Monday, September 7, 2015

Insider Interview: Sarah Dillingham of Wedding Dress Sample Sale

In our next Insider Interview, we chat to Sarah Dillingham, founder and director of the Wedding Dress Sample Sale about changing careers and entrepreneurship.

1. What’s your usual working day like?

 My typical day falls into two categories:

I'm either helping our boutiques and newly weds create affordable dress listings on Wedding Dress Sample I'm talking with brides on social media and helping them discover the perfect designer dress that fits their budget.

During wedding fair season you may find me at a Chosen Wedding Fair or Vintage Wedding Fayre. Those are the days when I'm up at 6am, putting together racks of dresses and cursing my iZettle (online payment device - the wifi always goes down when you get a sale!).

Whatever I'm doing, I get to look at stunning wedding dresses day in and day out.

2. What was your dream job when you were younger?

I always wanted to be a journalist, so it was rather odd that I ended up in IT for 20 years!

After shelving that ambition for so long, I'm quietly chuffed that I have written two ebooks ('How to Buy your Wedding Dress' and 'How to Sell your Wedding Dress').

3. What's the best piece of career advice you've been given?

Opportunities don't always come when you expect them. Keep an eye out!

4. What's your number one style tip?

Be comfortable. Be yourself. Buy quality over quantity.

5. If you weren't doing the career you are now, what do you think you would be doing?

Probably still working in the City doing IT. I'd still be miserable too.

6. If someone was looking for a career change into your industry, how would you propose the best way is to start?

Get out there and talk to people. The bridal industry is pretty friendly so take the time to build genuine relationships and listen to what people are telling you about brides, the market and wedding trends.

Be realistic with yourself about whether your business model will work - how much do you need to charge for your product or service to break even? Remember to include the cost of sales e.g. advertising, wedding fair fees and travel.

If the numbers add up, then go for it - retrain, flex your existing skills and don't let anyone stop you.

I left my IT career due to burn out and decided to focus on my other love, dressmaking. I started a stall selling upcycled dresses and had a great time working at wedding fairs for a couple of years.

It was a natural step to combine my contacts in the bridal industry with my tech skills. I set up Wedding Dress Sample Sale to help brides find affordable wedding dresses.

There's no way I'd have known this was even an option when I was working in my corporate job.

Sometimes it's hard to imagine the future - you have to make a leap!

7. What's the best thing about your job?

Looking at beautiful dresses, chatting to excited brides and hanging out with wedding industry friends. Our conferences are something else - the cakes alone are incredible!

8. What's the toughest part of your job?

Keeping out the counterfeiters. I regularly say no to people wanting to advertise poor quality counterfeit dresses via our website. They can be very persistent which is tedious.

For this reason, we started a Quality Mark badge for genuine sample sellers to display on their websites.

9. Most proud career moment to date?

I'm proudest of the lovely feedback I've had from both brides and boutiques.

There are so many brides on tight budgets who fret that they won't be able to find the dress of their dreams. Knowing that I help to connect them with that perfect affordable dress is a great feeling.

10. Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

Sitting on a beach somewhere sipping a cocktail.

Right now, we're looking to expand Wedding Dress Sample to the USA. There's no reason why we can't include Canada, New Zealand and Australia too.

When that happens I'll be heading straight for Bondi beach. Purely for research purposes of course. People get married on beaches don't they!?!? is the UK’s first website exclusively designed as a store front for Bridal Boutiques and Designers to promote and clear their sample stock, along with Newlyweds to sell on their pre-loved sample wedding dresses to savvy brides on a budget for up to 70% of full retail prices.

Read more insider interviews here and look out for our next Insider Interview.  


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