Women of the Wedding Industry Wednesday with One Oak Bride
Why are we so intimidated by successful women?
Like, for real.
I can't be the only one who is guilty of this, and these emotions.
Like, why do we think it's craaaaazy when girls and women decide to quit their jobs and pursue something that pulls them towards it? Why do we harsh their mallow and tell them shitty statistics like "Well you know, 92% of startups fail in the first year. You know that right?" Or, "Well that'll change when you have kids", or "I bet your partner makes a lot of money" or "This will make a great hobby", or "Did you go to school for that?"
Why do we think if someone is doing really well for her age/status/looks/class/education we suddenly aren't doing so great?
Why do we think if someone has a different style, work space, family dynamic, financial situation, vacation time, geography, or social network than us, that their work success isn't somehow 'real'.
Why do we feel the need to nitpick eachothers lives sometimes, and feel like we're entitled to judge how women balance success with things like; relationships, family, money, giving, friendship, health, and all of the other things we are called to balance in our lives.
How come, when we're in a place of thinking like that, we don't just step back and say damn, I bet that woman works really hard. I bet she worked really hard to make the choices she made, that led her to owning a business, being an entrepreneur, living out a creative pursuit, or making a decent living. Why don't we give her the benefit of the doubt with thoughts like:
I bet she lost sleep.
I bet she lost some money.
I bet she lost some friends.
I bet her family gave her some shit.
I bet she struggles.
I bet she's lost some contracts.
I bet she's just trying to do something well, without messing up every other day.
I bet I could be her friend.
Or at the very least, I bet I could encourage her.
Or, I bet I don't know her as well as I think, but I bet she's pretty alright.
Or even, her business is not for me, but I bet someone out there is really digging her chili. And that's great.
For whatever reason, we have a hard time with successful women. And I can't be the only one that thinks that.
So hard a time that we have to write, publish, and read bestselling books where women justify their success to you. A stranger. We have to have podcasts on how to be comfortable with success, and we have to be surrounded by a bunch of weird polka dot kitsch with GIRLBOSS written on it in gold modern calligraphy to feel like we belong to some club we don't hold a card to.
We're intimidated by successful women. And I don't know why, when we hide behind cheerful girl power statements all day long. But it's harder, right, when you're confronted with living, breathing, successful women when they live right in your town?
I was intimidated by Annie and Renee.
They were two Traverse City girls that felt a little untouchable, and so damn successful. I knew nothing about them except that I loved their bridal shop, One Oak Bride, and their style, and I wanted to meet up with them but I was nervous.
I was hoping we could eventually collaborate on a creative editorial project, and I could feature one of their dresses in a shoot, but I was like, a ball of nerves when that day came and we met for happy hour.
These two girls. Would they think I was stupid? Would they hate what I do? Would they turn me down for a project together? Would they make me feel like I wasn't in the same exclusive world they seemed to dominate of indie, trendy, artsy bridal couture meant for a confident and discerning bride?
Annie and Renee are successful, by my measures at least.
They opened a brick and mortar bridal shop. THEY OPENED A DAMN BRICK AND MORTAR SHOP. ON FRONT STREET. IN TRAVERSE CITY. WITH INVENTORY. Praise be.
Their branding is solid. They dress well, speak well, write well, and together, they make a really cohesive team. They are gorgeous and do yoga and seem urban AF in a small town. They represent pragmatism, and seem to be built for traditional business, and "fluffy business" just as well. They are concise, and confident. Again, what I think of people is always up for interpretation when they read this, but these things I felt super sure about.
So what happened when we met for drinks?
We ordered drinks.
We shot the shit. We talked business, and then life, and then where life overlaps business.
They told me about bookkeeping. We talked about our mutual ideas for creating a more curated wedding event experience for creative professionals and the couples who will actually hire them. We talked about our mutual idea for a bachelorette trip planning service that wasn't lame AF.
From there, we did a project together. We played kickball together during the summer. We emailed. Then texted. And as will happen sometimes in this industry, we went from acquaintances, to friends.
To think of them as intimidating now makes me smile. Because they are still doing their business with the same creative approach they always have been. And they are still concise in emails. They are still driven and evolving their shop. But they are human. Human girls who love to wear ponytails and chill at home. Girls who throw up middle fingers, and have insecurities, and bitch about work, and have other passions and hobbies outside of the wedding world. Girls who wear other hats and do other jobs, who also want to collaborate on projects, who also are multi-passionate. Girls who are sometimes insecure, and girls who are figuring it out one week at a time.
