Pastel Dress Party is a Toronto-based fashion start-up that specializes in custom bridesmaid dresses, a company that was created by co-founders Karen and Janny after having many encounters with very limited gown choices—in particular when Karen “was the maid of honour for [her] sister’s wedding in 2012 and [she] realized there weren’t very many options when it came to gowns.” The entrepreneurial journey usually starts by pinpointing a problem that affects everyday life and then moves to finding a solution, which is what they did exactly. Not only adding a new competitor to the realm of formal dress, meaning more places to choose from for us, they also had the added aspect of customization, which is always a bonus because who would want to show up to prom having to play “Who wore it best?” Why not add some spunk to your ensemble and throw in more jewels or a crazy lace when you can?
When embarking on your entrepreneurial journey, Karen stresses the importance of gaining foundational knowledge behind what it is you’re planning on getting into. “Whenever I start something, I always have to learn about it. With a background in electrical engineering and a Masters in management science… I knew nothing about dress-making, and I felt that I needed to know the language in order to talk to suppliers properly and not get screwed over,” Karen shares.
Once you get a hold of the ropes, the goal then is to not get burned. More often than not, we pile things onto our plates, creating a greater inefficiency. Sometimes it seems as if “there are 50 million ‘priorities’ but that word shouldn’t be plural, it should start with one thing,” which is what Karen thankfully points out. Not only with fashion start-ups is this a constant problem, but students can relate to the problem of having too broad a focus as well when it comes to balancing schoolwork with part-time jobs and a social life. To combat this, Karen and Janny moved towards to-do lists, starting to tackle things one by one to ensure each step’s completion, a strategy they found to be a lot more productive.
Not only should your focus be narrowed, but it should also remain constant, paired with a determined mindset. “Fix your eyes on one goal and charge until you get there. When trying to achieve a goal, or trying to build a business, you will get demoralized and you will have days where you don’t want to get out of bed or don’t wish to tell anyone of your progress. So being okay with feeling shitty, and being able to get over it, this determination is definitely required for an entrepreneur,” Karen advises. “I think it is always a better fit to do something you get to create and try different things to see what works and what doesn’t,” Janny adds.
With finding something you’re most passionate about and building a career from it, you should never get discouraged. Trial and error is necessary on the path to success, so Janny instills that you should “never be afraid or hesitant of trying” because you learn so much from your every move. With your own business, comes the freedom of work hours. Some days you’ll find yourself so into your work that you finish at 3 a.m., which is what these entrepreneurs have experienced, other days you get 10 a.m. starts and room for dinner dates following. “I realized that if this is something you love to do, you really wouldn’t mind doing it seven days a week,” Janny relates.
The last piece of advice from these true #GIRLBOSSes would be to go for it and reach out to all of the people you know in your network. Coming from a fashion background, Janny knew nothing about the technical world, and all Karen knew was the operations side of it all; together, they truly make a great team. Humans are resources, each person having their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Without reaching out and talking to other people and growing your network, you never really know of the opportunities you could be missing out on, or even of the potential help that is surrounding you. So make sure to keep an open mind with a keen eye out for opportunity! Karen and Janny chose to leave their safe and steady nine-to-five jobs to take a chance on a career they knew they would love and find success in. This should encourage those of you who want to start your own business, but find yourself hesitant, to channel your inner #GIRLBOSS, follow these tips for a greater probability of success, and take the leap!
Photo credit: Jessilynn Wong