398: Creating a Niche As A Bridal Stylist w/ Selina Howard

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398: Creating a Niche As A Bridal Stylist w/ Selina Howard

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Today we have in the guest chair Selina Howard, founder and CEO of Vanglorious Brides. Getting her start as a teacher and side hustling as a wedding planner, Selina found her passion and niche in dressing brides. Today, Vainglorious Brides offers custom bridal shopping experiences, day of dressing services, bridal fashion event production, and more.

 In this episode she shares:

  • How she went from working for free and building her network to booking celebrity clients
  • How fostering strong relationships in the industry gave her the upper hand
  • How she pioneered bridal styling and created her own niche

Highlights Include: 

  • 00:00 Intro
  • 5:08 Becoming a bridal stylist
  • 11:22 The business of working with brides
  • 18:58 Building relationships in the industry
  • 26:07 Creating a niche in the market
  • 33:20 Recovering from COVID impact
  • 39:38 Scaling A Team
  • 43:02 Booking clients from social media 
  • 47:17 Expanding Black bridal market’s reach
  • 53:48 Advice for entrepreneurs

Check out episode 398 of Side Hustle Pro podcast out now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and YouTube

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Nicaila Matthews Okome 0:02

You're listening to side hustle Pro, the podcast that teaches you to build and grow your side hustle from passion project to profitable business. And I'm your host Nicaila Matthews. Okome. So let's get started

Hey friends, welcome welcome back to the show. It's Nicaila here and I am back with another awesome interview. Today in the guest chair I have Selina Howard Selina is the creative director and stylist for vain glorious brides. A boutique bridal styling solution for the modern bride, Selena started vainglorious brides on the side while she was teaching she got her undergrad and master's degree to become a full time educator. However, her events and planning and stylist talent was calling her. She started out as a planner and pivoted into this brand new world that she didn't even know could exist called bridal styling. And in today's episode, you'll hear about how she got started, how she educated her clientele about their need for this world of bridal styling. And you'll also hear the fact that she side hustled and for the first three years to not make any money from this business. So here's how she grew it out today. As CEO vainglorious brides, Selena offers custom bridal shopping experiences. They have dressing services, Editorial Services, bridal fashion, product styling, creative direction, and bridal fashion event production, so you name it. She also owns and operates vainglorious brides, the boutique, a tres salon based in Atlanta, Georgia. And you may have seen Selena and some of your favorite publications like Luna Lucci, brides magazines in New York Times, and even on TV featured on Bravo TV's blood, sweat and heels or VH. One Love and Hip Hop's the wedding. Her client roster includes celebrities like Eva Marcel of The Real Housewives of Atlanta Porsha Williams of the Real Housewives of Atlanta. Natori not enough power and so much more. In today's episode, we get into the real grit and grind that it takes to start out this business carve out a lane educate clients about their need for this kind of services, and scale. So let's get right into it.

Hello, welcome Celina to the guest chair. How are you? I'm

Selina Howard 2:30

well, how are you? Thank you for having me. You know,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 2:34

I am doing well. I'm so excited to chat with you. We met like what is it now? Five years ago? Yes, before COVID for the world lockdown. And before that I'd known about your business. I actually remember finding out about it after I'd already gotten married. Like, if I know I want to use her because it is it's hard to figure out what to wear on your own for your big day. Absolutely. Tell me a little bit more about how you got into this line of work because I understand. So you went to Virginia State University, right?

Selina Howard 3:08

Yes, the best HBCU and all.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 3:12

So you spend some time teaching after that. What was your original career path coming out of undergrad? Okay,

Selina Howard 3:19

well, initially I was in school to be a health scientist. That's what I studied for. I came out. I came out with my degree in Health Science. But then I decided to go into teaching. So that was about 2002. I graduated a year later I started teaching so I taught kindergarten through 12th grade health and physical education from about 2003 to 2016.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 3:46

Now vainglorious brides, you're celebrating either the 10th or 11th year depending on how you look at it.

