VANCOUVER, Wash.–Buy an existing business or build one from the ground up? When Lisa Bagley decided she wanted to operate a bridal store in southwest Washington that was her dilemma. Her parents, who had already offered to help fund Bagley’s venture, were split on the issue. Bagley tended to agree with her dad, who wanted to buy, but Bagley’s daughter, who would be a partner in the project, sided with her grandmother.
That’s when Bagley sat down with Jerry Petrick, a certified business advisor with the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Longview and crunched the numbers. They looked at what was on the market, they looked at the competition, they looked at financial projections and then they talked some more about the wedding experience Bagley wanted to create for her customers.
Bagley was confident of her vision, but relying on her parents for financing was stressful. “Jerry didn’t sugar coat it,” Bagley said. “He said, ‘This is what it means. Do you want to commit?’”
Starting from scratch seemed overwhelming, but after looking at financial worksheets and thinking hard about her business plan, Bagley said, she realized that was the only way to go. Fortunately, she said, Petrick and the SBDC was with her at every step.
“Jerry really took hold of our vision, and our dream,” Bagley said. “He’s literally been the guide for us along this journey.”
When Bagley opened Sincerely, The Bride, in a loft in downtown Vancouver, her goal was to create an intimate, romantic setting where brides could step outside their harried schedule into an experience where they could focus on quality fabrics, exceptional fit, classic designs and amazing customer service.
Not only was she on a shoe-string budget, but she had an impossible deadline to get up and running in time for the all-important spring bridal season.
She signed the lease on her retail space in September 2013 and headed to Chicago for the bridal market the following week. She was able to get sample dresses to bring back to the shop until her orders were delivered in February. Sincerely, The Bride officially opened on Dec. 14, and what she didn’t have in inventory, she and her daughter Sarah Turner made up for in customer service.
Helping others’ dreams come true is part of Bagley’s vision. Not coincidentally, it’s part of Petrick’s job description. Petrick said he’s been impressed with Bagley’s “entrepreneurial tenacity.”
“Lisa has utilized and continues to utilize many of the offerings we have at the SBDC,” Petrick said, from no-cost, one-on-one advising to business system training programs, such as becoming a cash flow detective. “She’s driven to make this work.”
Bagley, who left her graphic design business to return to school for a degree in fashion design, was mid-way through that degree when a mentor suggested that if she wanted to sell dresses rather than design them, she already had the fashion knowledge she needed. At the time, she didn’t necessarily have the business knowledge she needed, but with the help of the SBDC, she has been acquiring it—fast.
“These are the kinds of stories that make me excited to come to work,” Petrick said.
Find Sincerely, The Bride on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/sincerelythebride
WSU News: By Hope Belli Tinney, Washington SBDC