Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Tina Wong, Founder of Grace + Ivory, located in Chicago, IL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Grace + Ivory, founded by a once-frustrated bride, is built on the belief that kickass womxn deserve better bridal. We are the try-at-home destination for wedding dresses, and brides order gown samples to their door directly from our website. Brides can order a sample to their home to try, return, and then order their own custom-made-to-measure wedding dress. We also host in-person bridal appointments at our Chicago showroom. By providing high-quality, customizable dresses at affordable, direct-to-consumer prices where every dress benefits women's programs, we create an amazing and bride-driven bridal experience. We are inspired by, dedicated to, and benefiting modern women.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Tina Wong, and I am the Founder and CEO of Grace + Ivory
a modern, curated, try-at-home brand of customizable, made-to-measure wedding dresses. After seven years working in foreign aid and business development for non-profits in DC, I took the leap to fulfill my passion for business done better and launched my bridal brand social enterprise in 2017. I lived in China for four years, which is where I developed relationships with the talented women who would become the dressmakers for Grace + Ivory. I believe that social enterprise is the future of good business and is the way forward to address global development issues. Hence, a portion of each dress purchased supports the Chicago Foundation for Women. I am a proud Chicago native (go Cubs!), dog lover, and Loyola Chicago alum who loves travel (six continents!), hiking, wine, and finding ways to support other ambitious women in the Windy City.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I would say building the brand from scratch and seeing it continue to grow is the biggest ongoing accomplishment. I remember dreaming about where I am today and hope to continue to grow my baby business. As it grows, the more we can contribute to women's programs.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
I would say the anxiety around not knowing what the future may bring for the business and how you may need to pivot. We make educated decisions based on feedback and what brides want, but things don't always pan out. Of course, there is business planning, but things don't always go according to plan.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
For growing a business, I would first focus on 3 essentials: branding, social media, and networking/ collaborating. Consistent and clear branding is key for people to recognize and revisit your brand. Social media is the biggest driver and cheapest way to build organic brand awareness as you get your business off the ground. Meeting others working in your same industry or adjacent spaces opens up a great word-of-mouth referrals and collaborations to mutually grow your businesses. It really takes a village, and you'll be surprised at how many people authentically want to work with you and support you!
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I am a supporter of moving away from mass production and fast fashion in whatever ways you can. It's unsustainable and harms the environment. A benefit of buying Grace + Ivory's wedding dresses is that it is made-to-order and measured. Meaning, that these are not mass-produced designs, there's no overproduction of dresses that end up in a landfill, and it's better for the planet. We're "slow fashion" but fast for the wedding industry — since we are made-to-order, your dress can be made in 3–4 months. I think the industry as a whole should move this way for the sake of the environment.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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