Selina Howard 3:53

Depending on how I look at it. I thought it was 10 years, but I think it's 11 years.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 3:58

So it sounds like you were side hustling Of course. Now when did you get into side hustling you did event planning before styling so tell us how that came about.

Selina Howard 4:08

So like a lot of other event planners or wedding planners in industry who plan their own weddings. We become obsessed with the industry and decide to become wedding planners. But the way it happened for me is I decided that I will buy all of these things like I bought chair covers, linens, of candles, all this stuff. And my husband said well, what are you going to do with this stuff? Planner, so that I can use it and he was like, Well, you just need to you spend all this money on it. I said, I'm a wedding planner. So I think I planned about three weddings like entire wedding before I decided that I said you know what? I'm just not. I'm not in love with this whole process with like planning whole weddings, but I do love working in weddings. So what is it that I can do to still remain in a wedding industry but not Your wedding planner. So the first thing I said was maybe I'll do flowers. So I did one wedding where I did the flowers. I said, Well, this ain't for me either. I don't want

Nicaila Matthews Okome 5:08

it was it about wedding planning that you did not enjoy? Because that's an important part of figuring out your side hustle you guys, right? Figuring out what you don't like, what

Selina Howard 5:18

I don't like, I didn't like being in charge of everything. Like I didn't want to be in charge of every aspect of the wedding, making sure the whole entire wedding was the way I just I wasn't at all excited about that. And I felt like I wanted to work more intimately with the bride. So when I wasn't wedding planner, I used to attend the dress fitting. And then I realized during those fittings that wow, when I would watch like how the fittings would go when we would go dress shopping, that the brides really needed an advocate or someone who specialized in that area. And I said, Well, there's no one that really does this. So I started to analyze it. And for a minute I was side hustling doing both, so I planned like a wedding or two, I think and then I was still doing styling. So I had Selena Howard event, and I have inglorious brides. And I was a teacher. So I was trying to find my way like, Okay, I know you don't. You don't I don't want to be a wedding planner. But I think I think it was I'm trying to remember I had like two or three weddings still booked. So I needed to continue to you know, um, service that client. But then I hired a career coach, someone in the wedding industry who had been in the wedding industry, and to kind of figure out what I was doing and how I was going to move forward. And she said, You know what, if I were you, I would completely ditch Selena Howard events, and focus on vainglorious brides, because I'm looking at what it is you're trying to do. And no one really does this. I feel like the market is wide open. There are hundreds and 1000s of wedding planners. But I don't know if anyone does this, I think you should really focus on building this.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 7:06

I love that that was an excellent career coach and an excellent observation. And I want to just highlight for a second, that evolution that you went through. So sometimes when we start out on the side hustle process, and things we love about what we do and the things that we don't love about what we're doing. And sometimes we think that we still have to continue doing it. All right, well, why don't we reevaluate? So whoever you are, right now, as you're listening, if there are things about what you're doing that you don't like, take a second maybe reevaluate, do I really need to do all of this? Can I focus in on a particular area of this side hustle a little bit further, like Selena did? So I love that you did that. And what exactly is a bridal stylist? Let's take a step back for a second. So people fully understand if you actually if you've never gotten married before, what is a bridal stylist?