When I think about how female intimidation is different than traditional masculine intimidation, I realized, this isn't a power thing at all. Annie and Renee didn't intimidate me because they are big and strong with loud voices and violent natures.
They intimidated me because they had confidence. And I didn't. And having confidence I think, is what will get us to a point where we can appreciate successful women without depreciating our own sense of self worth.
Because people tell me I'm intimidating, all the damn time.
Even my mom told me that once and it made me cringe. She said I intimidate her because I go after what I want relentlessly. Ryan, my now husband told me that I intimidated him because I could get along with anyone, and that's why he never asked me on a date. An old friend told me I intimidated her because I was happy, and that's why she was a bitch to me sometimes (I love honest people). But I have a love hate relationship with my intimidation factor. I know I come with a sizable personality. I know I am fiercely attached to pursuing things I need to do. I know I'm extroverted and that I'm decent in most social settings. I know that I am confident in many things. And I know that can make people feel uncomfortable. And maybe even intimidated.
But guess what? I also sweat a lot. I don't own any adult clothes. I have flatulence. I fail at something every day. I wear glasses. Not like the cute hipster kind. I have hair on my knuckles. Reading is legit my only hobby. I didn't get asked to prom. I didn't make our varsity volleyball team. I don't own fancy things. I am often insecure. I have sharted, I think 3 times so far in my life.
And my business is going okay. Not the best, but better than I could have imagined last year when I started it. So I hold onto that and figure it out as I go.
I don't know how to make you not intimidated by successful women, because I don't know what your version of success is.
I don't know how to give you confidence, and I don't know how to help you start a business.
I don't have any advice on comparison and jealousy that comes from watching other people follow their dreams and try something and maybe excel at something except to say, if you see someone do something and it stirs an emotion in you (jealousy, comparison, envy) then maybe, just maybe you should start exploring what that might look like, retrofitted to your life.
But I can give you stories. Of women. Doing their thing in the wedding industry.
That's my little bowling lane right now and I'm committed to doing it even as wedding season picks up ferociously. I'm committed to being here on Wednesdays and sharing some of my favorite women-owned creative businesses (against some advice, after all "vendor referrals" are a marketable and sellable service for wedding planners and I choose not to give a fuck, thanks).
And in doing so, I hope you can root for the success of other women, and you can chase after your own version of it unapologetically. And those "intimidating" women, ask them out for a drink hunny.
with Annie and Renee of One Oak Bride
Vintage One Oak Bride.
You built a dynamic business on something that you two have never done before (sell dresses) and yet you both kind of naturally fell into different roles and then bam, launched. Obviously it's a lot more complicated than that, but for those who don't know you, can you share more about the One Oak Bride process as it was becoming?
We like your description better, it is more succinct than we can ever get it! Our stories begin separately, going through the wedding planning process at the same time as the career planning process. We both had entrepreneurial dreams and noticed a lack of our style and vibe in the Northern Michigan wedding market at the time. Alas, we wondered if NoMi was ready for an indie bridal shop. Our stories merge one sunny spring day when Annie found out Renee had the same idea and proposed a partnership over brunch. After that meeting, we really hit the ground running. Nine months from that handshake, we opened our doors. It took us awhile to catch our breath, but we are loving it.
Annie and Renee in One oak Bride bridesmaids gowns at Brys Estate Secret Garden, photo by Sara Clark of Dan and Melissa.
I was so inspired when I learned how you built the space out from scratch, and how your family helped build some pieces for the shop. What did it take to open a brick and mortar store on Front Street?
We loved building the space out and appreciate you for appreciating it. We were pretty deeply committed to another place when we saw this space listed. We visited it hours later and through salmon pink walls and 80 year old carpeting we could envision the end result. Renee's sister and Annie's brother helped us pull out the carpeting. Renee's mom and Annie's mother-in-law helped us paint. Annie's parents hung the wallpaper wall. Renee's grandpa handmade all the wooden furniture. Our couches came from Annie's great aunt in Arizona. The lights around our mirrors from Renee's mom's basement. And we can't forget our husbands who helped every step of the way, from painting and clothing rack building to making endless runs for tacos and beer. There is literally not a surface that does not have a personal touch by ourselves and our families. So what did it take? A village. An actual freaking village.
The gorgeous One Oak Bride shop
There were a few amazing resources available to you at the time you opened, can you talk about those community resources and how they enabled you to open a shop?
