Before I even began this monthly feature, I created a list of successful women entrepreneurs in Tallahassee that I could look to in my own entrepreneurial aspirations. I instantly knew that I wanted Kristen to be apart of The Roundtable because she has done a remarkable job in creating a niche market in our area. I can imagine that for any bride, wedding dress shopping is an extremely intimidating process since there are so many choices to make. Vocelles is unique in their ability to make every bride's experience one to remember. Having spent some time in the boutique as a bridesmaid, I have come to truly appreciate their knowledge, expertise, and the rapport they establish to make each bride (and bridal party members) feel special.
I surveyed several of my friends who are "brides to be," and asked them to describe their shopping experience at Vocelles in five words. Some of those words included: exhilarating, special, personable, sophisticated, individualistic, unforgettable, authentic, professional and dazzling. I look forward to learning more from Kristen and having the opportunity of one day getting the full Vocelles bridal experience while shopping for my own dress. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Kristen!
Fun Fact: Vocelles Bridal is located right next to Cole Couture (Carrie's profile is seen here) in Orleans at Midtown in Tallahassee along with two other female entrepreneurs that I hope to feature soon.
Q: When did you realize you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
A: I think I have always known deep down that I wanted to own my own business. However, the bridal industry was never on my radar until I was engaged and started planning our wedding. That is when I saw a need for a quality bridal boutique in the area. After countless bad experiences trying to find my wedding dress I asked myself, “It can’t really be THIS hard to find a gorgeous dress that I love that is also in my budget, right?” Wrong. Then and there I knew what I wanted to do and Vocelles | The Bridal Shoppe was created.
Q: When you decided to start your own business, how did you define what your business would be like?
A: When I was in the planning stages of Vocelles, I was also planning my own wedding. The entire time I was developing the business plan for Vocelles, I was learning first-hand what was important to brides, because I was a bride-to-be myself. My personal experiences shopping for a wedding gown (both good and bad) had a huge impact on what Vocelles Bridal has grown into today.
When I was first starting out, my goal for Vocelles was the same as it is today. To provide brides in Florida, Georgia and all of the Southeast access to a large collection of wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses hand-selected from the best designers in the industry at approachable price points – all in a beautiful, non-intimidating and non-stuffy environment.
From the very beginning I was determined to give our brides the best of everything -- the best experience, the best customer service, the most knowledgeable stylists, the most beautiful dresses. After all, shopping for a wedding dress is a special occasion in and of itself, and every bride deserves to have that experience.
Q: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned since becoming an entrepreneur?
A: I have learned that in order to run a successful business you must wear many different hats on a daily basis and be able to switch gears in an instant. Working with the most wonderful brides and being surrounded by beautiful dresses all day every day is so much fun! Handling all of the accounting, HR, financial forecasting, marketing, etc. myself is not nearly as much fun, but are all crucial elements to the success of my business and cannot be ignored.
A business simply will not work unless you are willing to make personal sacrifices, work hard every day (and many nights) and do all the behind-the-scenes tasks that go along with it.
Q: Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences?
A: Since Vocelles Bridal is my first business, I do not have any failed business stories. I am blessed and thankful that my business has been successful over the past four years. However, at the time of starting Vocelles, I was ignorant of the start-up capital needed, as well as the lack of financing options for a start-up business. These roadblocks could have very easily led to failure had I not planned and adapted accordingly.
Q: Moment of success?
A: The best moments of success for our team are when we have the opportunity to go the extra-mile for our brides. These happen every day – some days they are small moments and other days they are huge. However, if I were to choose, there is one moment that happens with each bride we have the opportunity to work with that I feel the greatest sense of success:
Our entire team feels the most successful when a bride comes to pick up her wedding gown when it arrives at Vocelles from the designer. This is my favorite part of my job. Many times it has been five months since the bride has seen her dress and she is nervous that she won’t love it as much as she did when she ordered it all those months ago. It is so rewarding to see her fall in love with the gown all over again and walk out the door, dress in hand and you can just see the joy and happiness radiating on her face. We know that we have made her a happy bride and had a positive impact on her entire wedding planning experience and there is no greater success than that.
Q: How do I start my journey toward starting a business? What are three pieces of advice you would give a woman starting out?
- Seek out a mentor. Find a successful entrepreneur who you can talk to about your business and run ideas by, and who will give you honest feedback.
- Over prepare before jumping in. Take the time to put together a well thought out and thorough business plan. Have your mentor review it and ask you hard questions. Dissect the numbers and identify how much revenue you will need to do in order for your business to be profitable. So many aspiring entrepreneurs don’t take the time to do this and end up failing in the first year because they don’t have a realistic understanding of what it will take to sustain a profitable business.
- Be ready to adjust and adapt. Having a solid plan in place is important. Being able to adjust your plan to the ever-changing marketplace is just as important. Know that things never go exactly as planned and be ready to adapt and make changes as needed along the way.
Q: What inspires you?
A: My daughter, Eloise. She makes me want to be the best person I can be in all aspects of my life. It's like the Martina McBride song lyrics - "I see who I want to be in my daughter's eyes."
Q: What was your first job?
A: When I was in high school I worked at Express in our local mall during summer breaks.
Q: How do you structure your day so that you maximize every minute?
A: Now that I have become a mom to little miss Eloise Anne (16 months old), this has gotten much harder, yet even more important. When I get home at night, all I want to do is spend time with my family, so I have to get as much done during working hours as possible. I make sure to get to work two to three hours before we open every day so I can get a few hours of uninterrupted work in before the real fun (bridal appointments!) of the day begins. During this time I prioritize the things that absolutely have to get done each day and what will be ok to push to the next day. I love lists, and crossing things off of them. I would be lost without my daily typed-out, color coded list of “to-do’s.”
Q: What's next?
A: I have lots of ideas in the works for the future - you'll have to wait and see! Lots of exciting things for sure.
Q: Your company in five words:
A: The Vocelles Experience in five words: chic, inviting and personal with timeless style
Q: What are your words to live by?
A: Focus on the customer above all else. At the end of the day, the customer is all that matters.
*All photos by: Terri Smith Photo, Woodland Fields Photography, mi amore foto, and Inga Finch Photography.