Guest blog post by Ruth Rawson, Creative Director at Isaac Charles Bridal House
Launching an independent on the High Street…
When I say the High Street, I don’t mean the main road through your local town. I mean the main shopping area of the UK’s second city: New Street in Birmingham. The sort of street where a small independent can easily be the best kept secret in town; it’s little shop front and carefully thought-out name anonymous against the powerhouse national companies that surround it.
But from the very beginning, my sister, Jo and I had plans; the sort of ambitious plans that require one or two calculated risks here and there. So within 3 years of starting up in Great Barr, we were taking our first major risk: relocating our business from the suburbs, to the city centre. An ‘eggs all in one basket’ kind of move, which would either make or break Isaac Charles Bridal House Ltd.
We didn’t need to relocate at this point at all. In fact, our business was ticking along nicely. Comparatively speaking, our overheads were low and turnover healthy enough. But as I said, we had plans. We could never reach the dizzy heights of being THE name in bridal retail from a small parade of shops in the suburbs. We needed the presence and location, and this meant being nestled amongst other strong brands that, by association, would help our business to grow and our brand become known.
So what makes us think that we, two Black Country sisters with a dream, will be able to build a successful national brand where so many others have tried and failed? Well put simply, we dance to our own tune; never constrained by tradition or expectation – we are proud to be different. Our USP is us. Everything we do is a reflection of who we are and what we stand for which is impossible for a competitor to copy, but more importantly makes us unique. If we fail, it will be because Jo & I got it wrong. We won’t be able to blame anyone else, and we’re more than happy with that.
Jo and I have not been exposed to any sort of entrepreneurial genius in the family. But what we did witness is a lifetime of hard work and integrity – traits which I’m proud to say, have stuck with both of us. Although not a ‘business owner’, our dad was self-employed and as such, was the ruler of his own destiny. His work rate and business decisions directly affected us. A good year would mean an exotic holiday. A bad year would mean extra over-time for mom so that we could afford any sort of holiday. Like our parents, Jo and I have a strong partnership with a shared goal – this cannot be underestimated when it comes to dealing with the stresses and strains of business.
It has been eighteen months since we launched our brand on New Street and I can honestly say it has been a fantastic move for us. We have transformed our business to serve our new and larger client base; restocked the store, doubled our team and introduced a world-class customer experience charter.
In April we became a double award winning bridal house when Greater Birmingham Chamber of Business honoured us with their Excellence in Customer Service and Social Media/Digital Marketing awards. Jo and I have also been shortlisted for ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ by West Midlands Women in Business, due to announced at an awards ceremony on 2 July.
So what now? Well we are currently looking for larger premises to become our Birmingham based flagship store. But as you know, a flagship is only really a flagship when it has a fleet to lead, so watch this space for an Isaac Charles Bridal House coming to a High Street near you!
If you would like to guest blog about your business for BrumHour check out this blog post here: