. They need good information to form them, consistent feedback to perfect them, and flexibility to keep them successful. It will never, ever, ever look exactly the same at the end as you planned at the beginning, but if you do it right it will be better than you could have imagined.
4- Why not? Someone started every thing that exists with an idea and some action. I was a nobody in the industry. Maybe 5 people knew who I was and they only talked to me because I bugged them long enough to give me their time and advice. Most of the designers in first show had no stores and had only sold to brides online or in their at-home studio. Now some are running groundbreaking businesses that employee dozens of people (like Rebecca Schoneveld, who amazes me every time I see updates on her work and goals). And they're all constantly growing and creating. We shut out our doubts and did it all anyway and that's what made the difference.
5- Doing things the right way matters. We've always stood for something. It's what sets us apart and it's why our community stays together. While we shift and expand, that's never going to change.
You have a part in this story and I hope you know how grateful I am for that. I'm looking forward to all the big things coming and more life and business changing lessons. I hope you keep an eye out for similar visions and ideas in your work.
And when you find them, let me know. I have some unfailing encouragement and support to repay.
Our NYBFW event happens every year and we just put up the info for this October. There are only 14 spots open, so if you want in, make sure to check it out and let me know ASAP! Bridal Market is something else, you don't want to miss it if you're looking to grow your dreams and your wholesale business! (If you're a buyer, come see us!)