$500 million and counting

How to successfully run wedding gowns clothing brand online.

In conversation with Dina Akel

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.

Hi everyone, welcome you to another episode of WytPod, the online community for e-commerce business owners and entrepreneurs. And today we have a very special guest joining us. She's the founder and owner of pre-owned gowns and her name is Dina Akel. Dina, thanks a lot for joining us today. How are you?

I’m doing well. Thank you so much for having me.

It's our pleasure. So let's jump right in and just so our viewers can know you a little better, would you mind sharing some of your backgrounds, please?

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.

Wow. It's a huge industry.

It is very big.

And is it fair to say it's kind of a high-stress industry? Wedding planning.

Wedding planning is super high-stress. I was probably the reason why I got out of it.

It is to be an air traffic controller or something. I think.

Yes. A lot of it. Lot of managing personalities and it gets stressful. Yeah.

That's why they make so many movies about it. And there are pretty good ones, too. All right, great. Thanks for that. Now you're offering everything from wedding gowns and prom dresses to custom denim and leather. So what inspired you to get into the pre-owned clothing business?

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.

Oh, yeah.

I started reselling on, 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.

You had to, right? Get out some gowns. So where else are you going to go? So you like to help others? That's nice.

Oh, thanks. Oh, of course. We all should be helping others.

Absolutely. All right, great. So it says that your store is by appointment only. Can you expand on that as well?

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.

Okay, yeah cool. I guess getting married is stressful enough and taking the stress out of buying a wedding gown and that's a big deal. It's an agreed day and another person's life. So that's pretty cool. All right. So, you know, starting an e-commerce business is actually more difficult than most people realize. Oh, yeah. And you don't find out until after you're into it. So can you help everyone out and share some of the challenges you face and how you overcame them?

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.

That's commendable yourself, Top. Yes. I mean, you can win anything on YouTube if you're diligent enough if you subscribe to the right channels and watch the videos. And I think that's fantastic advice. We reverse getting started. I guess it's difficult to rely on others to help with that much energy could ever be when a lot of times you have to do it yourself too.

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.

Right. All right. So what would you say separates your products from the competition?

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.

Yeah. So $100 to spend on drinks and stuff? Oh, yeah. no, no?

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.

Definitely, you might have to drive around to a few different shops. Oh yeah, we're online and we know how that helps, too, so it makes sense. All right. Outstanding. What are your best-selling items?

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.

Okay. Can you tell me more about the custom leather items?

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.

On my tradition these days, right? Yes. Yes. That's fantastic. Do you ever end up making the jackets for the groomsmen or the bridesmaids and stuff like that or?

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.

Whatever. No.

That’s okay.

Well, maybe. I don't know. Brown leather is for leather because you care about animals, I assume?


Very cool.

We like to keep a little green.

Guys. All right. What's your favourite? What's your favourite thing that you've sold in the past year that you were happy about?

Oh, that’s a good one.

That's my job.

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.

Actually, no. Oh, hey. So was it like it had up and whatever?

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.

Or an eggshell. Or darker than inside?

I would say darker. Yeah. Like I would say maybe slightly this. Oh, you can’t even see that.

It's very similar. That's a multilateral as far as, like mocha latte.

Mocha latte. Yes. Yeah.

And it is also some of yours.

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.

o you got a lot going on. You know, you're running the whole business and other I think you have other activities that you're taking care of. So how do you juggle all those all at once and keep asking, why don't we have Time's Up?

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.

And with Lemon, I get it. So and so it's kind of go find people around you that you can trust to help you.

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Make sense. That's something we hear from a lot of entrepreneurs. And finally, you know, Dina, you have a lot of great stuff, but are there any other sort of words of wisdom to pass along to entrepreneurs who do these things?

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.

All right. Wise words. Thanks a lot.

Thank you.

Thanks a lot for spending time. Thanks for your insights. It was educational for me and I know it will be for our audience as well. Thanks a lot.

Oh, thank you. Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.

Sure thing. Generous to you Dina.

You as well, Marc. Thank you.





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