Selina Howard 7:57

I'm gonna beginning I didn't really even know what it was what I wanted to do, and I knew the service that I wanted to offer. So when I was sitting in those fittings and alterations and talking dresses, I realized that some of the clients, some of them were timid, they weren't, they were kind of afraid to speak up and say, No, I don't like that. Some of them were very overwhelmed or consumed by family members and friends who were in those fittings with them. And then just throughout the whole process, as when I had my clients, they just constantly needed something as it pertained to the fashion aspect of the wedding. And as a wedding planner, you're focused on everything. So you, you know you're not going to the wedding planner is not going to sit there and choose everything up to your earring and making sure you have the proper undergarments on you know they're doing your DJ, your catering your flowers, you know, your timeline, making sure your guests are, you know, it's just all of the moving parts. So when I started this, I said, Okay, so I want to be I guess what you would call a bridal stylist. So I googled it. And when I Googled it, I found two people who were doing it, I found a woman in New York, who was doing it and I found a woman in San Francisco, who was doing it, but I couldn't find anything current on the woman in San Francisco. And I looked up the woman in New York City. She's a bit standoffish. So I kind of left him alone. Do some research and I said well, vital salons go to something called bridal market twice a year where they meet the design different designers and purchase dresses for their stores. And so maybe that's a good place for me to kind of even get an edge on what's going on with the fashions and all of that. So I went to bridal market for the first time I believe it was 2012 and I met another young woman. Her name was lochia Lee, the bridal savvy guru. She also called herself a bridal stylist. You know, she looked like us. So I said, Oh, wow. I said okay, so her and I instantly became friends. I was like she's already doing it. Probably been doing it a little longer than me. So she kind of like took me under her wing and, and mentored me a bit and brought me on a photoshoot with Mona Lucci bride for the first time. And then from there, I kind of been moving ever since. And okay, kind of trial and error is how I become to learn what a bridal stylist is. So as of right now today, what I would say a bridal stylist is is a person who curates the bridal fashion experience for someone who's getting married. And that looks very different for everyone. So, I always tell people, there's no one way to style a bride because everyone comes to me with different needs. Whereas when you have a regular stylist, or a fashion stylist that may be styling celebrities for red carpet, they pretty much completely 100% blindly trust their stylist to just bring different things. But bridal stylist is different, because you have to consider what the bride wants what she's always dreamed of what her vision is, because one thing you don't want is 10 years from now. Because I say that woman picked my dress out, and I hated it. So bridal styling is a completely different dynamic than regular styling. So that's what I would define it as the person who curates the bridal fashion experience for someone who's getting married, however that may look.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 11:23

And I love that in creating this business, creating this role for yourself, you identified a pain point that you're seeing throughout the process of planning weddings. So you know, when a person is getting married, especially when they go for their bridal fitting. Often, there's a lot going on, depending on who you select to go with them. And brides Be careful or people getting married. Be careful when you bring people along with you. Because you have to remember their energy, even if you don't want it, it's going to influence your decision. Yeah. And I even feel bad looking back at it, you know, times when I've gone with people. And like we get swept up and we're like, oh, that's the one and the person is there clouded. And it's only when they've had a moment to sit in their thoughts or they're like, Wait, is this really what I want? Or is this right? Everyone else got excited about? So a bridal stylist is important because they can help you focus and just say, Hey, what is it that I want? What's my vision

Selina Howard 12:27

that I want and kind of like, what I've had to do was I've had to put a clause in my contract. I reserve the right to see services at any given point. Oh, people that you bring with you are not allowing me to do my job because yeah, sometimes they don't. And it's like they'll try to over talk you and yeah, no, I have relationships with different stores. And sometimes I'm trying to work stuff out or get an extra 10% off or get something that they're telling us we can't get. And I know that my client really wants it and I'm trying to like you know, work my magic and do my fingers I have people and you have people in the fitting now. We don't want this that don't wait they start all that I'm a kindly Have a seat and let your guests take over the appointment. So yeah, it's brides will stand near like a deer in headlights sometimes because it's like there's so much noise. It's you got your friends and your sometimes your mom wants to see you and what she's always envisioned doing. And they don't do any harm. Most times, it's all coming from a loving place. Right? But at the end of the day, you still want to make sure that you're not only getting what it is that you really want and what you really love, but something that's gonna look good on you something you can afford. Yeah. You know, there's something that even goes with the vibe of the wedding. Like you're getting married in a barn. You don't need a 20 foot poofy ballgown to dry.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 13:56

Yeah, I've seen someone get married in Jamaica and have this Victorian style heavy dress out like now girl look like the heat alone. So moving right along into so we just had to break that down for our audience. So tell me how you break it down for brides to let them know, Hey, here's another expense you should take on for your wedding. And here's why you need me. How did you handle that process?

