Step into Jessica Bridal and be greeted immediately by a feeling of calm, elegance and spaciousness. This beautiful bridal boutique headed by founder Jessica Yu and located at the top of a narrow escalator at 255 Broadway, is so much more than your average wedding shop; it is a place where any bride could find the dress of her dreams.
Verve chatted to Jessica about running a business, and some of the things that make Jessica Bridal outstanding in its field.
What sparked your interest in wedding dresses, and when did you realise you wanted to pursue a career in this area?
I started out my career working in information systems, but after my own wedding realised that I loved wedding dresses, and so changed industries and started working in the bridal business. After about five years of learning the industry, I decided to go it alone, and opened Jessica Bridal. We are now agents for five different global ranges, plus manufacture our own line, under three different labels.
What influences the way in which you operate?
My first store was located in Kinglsand, where I was for six years. The business had its ups and downs and I found that I learnt a lot especially from the down times. I constantly needed to think of ways that would make the business work better, and how to adapt to fit in with a younger generation’s way of thinking and doing things. I try always to listen to my inner voice and do what I believe to be the right thing.
I just love travel, seeing new trends, and exploring the wedding industry outside of New Zealand. It is such a pleasure for me to be able to use what I have learnt from my travels to improve my own business.
I also find that believing in myself is a daily motivator too.
What fascinates you at the moment?
I am besotted with lace, lots of different laces. When my suppliers show me new designs—I can’t help myself and just have to purchase them for my own ranges. I am crazy about hand beading as well.
What do you feel is unique about the service you offer?
When clients come to Jessica Bridal we want them to feel really special—so we serve from our hearts. We believe we carry the widest range of dresses in New Zealand, over 300 ready-to-wear dresses, plus we design and make dresses inhouse. We enjoy developing close relationships with both the bride and her family. One of my families has seven daughters and I have dressed six out of the seven on their wedding days. (The seventh daughter is not married yet.)
How do you want a bride to feel when wearing one of your dresses?
We want a bride to feel as if they are wearing a million-dollar dress, the prettiest they have ever felt. We want them to feel unrestrained happiness—and for them to enjoy just being in the moment with their new husband.
What is the biggest lesson that you have learnt since you started your bridal business?
When you run your own business, you are the leader of your team. The way you behave and the way you think influences your staff and other people with whom they come in contact. So, if you have a bad day your team might very well also have a bad day directly because of you, which in turn is not good for business.
I try therefore to always behave in a positive, courteous and considerate manner! This is something that is very close to my heart.
What advice would you give to novice entrepreneurs starting a new business?
Keep learning new things. Never give up, push on. It takes three years to become an expert.
Your brain needs a break so take care to sleep well.
Have a hobby outside of the business. I play the guzheng and love to ski.
When you arrive home in the evening—relax. I love to have a glass of wine and listen to music.
What role do you think social media plays in the bridal business today?
Social media has greatly reduced the distance between clients and the business, and while it does not fully replace other platforms like magazines and websites, it is really important in the bridal business, and offers a quick way to react to brides, their questions and opinions. We use Instagram for our daily stories and Facebook for events.
Jessica – three tips for brides-to-be?
Never over-shop: Do your research then narrow this down to a few favourite shops.
Enjoy the moment: On our wedding day, we try so hard to achieve perfection in a world that is never perfect; so, let go of the worries, and enjoy the moment, as the day will fast be over—and then it is gone!
Make your own decision: Before finding the right dress, you will probably have many opinions offered by family members and friends. But always remember it’s your day, so while respecting their opinion, don’t be afraid of making your own decision even if it is not the most popular, and once you have made that decision let that be it and move forward.