It honestly felt like kismet when we were going through the opening process. When we were working on the business plan there was a SCORE workshop that might have literally been titled "Build a Business Plan." When we were looking for financing there was "How to Finance Your New Business." It was there we first met Laura from Venture North. Even after having gone to a couple banks, we came full circle back to Laura and ended up getting our funding there. In addition to attending the workshops, we visited SCORE mentors. We also talked to trusted family, personal mentors, etc. It was amazing to find out how supportive and open our community was to the idea. Most of us don't have true business partnerships, it's just us and it's lonely AF sometimes. What is it like to have a creative, business, and personal relationship with a business partner, how did you define roles, and what is your day to day like?
Our combined skillset was the main reason we chose each other as business partners. Annie has a fashion business background and Renee has a business management background, but we are both weird mixes of creative and analytical. We've always led first with asking 'what aspect of this do you enjoy?' and tried to create our respective roles based on that rather than trying to wear a certain hat that doesn't quite fit. For instance, we tend to think of Annie as the creative half, but she also does all of our bookkeeping. The girl loves balancing the books and can spend hours reviewing the P&L. Renee is our marketing gal, but she also grew up designing her own prom and homecoming dresses. Her fave was a 1950s style polka dot gown she wore to farewell freshman. The point is we love having the space to create and recreate and organize and reorganize as we see fit. It keeps everyday interesting and the workflow still feel fun. It is also very special to have someone else going through literally all the same highs and lows as you. When you're stressed and think no one understands the pressure, there is literally someone sitting at the desk two feet over going through it too. The same can be said when you accomplish something big. Only one other person can truly understand the blood, sweat, and tears that got you there. We are also pretty great about understanding the ebb and flow of things. We trade the rolls of cheerleader, pessimist, optimist, motivated, stressed, anxious, devil's advocate, and on and on.
Renee and Annie, by Mae Stier
I was mad jealous when you went to New York for Bridal Week. What have been some of the exciting "we own a bridal shop" moments since your opening?
Ha! If only you saw us the first two years we went to market! It was such a far cry from glamorous. The first year we went, we couch surfed on a friend's couch (cheers, Meg and Caleb) that lived in Hoboken, which is a solid hour train/bus/walk from all of the market action. We slept only a handful of hours each night and probably looked pretty ragged. The second year, Annie had just had her appendix removed the week before and our Airbnb was a solid 30 minute walk from most of our appointments. Needless to say, again, we probably looked pretty ragged again! I think we finally had our moment last year. We upgraded to a decent hotel that was only a 5-10 minute walk from all of our designers. Although every year we have many pinch me moments in New York, our favorite was last year when we attended a rooftop party overlooking the Empire State Building, drinking fancy cocktails, talking about business ownership and life with other women designers and shop owners. One of the things that seems inherent in the fashion industry is meeting women in a vulnerable space when they come to try on clothes. What are women insecure about? How do your personalities and passions play into helping women find the right dress for their body?
It is such a vulnerable thing and we hear it all. Women are insecure about everything from things you might imagine, like height and weight, but it goes way deeper. Things I hope you can't imagine, like elbows, collar bones, backs, calves, etc. It happens everyday where we'll think a woman looks killer in a gown and she'll pick out a perceived flaw that we never would have seen in a million years. Our passion is helping women move past that and embrace their bodies. We choose our dresses because they are flattering, stylish, comfortable and designed by women with probably similar insecurities. But ultimately, we want a woman to feel amazing-- like an elevated version of herself and not at all self-conscious. If that means an elbow hiding sleeve or clavicle-diminishing neckline, so. be. it.
A One Oak Bride, Lillian Wild dress , photo by Josh Hartman Photography.
What are each of your personal styles. I consider you to each be in the Top 10, Red Hot Best most fashionable gals of Traverse City. Where does your fashion, art, and style sense come from, or where did it develop? AND DON'T BE MODEST.
Omg. Can't even take you seriously on that, but thank you none the less! Renee would call her style comfortable, androgynous, minimalist, chic. She doesn't shop much, but instead invests in classic pieces. If she's looking for something trendy she loves a consignment find and good hand-me-down. Annie's personal style started when the Delia's magazine magically started showing up at her house in grade school. She would cut the pants off one page and the tee from another to create outfit inspiration boards. In high school she would sew skirts and bags for friends and spend hours at the bookstore looking through fashion magazines. She has always felt the need to create, hopping from one hobby to the next, but fashion is just the one that stuck the longest. Similar to Renee, Annie doesn't shop very often and is very frugal. Her closet is filled with pieces that can mix and match so you'd never know how small it actually is!
One Oak Bride is located at 121 E Front St #108, Traverse City, MI 49684. You can make a bridal appointment online at http://oneoakbride.com/book, and follow along their journey at @oneoakbride.