Selina Howard 14:27

That was very difficult. I didn't get paid for about three years. Wow, I worked for free or for press to build relationships. For about three years. I didn't get my first paying client till about 2015. Wow.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 14:42

So how did you get that first paying client from a planner?

Selina Howard 14:46

LJ in New York. I always shout her out because she was the first planner to ever hire me. And she hired me for a celebrity client that didn't have a budget. She was like she doesn't have a budget. I said I don't care. Just get me in the room. I said I don't care. She has a budget. I said, I knew that this was something that nobody knew was because they were like, What is a bridal stylist? Why do I need that? And I'm like, I'm gonna have to physically get in there and show people what it is that I do and prove my value. So I told the planner, I said, Listen, I don't She Don't Need A Budget. I mean, you just need to be, let me do all of the things. So that was Demetria. Lucas of Ellenbrook Abell in Brooklyn when she got married. Yes, yeah. So I worked with that planner. We did her wedding. We had an amazing time. And from there that planner, a year later, no, I think after Demetri, I did end loving hip hop. That was the one where she had the two dresses and we had to choose the first time her Mendeecees got married, I did that wedding as well. We went viral. From there, she gave me an excellent review. And from there, that wedding planner that booked me for Demetria for her first paying bride to says I'm going to bring you on this Brian has a budget because a lot of brides was like I don't have budget for that. What is that? She has the budget. And I'll never forget that couple too, because I mean, they were good to us every time the bride for me, she gave me a tip. It was crazy. It kind of sets the bar really high. Because after that I was kind of like every time like is this what this is like every time we have a fitting

Nicaila Matthews Okome 16:21

every time appreciated. She

Selina Howard 16:25

gives me a toilet all the time. This is amazing. But I always tell people it's relative. Like, at the end of the day, having a wedding in general is a luxury experience luxury expense. We can all get married at the courthouse or in our living room and not spend more than 20 bucks or however much a marriage license costs for one to even consider having an elaborate wedding on elaborate affair to spend 10s of 1000s some people over hundreds of 1000s of dollars for a wedding, it's it's a luxury. So I always tell people is relative, my clients are brides. Number one, they either may be very busy. Okay, working, I get all types of clients who just don't have the time to sit and figure out I know what I want to get. But I don't have the time to jump around from store to store trying to figure it out, let me hire you because you're gonna tell me exactly where I need to go. You have the connections with this, this designer that I love, I want her to make my dress, you can make it happen, I don't have time to do it. Go ahead right on, you know, and get that going. So that's one way they come to us. That's very important to them. That's a luxury to them that experience. The other thing is they don't want to have to worry about anything on a wedding day. Because we come in there we steam everything we prep everything. You know, we make it so mom and bridesmaids can sit down and Kiki and you guys. Hey, while we're basically doing all of the steaming, the prepping, helping the bride get dressed and just moving out of the way for those shots for those prime photos. So our brides, it's relative to them, they want to have somebody guide them through that experience. And what I tell people is an average person will never hire a stylist. What better day than your wedding day to hire somebody to completely take care of and curate your fashion experience. Yeah, how you look. And I always say we got to make the aisle your runway. Yes, yes. One time in your life. All right, everybody look at me. And that's why we call it vainglorious. Because I feel like wedding days are like the most conceited days of your life. $20,000 on a wedding dress and invite 300 people to look at me so I'm saving my love. Why not hire somebody to make you feel even more amazing, even more special, even more catered to for that once in a lifetime moment. So that's what I usually tell my clients

