Belle Bridal is a small bridal boutique based in North London, run by sisters Jo Cowan and Claire Chapman. Specialising in selling sample sale wedding dresses, they help brides finding luxury dresses at discounted prices for their big day.
The company was founded when both sisters fell pregnant at the same time and took time off work for maternity leave. It was during this time that the pair explored the idea of becoming entrepreneurs and starting their very own bridal business.
They self-financed the business and operated out of Jo’s North London home — a money-saving option that gave them a personal edge. They began advertising at wedding shows and posting flyers through local doors. It was a slow start, but word soon spread, and more and more women were booking appointments.
Since 2009, hundreds of brides have received a tailored service from Jo and Claire. It was a pleasure to get the chance to chat to both sisters for our #WomenInSMEs campaign about their experience as female entrepreneurs:
1. Hi Jo, Hi Claire – we think it’s admirable that you founded Belle Bridal together! Can you tell us about some stand-out successes and challenges so far?
Every day, we are faced with new challenges and always take them in our stride. We consider every bridal consultation a success, as we are able to help each bride in some way on this exciting journey to their big day. Even if we haven’t been able to match them with their perfect dress, we have been able to advise and impart information that will allow them to make the right choice.
One particular success story for us took place just before Christmas 2018. Jo received a phone call from a very teary bride who was due to collect her dress that weekend from a shop but had been informed that the company had gone into administration. With less than two weeks to go until her big day, she pleaded with us to try to help. She came into the showroom the next day and found a fabulous dress, which we took to our seamstress immediately.
Fast forward ten days later and she had the most magical day of her life! For us, that is what makes this business so wonderful — being able to help someone when they need us most and providing an amazing result. Our greatest success is watching our families grow and spreading a little happiness wherever we can!
2. Wedding days are so important, particularly for brides to be! It’s great you’re able to help so many women find their dream dresses. What advice do you have for other female entrepreneurs starting out in business?
Be organised and don’t be afraid to ask for help and support — whether it be from family members or friends. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. There are so many outlets on social media that allow you to ask a question and before you know it, there are people reaching out to help. A good online presence is a worthy investment.
3. Thanks guys! Lastly, why were you drawn to the campaign, can you offer a comment on why you think it's important?
We believe that women should feel just as empowered as men to start businesses and that there shouldn’t be any barriers to entry. We love being small business owners and hope that we can play a small part in encouraging other women to enjoy the benefits of being an entrepreneur and doing something they love.