This is the latest entry in a series called Who Owns That? We've asked readers on our LinkedIn group to identify their favourite small businesses from across Canada, and we track down the owners so they can tell us their stories. Their answers are edited.
Introducing Patty Nayel, the creator of Pure Magnolia. The Vancouver-based company is committed to using sustainable fabrics to create couture gowns and bridesmaids dresses.
1. Let's start with the basics. Can you briefly describe your business, including when it was founded, what it does, and where you operate?
Pure Magnolia was founded in April of 2009. We make couture, eco-friendly wedding dresses that are sold through our studio, at boutiques across Canada and through our online store. Our Studio is located in North Vancouver, B.C. That is where we design, create, manufacture and sell our dresses.
All of our dresses are made locally from eco-friendly fabrics like organic cotton, hemp, sustainably sourced silks, natural fiber European laces, and many recycled and vintage fabrics.
In 2013, we launched a program whereby we accept donations of old wedding dresses of any age to be recycled into new dresses. It is part of our Revamp Project (more details can be found on our website).
2. What inspired you to be an entrepreneur and to branch out on your own with this idea?
I saw an opening in the market for eco-friendly weddings and thought I would give it a shot. It really grew organically (no pun intended) as I started making dresses in my last year of design school, upon graduation, I continued making dresses in the evenings and weekends, finding time around my regular job as a pattern drafter at a lingerie manufacturer. People just kept buying the dresses and loving the brand, so I kept taking orders and making them.
Three years ago, I decided to leave my full-time job to put all of my efforts into Pure Magnolia, which of course means being devoted to the brand on a 24/7 basis, in addition to dragging my husband and sisters in for help.
3. Who are your typical customers, and how do they find you?
I don't think any of my customers are typical! However, they seem to come to me for two different reasons. Some brides will come in because they love the look of my dresses; they love that they can customize the gown and really make it their own. They may want something vintage, or modern, or just different than what is in a regular bridal shop. Other brides come in because they want a sustainable wedding dress, they are looking for all natural fabrics or they want a vegan wedding dress (yes we do offer vegan wedding dresses).They are committed to their green lifestyle and want their wedding to be an extension of their personality.
4. What are the roles of you and your co-founder in the business? Do you have any employees?
I am the designer, sales manager and CEO of the business. At the beginning, I would do everything in the business from making the dresses, to keeping the books up to date. But as we have grown, we have added members to the team. My husband, an accountant by trade, helps me with the numbers and I have a wonderful full-time sewer, Mandy, who participates in the majority of the production process. We also have a small marketing team without whom I could never keep up with all the social media and blogging! During the summer busy season our team grows with the addition of seasonal sewers, a part-time sales person and a student intern.
5. You've been identified by one of our readers as a standout business. What do you consider the key element of your success?
My clients are my success. Without happy clients no one would have ever heard about me. Many of my clients find Pure Magnolia on Google, through Etsy, Pinterest or other wedding blog, but the majority of my local clients are referred, hearing about Pure Magnolia through word of mouth. It may have been from a friend, cousin, or sister that bought a dress, or through a completely random connection. The thing that they have in common is that they share their good experience, which is the important part.
Our vision is that of a fun process. Buying a dress doesn't need to be stressful and full of drama, as it might look like on TV. It is an easy and relaxed experience here, and my brides really appreciate that this part of their wedding doesn't need to be stressful.