Nicaila Matthews Okome 18:59

you just reminded me about another aspect of the wedding dress selection process that you often don't realize, unless you're going through it is that all of a sudden when you're getting ready to go to the salons, you have to figure out well what style of gown Do you want? And unless you're someone who's been dreaming about this since you're five you don't know what a trumpet verses are blah blah blah is like a ball gown. You're just like so now you go into the salon and they're asking you this like you know, like Oh, bring me these bring me that so it really will talk you through Yeah, right. We'll talk you might have pictures but

Selina Howard 19:39

sometimes the bride will say Oh, I know I want to I want to I want to mermaid I want to fit it dress and they get there and they put on a ball gown and they're like, oh my god I never thought I would completely opposite because I tried to get all my brides to try on the different range of dresses. Yeah, there are some brides who are like no, I will try I know what I want and they stick with the one thing that they I was very new,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 20:01

I was not going to be in a ball gown I knew it. I was I'm too short for that. I don't want no one thinking I'm hiding nothing. But then also another aspect is the fact that some salons they make you go out there and just start pulling, pulling through racks. And like, Yeah, you don't know what you're looking for.

Selina Howard 20:20

And then when that happens, and most of my clients are like, I trust the Lena. So I'll help them you know, I'll go in pool, I have relationships with a lot of the stores, especially in New York City. So they usually let me on the floor and let me go in the back and pull and look for different things that I think may work for the client. And if they really are smart, they'll just yeah, I get stores that push back. If they don't really know me that well, they push back against my presence, which is actually like, I'm the one that's gonna help you if she loves to dress I'm gonna fail sale. So it's in your best interest to kind of just, you know, work with me, but a lot of US allies 95% of them, they see me all the time. They can only come Celina hole and they take my input. When I make certain suggestions, or I say, you know, we're going to kind of stay away from this. Or even sometimes I'll tell them right, I'm completely honest, I had a bride that wore this dress, and it fell apart. I don't think different things like that happens. So sometimes your best friend or cousins that go shopping with you may not know or may not be able to tell you, I can definitely confirm the integrity of a lot of different dresses, or whether something is going to be difficult with alterations for us to get it to look amazing, right? So that's another perk to having a bridal. Okay,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 21:42

so now let's let's talk about how you built those relations with the salon. So you talked about how you educated brides. The other piece of that is obviously developing those relationships with salons. How did you go about that process.

Selina Howard 21:54

When the beginning Remember when I said I worked for free for about I did a lot of photo shoots. A lot of did a lot of stage and style photo shoots just to kind of have content build relationships with different vendors. So I would go into these stores and pull wedding dresses and borrow wedding dresses for photoshoot. So kind of giving them some free press, free publicity. I built relationships with designers and owners. And then once I started getting paying clients and booking the appointments, they started to know me from constantly coming in and bringing clients in. And from going to remember I mentioned bridal market. So I would show it to bridal market twice a year whether I had clients or not what's what's bridal market, bridal market is bridal Fashion Week. It's kinda like what New York Fashion Week is to the fashion world. It's a sort of brighter world. So that's where all of designers from all over the world, they come to New York, they host runway shows. And then they do their whole selling as well. So the stores from all over the world will come to New York to see their newest collections to purchase. So I love it. I will meet the stores, I will meet people from the stores at bridal market, they will always see me there at the time. I would wear my hair ball headed like a really slow speed. And I always have this purple lipstick on so everyone always. So the designers knew me from coming to the booth and talking to them. So just getting started out.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 23:19

Now you you obviously not working for free anymore. So when did you start? When did you start having recurring revenue and actually formalize this business

Selina Howard 23:30

one year after my first paying client? So my first paying client was 2015. I quit my teaching job February of 2016. Okay, so I don't even know if it was a year. So I had two brides that went viral. Shaq and drew say I do a lot of people remember that was Shaq? And then Makini. She flowers in the industry? Yeah.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 23:56

Remember? bikinis? Oh, shoot, vividly. Beautiful. Gorgeous. Yeah. Yep.

