Redefining the wedding dress

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From manufacturing bulletproof vests to sourcing gorgeous gowns for style-savvy brides, LOCA Bridal founder and CEO, Celicia Fourie’s career has been moulded by her love of textiles.
Nestled in Central, Port Elizabeth, Fourie says her store offers a fresh and unique approach to bridal wear in SA. Can you give some background on yourself and how and when you started your business?
After finishing my BSc degree in Consumer Science at the University of Potchefstroom, I made the brave move in 2009 to move to Port Elizabeth.
In PE, my journey started at Fieldswear – a family-owned business and bulk manufacturing company specialising in Protective Clothing and Bulletproof vests.
I grew up helping out at our main factory in Mogwase North West and that was where my love for clothing manufacturing and textiles as well as the love for business models, strategies and branding was born.
How was your business idea born?
Based on my own experience while wedding dress shopping for my own wedding six years ago, I noticed that the South African bridal gown shopping experience hadn’t evolved in decades; all the bridal styles were very modest, traditional and all the bridal boutiques had the same “big name” designers.
I saw a niche for modern, contemporary wedding dresses for the upmarket, style-savvy bride and to create a memorable bridal experience in a beautifully modern yet relaxing environment.
What do you think makes your business unique?
LOCA’s approach to bridal is a little bit different; we redefined the wedding dress shopping experience by straying from the norm of traditional bridal retail.
Our ratio of designers is 80% Proudly South African and 20% international designers.
Our mix-and-match approach is also very popular with our brides, where they can create their own wedding dress by adding or removing components on a dress, changing skirts, and adjusting tops and details according to their own style.
If someone wanted to take one key lesson from your business model, what would it be?
Our business model has changed a few times over the past five years.
I believe that in the retail industry one should be adaptable and flexible to change.
Finding a niche product and service, sticking to it, and focusing on your brand is key.
What are some of the biggest inhibitors your business faced before getting off the ground?
To be quite honest, I was so determined that my new concept would work that I ran over any thing that could possibly slow me down and stand in the way.
I exhibited at a bridal fair testing the market response six months before LOCA’s shop was completed and any stock arrived. I kept my audience’s anticipation through posting updates on social media, and once we were ready to start trading, we took off with a sprint and the response was overwhelming.
What are some of your biggest challenges in day-to-day business operations and your particular industry?
Every season brings new challenges in the bridal industry, but with our unique business model and experience in the fashion and manufacturing industries, we have some advantages that help us to resolve challenges effectively.
What is the best advice anyone ever gave you about success?
I often listen to podcasts and read a lot of business books. I’ve recently came across this advice by Lindsay Mullen: “Success doesn’t come overnight. The ascent toward your vision is long and steep, but only you can see it, so don’t be so hard on yourself. Start climbing and you’ll realise you’re on a never ending hike. Strive for constant improvement, not perfection.” How do you measure or define success in your business?
LOCA’S success is defined through customer satisfaction.
What are some of the best practices that have made your business successful?
I like to keep the three P’s in mind when focusing on our business; process, people and product.
Process: To give our clients a one-of-a-kind bridal shopping experience from the moment they visit our shop until the moment they collect their wedding dress.
People: Our customer relationships, we refer to our clients as our #lovelyloca’s and treasure our relationships with our brides, every client is part of our LOCA family.
Product: Creating and supplying trendy unique products/dresses of high quality and exclusivity.
What are some of the highlights of running your business?
It’s very rewarding to hear customers say “there is nothing like this” and to see how happy they are to have a LOCA experience.
How many people do you employ?
We are currently an intimate team of four people.
How do you motivate staff?
I believe that a good working environment within a company is key to keep your employees motivated. Simple recognition always goes a long way. Our small team shows appreciation and respect to one another. How did you acquire funding for the business?
I privately funded LOCA with money I saved.
Once you had funding, what was the first step in actually launching the business?
I am not a big believer in writing business plan’s for months/years before launching an idea. I launched LOCA based on the current market research I had at the time.
I knew that once I’d started trading, listening to our customers’ needs and feedback, would lead me in the right direction. I love any feedback, whether positive or negative and use that as a guideline.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your business journey so far?
Mind-set controls everything.
Most business owners lose that “spark” of self-belief after a few setbacks because they view failure as inescapable.
Yet, this is the most crucial time to work on reprogramming your brain to win, restructure your business model and take action.
What has been the greatest challenges and advantages of running your business in a city like PE?
Challenges: PE does have the reputation of having a price conscious consumer, so we have to strategise accordingly.
Advantages: It’s no secret that PE is known as the Friendly City, and with good reason, we work with the most amazing clients, having a business that is focused on customer relationships, good service and quality products brings you far in this big, yet small city...

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