HOW BESPOKE BRIDE BEGAN…
In our recent survey we told you to ‘ask us anything‘ and were so surprised when we found that loads of you wanted to know how Bespoke Bride got started. It’s a question we’re asked often and we’ve nailed the short version down to a ‘T’ but how we actually began is a lot longer, slightly more dramatic, way more fun and above all totally unexpected.
It all started on the 6th December, 1986, the day I was born…
Nah only kidding, it actually started many years later. I was about to turn 25 and in my final year at university, where I was studying for a degree in Animal Biology and Ecology, whilst Jess had just turned 20 and was working at a receptionist at a local holiday park. Although we knew each other to say hello, we didn’t really ‘know’ one another, our parents had become friends many years before and eventually it would be our mum’s that would bring us together.
At the time I had just been made redundant from my job as manager of a local sports club, which I’d been relying on to pay for my time at university. With just 5 months left, I needed some money to see me threw the last few months or my course. I didn’t want to restrict myself to set hours again with my dissertation and exams looming, so I decided to set up my own small business. I was passionate about the environment and I loved crafting so I combined two of my favourite things and started to make my own eco-friendly wedding stationery using recycled and sustainable materials.
Meanwhile, Jess was a budding wedding photographer in the making. She had set up her own website and had started to build up a portfolio. She was however very unhappy in her job as a receptionist and would often find herself daydreaming about a time when she would one day work for herself.
Not a lot of people know this but when we began, we were actually a team of 3 and we had a totally different name! When I first started making stationery I was assisted by another of my friends who was also at university and looking to make some money on the side. We designed a few different ranges, experimenting with styles, colours and materials (looking back they were awful but at the time we thought they were amazing, HA!). I set up a mini styled shoot in my garden and took some photos on my old Olympus SP but they were honestly terrible! I had no idea what I was doing with a camera and had even less clue about lighting. We created a page on Facebook called ‘Envi Occasions’ (which is still live now if you want to have a good laugh, but no I wont link to it so you’ll have to do some digging), put the images up and waited for the orders to roll in! Of course, they didn’t…
I was convinced that to make this work we would need better photos and was chatting to my mum one day when she suggested I ask her friends daughter, Jess. That night I added her as a friend on Facebook and dropped her a message explaining what we were doing and asked if she would be interested in taking some photos in exchange for images for her portfolio. Within hours she’d replied explaining that she too was looking to start up a business in the wedding industry, was a keen crafter herself and would love to help out.
It wasn’t long before we had our first official ‘meeting’. We discussed our businesses, what we wanted from the future and how we could possibly work together. I don’t really remember how the subject of blogging first come about but I do remember Jess asking if we read blogs? I can only speak for myself but it’s fair to say I had no idea what she was talking about? I didn’t even know that a blog was a thing, so naturally I wanted to know more. She showed us some of her favorites and explained how they could help to promote a business. From that moment on, I was hooked and knew I wanted in.
I’d always wanted to be a nature journalist and was looking for some writing experience. Of course weddings and nature couldn’t have been further apart but the skills I could learn from setting up a blog would be highly transferable and I couldn’t wait to get started. So with my enthusiasm for writing, Jess’s passion for photography and our combined love of crafting, we decided to unite and start a blog together with the aim of advertising our own small businesses.
So we set up a new website for ‘Envi Occassions, where we would not only share our own work but also the things that inspired us – handmade and unique weddings, high quality photography, other small businesses, crafting, DIYS etc. We were looking to launch in October 2011 so we decided to set up a number of small photo shoots so that we would have some photos to launch with. I will never forget those shoots, the first in which me and Jess, modeled as a same-sex couple, which now makes me cringe and for the second, I borrowed a dress from a girl who had recently got married at my uni and teamed it with Converse sneakers, thinking we were being SO alternative. Although at the time, I suppose it was!
Everything went to plan and on the 12th October, 2011 we hit publish on our first ever blog post! We were so excited about this new joint venture but by mid November our team of 3, unexpectedly become a team of 2.
It was a surprise to both myself and Jess but we decided this might be time for some reflection. Jess had originally joined ‘Envi Occasions’ but with one of the original founding members now gone, the name no longer felt right? We wanted a new name to reflect this change in direction, but it was soooo difficult!! Thinking up names has never been our strong point. In the end it Jess’s dad that would give us the name Bespoke Bride. I’ve got to admit, I wasn’t fussed, I don’t think either of us were? The word ‘Bespoke’ felt old fashioned, but it was the best we had and the longer we waited the longer it would be before we could get back up and running, so we went with it.
A new name, meant new branding. Jess found a great illustrator on Facebook who offered to design a logo for us. It was a drawing of a blushing bride, against a baby pink background in an old antique frame. The whole thing looked very vintage but at the time we felt it matched well with our old fashioned name.
By the end of November 2011, we were ready to launch with a new look and a new site. Things were going well, we’d got our first order of stationery as one of my friends at the time hired us to create her evening invitations and Jess was second shooting for another local photographer. Of course all this was for free and we were making zero money from our blog as we’d not even considered advertising at that point, but it was fun none the less.
A string of unfortunate events including me being sacked as a bridesmaid, one cancelled wedding booking and the end of friendship, would later see me and Jess heading to California in May 2012. It was a happy accident that would eventually lead to Bespoke Bride making its first big steps in the world of wedding blogging. All thanks to a chance meeting with a well known dress designer, whilst at a wedding fair we did consider not attending, in the place where dreams are made – Los Angeles.
A question we’re often asked is how did you grow your blog into a successful business? I can honestly say, I’ve learnt so much more in the 7 years I’ve been running Bespoke Bride than I ever learnt whilst at University and many of the lessons I discovered were in that very first year. The key to running any business is less about about business plans and profit margins and more about taking risks and earning trust. It was this shoot we did in collaboration with designer Deborah Lindquist, that got Bespoke Bride noticed. Here was a woman who is extremely well known for working with the likes of Sharon Stone, Pink, Jessica Alba, Christina Aguilera, and Rihanna, who trusted two young girls, both of whom she had only just met and for all of 5 minutes, to take thousands of pounds of designer dresses to the mountains in Yosemite to do a shoot with a bunch of people they didn’t even really know. Crazy, right!?
But thank god she did, because I often think that if all those stars hadn’t aligned in that particular way, if all the events that occurred hadn’t happened in that order, then it’s unlikely that we would’ve ever made it to California let alone Yosemite. The day of the shoot was freezing cold, snow was starting to fall, we were in a foreign country, in the middle of the forest and were about to sleep in a log cabin with a gang of guys and gals we’d only just met. I was both nervous and excited but above all I knew I wanted this to be my life. Not so much the photo shoot, although I’ve come to love them just as much, but the randomness of it all. Bespoke Bride was just four months old and we were already experiencing the opportunity of a life time. I think I speak for not only myself but Jess too when I say, we both realised on the mountain in Yosemite that day, that this was the job we wanted to do for the rest of our lives!
So how did we go from that to making money? Well, that’s another story for another time but for now, I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about how Bespoke Bride began and we look forward to sharing the next part of our story with you soon…
If you have any questions about how we got started then please leave them in comments below.