Selina Howard 24:01

So I had two brides that went viral. And I had so many consultations. after that. I couldn't even get up from my laptop for like two constantly trying to and I booked out my calendar for like, basically for like 2016 2017 And my husband was like, Well, I said, I wanna I don't want to go work no more. Because at this point, I was calling out for crazy stuff. I was calling out to go to conferences and taking all my days and just I will be halfway across the world calling people like, I got vertigo. Anything, and I just got to the point where it was beginning to be a lot for me to manage. So talk it over with hubby and he was like, whatever, you know, whatever you want to do I support you. I said okay, I'm quitting. He said quit.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 24:54

Shout out to supportive hobbies. If you're a small business owner, this is for you. Running a business is just plain hard, endless to do lists employees to take care of, and you're ever present bottom line. So first of all, kudos to you for staying on top of it. And now I want to tell you about gusto. Gusto builds an easier and more affordable way to manage payroll benefits and more. They help over 300,000 businesses by taking the pain out of tasks like automated payroll, tax filing, direct deposit, health insurance administration, 401k, onboarding tools, you name it. gussto makes it easy. And they really care about the small business owners they work with their support team is attentive and helpful. And since money can be tight, sometimes you'll even get three months free, just go to gusto.com/shp and start setting up your business today. You'll see what I mean when I say easy. Again, that's three months of free payroll@gusto.com slash SHP. Just like that, but let's break it down a little bit. Because you know, I know all of us a lot of people don't want to go to work, right? And then we got, we look at the bills, and we're like, alright, but we got. So tell us more about what it means when you booked out your calendar. And also when you had consultations. So what does that mean financially? Did you charge deposit for you know, having a booking on your calendar? Did you charge for consultations, in

Selina Howard 26:32

the beginning, I was not charging for consultations, which was like career suicide, in front of like constantly talking, talking, talking. And then let's just say if I talk to 10 people, only about four of them will book in a day. I mean, I'm not saying that book four people per day, but just given my ratio, it wasn't very high. So I said, Okay, well, let me start charging for consultations, because then you get more serious people. If they pay, the more likely, you know, that they're serious about your services, not just fishing for information. Because I got that a lot in the beginning, people just fishing for information or just basically trying to, you know, figure out what's going on are not really serious, or they didn't want to like pay. So once I did that, I kind of weeded out the people who were serious. And once they confirmed with me, yes, they sign a contract. And I have them sign a retainer of 50% up front, and they held their wedding date. And we began working with one another. So once I booked out my calendar for a year, it was enough for me to be able to sustain. And I like to always be very transparent, that looks very different for everyone, especially if you're not married. So Right. And there's a whole nother you know, income in the home. You know, if you're married, it gives you a little bit more room to kind of explain

Nicaila Matthews Okome 27:50

the bills in any way, you know, with a partner yet it gives you putting the

Selina Howard 27:55

bills with someone or you have someone that says okay, I'll pay everything, you know,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 28:00

that's another conversation, have a

Selina Howard 28:02

conversation. So it looks very different for everyone. So you know, I would just like to say, you know, if you get to that point, you do need to make sure you can sustain yourself the same as you would, you know, if you were still working your nine to five, if you decide to completely if you've decided to turn your side hustle into your main

Nicaila Matthews Okome 28:22

it's your main hustle

Selina Howard 28:23

conversation that you have arguments.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 28:28

You have to plan you have to plan for the leap. And so that's why I always just wanted to know a little bit more about what your process your thought process was in going into it, you know,

Selina Howard 28:38

I just felt like I had to jump because it was such a such a niche market. And then once it got rolling at that point, because we had went viral, I felt like I had to capitalize on that moment. And be won't be able to be 100% present and give my all to build, especially since there was no blueprint. So I was creating a process through trial and error. And as I went along to create something called bridal styling, which, you know, there was no one for me to cling to, there was no package for me to buy no template for me to buy a course

Nicaila Matthews Okome 29:10

No, you know, like, here's how, you know, it's kind of a business, nothing.

