Spotting a gap in the wedding market was a quick way to business success for Megan Ziems. So quick, in fact, she admits she was shocked when she realised it was unrealistic to maintain her day job. With experience in sales and branding for a French lingerie company – and having worked closely with production and design – launching the bridal dress label was a natural next step for the effervescent Australian-based businesswoman.
Today, Grace Loves Lace has a strong global following, and women can walk into one of its showrooms in a number of cities, from Sydney to LA to London, with the business having tripled in size in the past two years. So how do you manage rapid early organic growth, and sustain that success over a decade and across the world? Megan shares with us her business rules.
Be first and be proud
It was completely intentional to design a product that looked different, was constructed differently, was styled differently and sold differently. The idea for Grace Loves Lace came about in 2010 when I was looking for my ideal wedding dress. To be honest, I couldn’t believe there was nothing that I liked out there – there was nothing worldwide that suited my style.
I found it surprising that the industry was so stale, and I was disappointed at what the industry was doing in regard to pricing. Brides really didn’t have much choice. So I thought, I can do this.
It was important to me that I had a beautiful collection at an accessible price point. I was confident that I was filling a gap in the market. I felt I knew what women wanted, so I went gung-ho. I kept it very small and simple to start with, and I had a very strong mission.
We take everything in-house: design, cutting, sewing, quality control, customer service, dispatch, marketing, sales – the lot. It’s important that we run it ethically and keep our finger on the pulse throughout the entire journey. We don’t mass produce or do anything off-shore; we don’t sell low-quality fabrics or over-mark our collection.
We firmly believe in our quality, our product and staying true to our core values. Everything we do has to be ethical. We’re all about making luxury wearable and accessible worldwide. We also sell exclusively through our own channels, and that allows us to maintain the accessible price point, which is very important to us. We’re not in retail stores. We very much control our brand, from every aspect.
Find your niche
We have such a strong community, and my team will tell you that I’m always hammering home what we’re about, what we do, and what we do differently. It’s so important to me that we keep that top of mind.
We don’t sell to brides; they are not our customer base – it’s women. It’s a very specific woman, and if she’s not that woman, she wants to be that woman, so that’s our marketing strategy. It’s authentic; it’s very much who I design for.
Finish the job
It’s important that we carry everything through from start to finish, not just to the point of getting the sale. Grace Loves Lace is a company that prides itself on customer service and the customer experience.
I think that’s something that really sets us apart – and I think that’s something that can easily be forgotten in business. You can have an amazing product, but if you don’t have the service to match it, it’s pointless. That’s something we pride ourselves on from a business point of view.
Look after your team
We adore our team and we have a great work environment. We believe in rewarding, having incentives that are achievable, and lots of extras. We support our team with training, monthly physio massages, lots of team cakes sessions, and general support daily.
I’ve acknowledged that everyone is incentivised by something different – not everyone is drawn to money. So that comes down to having a good team environment and having enjoyable events, functions, dinners and morning teas. It can be something small or something big. We celebrate our team – plus we have product incentives too.
Celebrate the wins
My biggest mistake was not celebrating wins, right from the start. I wish I had taken time out to acknowledge successes – big and small. Mind you, I’m still guilty of that now. What makes me most proud is how we have handled growth.
It could have sunk us, but we committed and ran with it, and we are always – every day – looking at every aspect of the business to ensure our product, service and direction stays ahead. We have so many things happen on a small and big scale in here every week, so I try to stay down to earth and not get caught up in all these amazing things we’re doing. I want to make sure that internally we’re still moving forward.
Staying passionate is crucial – and being able to have hard conversations while maintaining great relationships. At the end of the day, you need to be always thinking ahead, considering the minor and major details.
Business isn’t for everyone, and I pride myself on committing and handling stressful times well. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Luckily, I’m extremely passionate and have so many goals for Grace Loves Lace, so that’s the easy part. Your team feeds off your passion.