In this episode of eCommerce Experts Talk, Marc Bishop interviewed Dina Akel, wedding gowns clothing business owner, who started by buying numerous gowns from a source and is now running a business out of it. She reveals how she got inspired, what were and are her challenges and how she is utilising digital marketing strategies to upkeep her business online. Watch now for some profound insights.
I’m doing well. Thank you so much for having me.
Sure. So my background is extensive in the bridal and wedding industry. I’ve been in the wedding industry for probably seven or eight years now. Literally did a mixture of everything. I was a wedding planner. I was a catering staffing coordinator. I became a director of a bridal boutique out in Boston. And so I did a lot of one on one with brides, you know, whether it was for finding their dream dress or planning their wedding. And I also went as far as working B2B where I was meeting designers and trying to get them new locations to carry their collections. So yeah.
It is very big.
Wedding planning is super high-stress. I was probably the reason why I got out of it.
Yes. A lot of it. Lot of managing personalities and it gets stressful. Yeah.
I will be very honest with you. I started back in 2019 reselling clothing as a side hustle. I was getting married in 2019, so I was like, Oh my God, we want to start a family. We have student debt. We literally were just like, What are we going to do? Like after the wedding? Like, what’s the plan? Because like, we had full-time jobs, but we were still like, we also want to be like financially stress-free.
I started reselling on poshmark.com, which is very popular now, sort of like eBay, I guess you could say. And learned a lot from selling used clothing. And from there, because I had a passion for selling dresses, I was like, well, why don’t I do it with dresses, too? I had a woman like a staff member out of one of the Connecticut high schools that reached out to me and said, Hey, I noticed you were selling dresses. Would you want to buy some from us? Because we’re trying to raise funds for the high school students. I was like, Yeah, let’s do it. I went over there, I think I bought like 50 gowns from them. But like, I love that it was going towards the seniors like trips at the end of the year and stuff. So yeah, that’s kind of like where I started. It kind of just kind of blew up from there. That’s when I started pre-owned gowns right after getting those dresses.
Oh, thanks. Oh, of course. We all should be helping others.
Of course. So, especially in bridal, it is very difficult to find a dress if you don’t know what you’re looking for. So when a customer comes in, you’re matched up with a stylist. In this case, it would be me here and we give you that one hour to really discover the different styles that you like, different fabrics, see what’s working, what’s not working. So I’ll start off with an appointment with like when is your wedding? Where is it going to be just to get the vibe? Is it going to be a beach wedding? Is it going to be like an indoor ballroom? Because, you know, if you’re going to be outside in the hot sun, you might want a lighter fabric gown. If you’re going to be indoors, it kind of doesn’t matter. And then we’ll just go over like necklines. It’s this whole personalized experience just to make them feel like, not stressed about finding the perfect dress and any tailoring questions they might have. I’m right there to answer that question.
Yeah, absolutely. As you said, starting an ecommerce business is it’s not easy at all. It took me a few months before I got my first sale on my website. So when you start your own ecommerce site, the biggest thing is just learning, learning how to get yourself out there because everyone says, yeah, well, you need a market, okay, but how you’re supposed to market each type of product, you’re going to market differently and it’s like, okay, where are your customers? Are they on social media most of the time? Are they like you kind of have to figure out how to attract your audience? And I think that my biggest challenge was figuring out how to get people to my website. And a lot of that ended up being SEO, which I was not familiar with when I had heard about search engine optimization. I was really like, okay, I don’t have a business background. I don’t have a tech background. How am I going to learn this? And of course, I just did a lot of YouTube videos. I listened to a lot of podcasts, and I started using some of those. You know, helpful hints that they were giving me to really push my website up into Google searches and eventually finally got my first sale. So yeah, I would definitely recommend people just do a lot of research on how to get their website to be more searchable.
Agreed, agreed, especially if you don’t have the funding to really like onboard people to help you out. You know, especially when you’re doing research and development stage, it’s good to like try things out on your own and see what’s working and what’s not and then kind of go from there.
Great question. So in terms of the type of products we have, we have very similar products. But what makes us different is mostly pricing, because if you were to get a regular, let’s say Casablanca bridal dress specific brand, which is very common, it will be about $2,000. But that same dress, although it may not be a new style, would cost you here maybe around $800. So that’s like more than a 50% discount, which is unheard of in bridal shoes.
Absolutely. And I guess the other thing, too, is that we collaborate with a lot of shops nationally and we get them from all different corners. So the styles that you find here are such a crazy variety versus going to like your traditional bridal shop that might have like just the romantic classic style or just the boho style. So yeah.
Best-selling items? If we’re looking at the categories, it’s definitely our bridal gown. So we do carry mother of the bride, groom dresses and prom. And we do have a ton of accessories, but usually, our bridal dresses are top.
So we partnered up with they’re called heirloom bridal and they make custom leather faux leather jackets and denim jackets and you can literally embroider anything on them. It could be a specific design. It could say Mrs. it could say, bride. It could say till death do us part. Like pretty much anything. And they’re just like fun hip accessories. I feel like the brides today are so different than in the past. They’re really looking for a modern, chic style that’s like, you know, you kind of brings in your own personality. So it’s high.
So we don’t have anything for the girls unfortunately nor the groom. We may in the future, but we’ve only just started. Is what you wear a leather jacket.
We like to keep a little green.
Oh, that’s a good one.
I know. I mean, I would say it was I want to get specific. It was a Badgley Mischka dress that like had all this gorgeous floral embroidery and the top of the dress and like very simple on the bottom. I think it originally cost about $5000 or something like that.
Yeah, it had a lot of embroideries. It was also a different colour. So it was like. Like a latte colour. Little more on the brown side.
I would say darker. Yeah. Like I would say maybe slightly this. Oh, you can’t even see that.
Mocha latte. Yes. Yeah.
Oh, no, I don’t sell Vera Wang just because it hasn’t come through our store yet. But it doesn’t mean I won’t. I do have a randy finale dress. He’s from Say Yes to the Dress. Oh, yeah. He had his own collection, and I have that lovely lady on her mannequin right now, so. I’m really excited.
That’s a great question. And I think a lot of us struggle with this. Part of it is how you organize your time. And so for me, I do a lot of what I call brain dumping every day because I just think about so many things at once, especially as an entrepreneur running your business and then trying to balance your regular life, too. I do brain dumps. I write every single thing down that’s like bothering me for like 10 minutes, and then I’ll categorize it into, like, work versus personal. And then from there, all my work stuff I can figure out, Okay, when am I going to work on this? Is it this week? Is it next week? So I think that’s one crucial way of doing it. And then the other thing is, depending on what. Like where you are in your business. If you’re already making money. You should probably be thinking about like, am I ready to hire someone to help? Because some people think that they can do it all by themselves. But at some point, you’re going to plateau and you’re like, I’m at that stage right now where I’m like, Oh my God, I am so stressed. There’s way too much going on. And if I don’t get someone to help me now, I don’t know what’s going to happen. Because there’s you got there’s a lot of self-care that you’ve got to balance. Do you know? Oh, my God. Yeah, this is so much.
Yeah. Get mentors. I think that’s my big one. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. There’s free help out there. Like score from, like, the SBA group. They have so many people that you can reach out to and get mentorship from, whether it’s for financial, for, you know, inventory management, like you name it. You can find some help. And if it wasn’t for that, I think I wouldn’t even have gone this far.
Oh, thank you. Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
You as well, Marc. Thank you.