Selina Howard 29:15

So it was just, you know, so I just felt like I needed to do that. But in the end, it ended up working out because I did the same thing for my husband and he got to a point and the job that he was in that he no longer wanted to be there. And it was another job that he wanted, but he needed to quit and I was able to tell him to quit.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 29:36

Yes, yes. So love this about shit.

Selina Howard 29:41

So I did it for you know, he did it for me. I did it for him. He did it for me way longer. Right maybe it was like a month or two years. But, you know, before I was able to you know be able to say okay, I'm doing this I'm doing that when he was like don't worry about nothing. Just take All of the money and basically put it back into the business because you need to be able to do that too. Yes. So yeah, it's not easy, especially when you're creating a niche and a market, I would say, it is a bit easier for people who do something that's already been done, because you can basically follow a blueprint. Yeah, when you have to find clues you can find when other people have done, right, but when no one is really doing it, or you have one or two people who do it, but they're not really transparent. You're open to share, you know, you got to kind of figure it out.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 30:32

And that's why I'm so proud of you. Because I always knew it was a great idea. Like I said, I was wishing that I had known about your services when I was, you know, starting that process. But at the same time, I wasn't keeping tabs every second on what you were up to. So then there's some times when I'm just reading an article about, you know, celebrities wedding, and they're like, and we were we were styled by vainglorious. Oh my god

Selina Howard 31:01

the love and good energy for everyone who supported Yes, yes. Thank you so much for that.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 31:11

Okay, so let's pivot a little bit, okay, into the first years. Okay, so now you have quit your job. You are doing this full time? What were those initial years? Like as far as revenue, client consistency and? And how was that for you? It

Selina Howard 31:31

was pretty good. In the beginning, until I started realizing I couldn't do everything by myself, then it got difficult because I tried to do everything by myself for a minute, like I had one assistant, who would help me. But then once it started picking up, things started picking up, I had to get help. So I had to get assistants to help me on the back end to help me on the front end. But in terms of revenue, it was it's been pretty consistent. Like, I can't even complain about the consistency even now to this day. And then I started creating other revenue streams within that revenue stream. Like what I assist designers. So what I started doing was when designers would have trunk shows or pop ups or the designer, I started with the designer, Leah Gloria, where she would come from Australia, I would help her trip and find a location for her to host and see bytes. So that would generate additional income. And from that, I've been doing that all this year. I've done like four pop ups already. Wow, that's so cool. I had no idea. So I incorporated another revenue stream within

Nicaila Matthews Okome 32:40

that. What exactly do you get paid for in that revenue stream? Is it kind of like a commission structure? Or how does that work?

Selina Howard 32:49

Like, like planning, like planning,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 32:51

planning, okay, got it, got it, got it, planning it.

Selina Howard 32:53

But it's a fashion I'm okay with that planning. Because it's strictly fashion based. It's about wedding dresses is about making sure we have mannequins, the ranks a beautiful location that bride that brides to be would love to come to. And then also being there with the design on that day to kind of help cater to the clientele.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 33:12

That's most manageable. It's not dealing with all these rogue wedding vendors who you've never worked with in your life.

Selina Howard 33:20

Within that time, we also opened up a boutique in Atlanta. So we had a we had our own dress boutique that we are more prior to COVID. And the styling business was doing good. But that business took a hit. Because soon as we launched, the business was shut down. So we shut down in March, we had my launch party in February, January, booked out, we booked out the books like we were people were coming in for appointments, buying dresses that we shut down in March. So when we came back from that, what I was left with with a bunch of abandoned wedding dresses that girls didn't want to pay for, but I still had to pay for them. That's sort of from a business standpoint and how COVID affected us small businesses. Question

Nicaila Matthews Okome 34:10

here. So when someone puts the deposit on a dress, so the business itself pays for that dress, is what you're saying? Oh, okay, and then they pay it off. So you still have

