LaDonna High received assistance from the Iowa Small Business Development Center for North Central Iowa in developing a business plan and putting together the necessary paperwork to obtain financing so she could open her own bridal and formal wear store.
Enjoying every aspect of working in the bridal and formal wear industry, LaDonna finds it extremely rewarding to help a bride bring to fruition the vision she has for her wedding day. LaDonna had worked at another bridal store in Fort Dodge for a few years when that store closed, leaving a gap in retail formal wear stores in the Fort Dodge area. She quickly embraced the opportunity to open her own bridal and formal wear store, especially when the perfect location for it was becoming available among a strip of complementary stores in a newly refurbished block in downtown Fort Dodge.
LaDonna’s major strength is in customer service, and in the bridal industry this is at the top of the list for a bride’s needs. LaDonna knew she had the ability to effectively manage her own business because she had seven years’ experience in the accounting department of a major retailer, plus additional previous management experience that included daily operations, hiring and managing employees, and more. She also had in-depth knowledge of the bridal gown and formal wear industry, however, she had never written a business plan or opened her own business.
LaDonna was referred to the Iowa Small Business Development Center for North Central Iowa (SBDC) by the City of Fort Dodge’s Business Affairs and Planning Office. Over the next eight months she worked with SBDC Assistant Director Cindy Schieber to develop a viable business plan and complete the paperwork necessary to apply for financing from a local bank and a revolving loan fund.
Through the business planning process cash flow was identified to be potentially challenging because bridal gown and formal wear vendors contract with retailers, requiring the retailers to purchase minimal numbers of gowns, typically on a semi-annual basis. This requires a large cash outlay in the spring and the fall in order to stock the newest dresses from the various lines of designers. The cash for those purchases is then recovered through sales over the subsequent months. Identifying this problematic part of the business helped LaDonna plan for these necessary cash expenditures.
LaDonna encountered other obstacles in opening her business, but she was determined to succeed. First, the physical store premises weren’t ready for her to move into due to delays in the remodeling process. Second, the store was at a brand new address that the U.S. Postal Service was slow in identifying and registering; as a result other shipping carriers that rely on U.S. Postal Service registries were not able to deliver shipments to the new store.
Cindy assisted LaDonna in developing her business plan and cash flow projections, plus she utilized the SBDC’s professional market research services to help describe and quantify the potential market for bridal gowns and formal wear in Fort Dodge and its surrounding area. With the SBDC’s market research information LaDonna and Cindy were able to determine the 2012 total market value for wedding attire and accessories for the area. Only 75 percent of that market was being captured within the region and the largest of the bridal retailers listed in the research was closing. Based on that information, it was projected that her store would conservatively generate around $150,000 in annual sales revenue to begin with and comfortably increase it to approximately $200,000 in annual revenues over the next three years. The projected revenues would adequately cover expenses and result in modest profits and sustainability for the business.
After working hard to justify the business and overcome all of the obstacles, LaDonna was successful in obtaining the necessary financing from Citizens State Bank and the Midas Council of Governments’ revolving loan fund to start her business. After many late nights of unpacking, hanging, and steaming dresses, LaDonna held the grand opening of Bridal Visions by LD at the end of June 2012. The store has quickly become part of a rejuvenated retail presence in downtown Fort Dodge.
LaDonna praises the assistance she received from the SBDC saying, “Had it not been for Cindy, I would not have been able to open the store on my own. I feel she went above and beyond normal help. When I had a slight accident and sprained my ankle, if I could get my handwritten notes to her she put it on the computer for me. Any questions I had along the way, she had the answer for me. I would highly recommend anyone that is thinking of starting their own business, and like me did not know where to start, should go to the SBDC. They are so helpful and friendly. There is no way I could ever thank them enough.”
Bridal Visions by LD carries bridal, bridesmaid, mother, and flower girl gowns. Some of the designer lines available are Allure, Bonny Bridal, Venus Briday, Jacquelin Exclusive, Dere Kiang, Landa Designs and Pretty Maids. Bridal Visions also carries prom gowns from Nightmoves, Splash, Karishma and Mystique. Tuxedo rentals and men’s formal wear is provided through Jim’s Formalwear. Visit www.bridalvisionsld.com to check out all of the beautiful dresses that Bridal Visions by LD has to offer.