"Do you have your prom dress yet?" That seems to be the question on every girls mind who is in their Junior and Senior year right, and was definitely the topic of conversation last night at dinner with the Inspiring Teens Magazine Teen Board of Awesomeness!
3 of the girls are so fortunate to not only have their favorite dresses selected, but to be prom consultants at the brilliant boutique up the street - Darianna Prom & Tuxedo! Last summer we interviewed Wendy as part of our First Issue, but then decided that this issue would be much more appropriate since Prom is only right around the corner!
I feel blessed to not only know Wendy, but to have worked with her on so many amazing collaborations! Read below of how her store isn't just a business of selling dresses, but how she gives back to the community in so many of her collaborations!
She recently threw a huge prom event, where the winner, Teresa from William Tennent High School won the title of PROM QUEEN after being voted in by her peers! Wendy pulled together a fabulous prize package that included flowers from Blue Violet Flowers and Gifts and some other amazing gifts from Salon Zen and Bella Sorrell among others! We are so fortunate as to get to photograph Teresa and her friends for a 2 page spread in Issue 3!
Read more about Wendy, Darianna Prom & Tuxedo, and so much of her beautiful mission below!
Adult/Business INTERVIEW by Heather Dobisch
Name: Wendy Ianeri
What are you involved in/give a basic summary of what you do?
I am involved in the business mostly, but I also make other connections so that the business grows. I want to make sure we’re growing a community. So, I am involved in the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce and partnered with Saint Jude in the Partner in Hope organization where we give on a monthly basis. Lastly, we are involved in Wish Upon a Wedding and partnered with CPI for CHOP. It’s not a completely necessary part of the business but just a part of who we are as people.
What opportunities do you have for teens?
The teens that work here grow and mature quickly. They learn how to talk to all types of customers and make connections in order to sell. Also, they get a good a sense of neatness and overall prescience - what looks good in the windows, around the store, and __________. They learn phone etiquette and how to make connections to people without actually seeing them. They learn how to better communicate whether it be over the phone, over emails, or in person. They learn how to deal with problems in a very professional and calm manner.
What inspired you to be a part of what you’re doing/create this/start this?
The catalyst of the entire thing was that my daughter kept getting invited to proms. In 9th grade she got invited to one, in 10th grade she got invited to one, and in 11th grade she got invited to three. I asked myself where do we go? It was either the mall of King of Prussia, an hour away, or all the way in Bensalem. Driving to Bensalem, I decided Bucks County needed a prom store because of the large population of teenage girls due to all of the high schools in close proximity. Also, a prom store would help the parents who don't necessarily have time to be driving hours to buy prom dresses.
Did you have anyone specifically that inspired you to get your business rolling out?
Pretty much just Daria. But then I thought of the school populations and realized there is a definite need.
What were the steps you took to achieve your goals?
We decided to do this in July or August of 2013. So, we committed and signed the lease in September. We didn’t have a background in this business so I did a ton of research in designers, lines, what girls are buying, etc. I went online and read reviews of other bridal stores, particularly what people were upset with and what people are complaining about. I tried very hard to not do those things. That was all to be successful. Then, obtaining the financing was difficult. Next, hiring the right staff was huge because when you’re not in the store, they are your face. Another obstacle we faced was networking and figuring out how to let people know we’re here. The Facebook page and the photos were a huge step in marketing. The organization of everything was very difficult, but as things came to mind, we prioritized. A partner was extremely helpful in getting everything done. We reached out to CPI and tried to get things going and it became a huge boost to our beginning. It jumped us immediately onto peoples’ radars.
What challenges did you face?
Well, getting the name out as a bridal store was very difficult. It is difficult for a bride to buy from a new store because there is a little nervousness that comes along with a new store. We needed to communicate that we are not going out of business and that we are here for the long hall. The Best of Bucks win in 2014 helped immensely because people realized that, even though we have only been open a short time, we were very good at what we do. One other challenge was the fact that I was locked out of some of the best bridal lines; I couldn’t carry some of the most popular gowns, so I had to get around that and find other lines that were just as good to make sales.
What advice would you give to someone trying to do something similar to you?
If it were a bridal business I would suggest getting a fashion degree, knowing garment construction, and knowing fabrics. In business in general, there is a focus and a drive that some have and some don’t. You have to make sure you have a leadership quality. Everything is on you and there is no one you can blame. It is your baby and you have to love this thing every minute. It is a difficult balance when you have a family, but you have to learn balance. Mostly, love what you do and when you don’t love it anymore, find something else to love.
Has this given you connections to other opportunities you may not have had? Like what?
I definitely love that I get to go to New York Fashion Week. Also, we did the Red Ball Gala with the CB Chamber and getting the opportunity to be on that committee was something I never would have gotten to do. I guess really what it has given me is a real understanding of how many other women have businesses. I have connected with so many more women now. Just recently, I met a woman who does live action paintings and another who has her own graphic design company. It teaches girls that they can truly do anything and be anyone they want to be.
How has this helped you personally?
It’s pretty incredible when people stop me at Wegmans and they know who I am. It is very humbling when I get a thank you note from a bride. Each little victory gives a tiny bit more confidence. I am still nervous and I still second guess some decisions, but happy reviews and customers give me a lot of joy. It is very joyful to be a part of someone’s day like that. I am all of the sudden friends with people I would have never even met. It has expanded my world in a very happy way.
What’s next with what you’re doing/what are your plans for the future/what are you looking forward to?
Well, the new store is opening soon and we’re turning this store into a prom store. The expansion is really what we’re focusing on right now. We are looking forward to it, definitely, but staffing two stores and learning how to deal with it is definitely going to be difficult.
What is the best way for teens to contact you?
Come in to the store, check out the dresses, and see what we’re all about!
Is there anything specifically you are looking for help with, hiring for, mentoring in, etc. right now?
We are always looking for good sales people and good help. We have a seamstress, but to have someone who wants to learn about sewing would be amazing. I am always interested in having good help.