By Hope Belli Tinney, Washington SBDC

gownVANCOUVER, 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.

 

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Sarah Turner, left, and her mother Lisa Bagley.

Her parents, who 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, Wash., and crunched the numbers. They looked at what was on the market, the competition, financial projections and then talked about the wedding experience Bagley wanted to create for her customers.

From scratch with no sugar

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 realized that was the only way to go. Fortunately, she said, Petrick and the SBDC were with her at every step.

“Jerry really took hold of our vision and our dream,” she said. “He’s literally been the guide for us along this journey.”

The Washington SBDC (http://www.wsbdc.org) provides one-to-one advising, resources and training to small business owners across the state of Washington who want to start, grow or transition their businesses. The service has been hosted by Washington State University since 1981 and receives funding from both WSU and the U.S. Small Business Administration. Additional funding comes from local offices of economic development and institutions of higher education.

Cinderella budget, fairy tale results

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 schedules into an experience of quality fabrics, exceptional fit, classic designs and amazing customer service.

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Window display at Sincerely, The Bride.

“This is a special occasion,” Bagley said, “not just a dress-buying expedition.”

She figured she’d need about $160,000 to make it happen, but she got about half of that – mostly in loans from her parents – and she still made it happen. Not only was she on a shoe-string budget, but she faced 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 got sample dresses to bring back to the shop until her orders were delivered in February. Sincerely, The Bride (http://www.sincerelythebride.com) 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.

Reviews have been glowing; for example:

“As the mother of the bride, I give Sincerely, The Bride 5 stars. Lisa welcomed us after our long day shopping at other stores with warmth, kindness and champagne. This boutique is everything you dream of and think of when you start wedding planning.”

‘Entrepreneurial tenacity’

Helping others’ dreams come true is part of Bagley’s vision. Not coincidentally, it’s part of Petrick’s job description. With 13 years of experience as a small business owner and small business advisor, his job is to help small business owners find, acquire and master the tools, resources and expertise they need to accomplish their small business goals.

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Store display in Sincerely, The Bride.

Petrick said he has been impressed with Bagley’s “entrepreneurial tenacity.” Although she was sole proprietor of a graphic design business for years, she had never owned a retail store nor had to worry about inventory, cash flow, leases or promotions.

“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 is driven to make this work.”

Business acumen the icing on the cake

Bagley left her graphic design business to return to school for a degree in fashion design. She 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.

Recently one of Bagley’s clients asked if Bagley would bring the gown to the wedding and help the bride get dressed. With her portable steamer in hand, Bagley was part of the wedding excitement, making sure everyone looked their best.

“I loved it,” she said. “I love what I do.”

“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.

 

Contacts:
Lisa Bagley, Sincerely, The Bride, 360-953-8523, lisa@sincerelythebride.com
Jerry Petrick, Washington SBDC, 360-578-5449, jerry.petrick@wsbdc.org