Selina Howard 34:24

to get your dress we have to, we have to purchase it from the designers. Yeah. So we literally when you order your dress, we literally purchase your dress. Yeah, but then I had about eight or nine brides to just abandon their order, not make any payment so I still have to pay for that. So from that small business just getting started. We took a hit for that my styling business pumping, pumping, pumping, but that branch off of the business that took a hit. So we pull back from that from a bit where we structuring it. We're gonna launch bigger and Towards the end of the year, we're going to relaunch. Yeah, we took that little COVID hit. But you know, I took that on the chest. Yeah. It's the cost of doing business.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 35:08

Right. You know, sometimes we're able to get any financial relief via grants or loans. During COVID. We did

Selina Howard 35:15

We did enough to sustain to be able to pay the bills, even though we weren't having appointments. So yeah, we did, we did qualify, we did, we got a couple of grants. One of my good girlfriends was really good on staying on top of that, she was like, apply for this apply for grants, and we were getting those grants, and they were helping throughout. But for that it was such a huge hit for us, because we were new. And we were very small by appointment only really small boutique. A lot of these bridal salons are very big, you know, we were saying, but it's okay. Like I said, I took that on the chest. Business, and we move it forward. And you people, I call it the slingshot theory, you know, sometimes you got to pull him back the path forward. So

Nicaila Matthews Okome 35:58

I like that. Yes. And a lot of us go through those slingshots. For sure. Actually,

Selina Howard 36:05

just keep your head in the game.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 36:12

With the boutique now, so you're actually you're selling dresses, you're also providing the vital styling services. Yeah, so you're saying the bridal styling services still pump in, but the actual combat,

Selina Howard 36:24

I can't complain either through COVID. Like we were, I had rides that were that booked me, like in the midst of COVID and was like, I don't even know where my wedding date is gonna be. But I don't want to be on your calendar. I have one bride. We were together for two years, like, almost three years. But like she booked me 2019 Right before COVID. And she didn't have a wedding till last year. 2023. Wow.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 36:48

That was a span of crazy, crazy, we

Selina Howard 36:52

had been blessed for this to be like a niche, something that, you know, for us to do that is not done by a lot of people. I can't complain on the clients. I can't complain on that level of the business at all.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 37:07

Now you're basically originally from originally from Jersey, New Jersey? Yes, Jersey. And you you opened up your boutique in Atlanta. Why did you decide on Atlanta, because

Selina Howard 37:17

the designer that I was working with someone already was carrying her dresses in New York. And I also felt like I wanted to build up, I wanted to start building up a home base in other areas besides New York. And I thought Atlanta would be the second best place for us to kind of build this where we get the second, a lot of our clients come through the New York planners, but our second line is Atlanta. So I want to kind of like a home base there. And I feel like in terms of even for women of color, we do better business with each other. I feel like in the south, and then in the north. Okay, I feel like that, um, you know, it's just the amount of support. I feel like it's very different there.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 37:59

That's really cool. Now, are you encountering more celebrity clients in Atlanta? Do you have to kind of move differently in Atlanta as far as navigating and promoting your business?

Selina Howard 38:12

I feel like my celebrity clients 99% of the time comes through planners that I know and have a relationship with because they trust me. So we still get you know, we get those celebrities, they'll still come through and then they usually come to the planners. So that's

Nicaila Matthews Okome 38:29

been a really fruitful relationship. That's that's the key that I'm you are planning yourself. But then having those relationships with the planet was

Selina Howard 38:37

the other thing. And that was what the coach told me as well. She said, if you do want to grow, you can't be their competitor, you. The planners need to be your your, you know, you need partnering with them, your allies, if you're offering planning services, why would they bring you on board because you're you're a competitor. So that was the other thing that the coach told me and she was like, I think you need to pick a side and if I were you Eiling because this seems like it's something fresh new. Nobody's really doing it. But yeah, lose the planning because you got the planners are going to be your best friend. And she's right, our 90. Most of our clients come through planners that we have been loyal to. And they are in turn loyal to us.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 39:21

extremely smart, because I remember to working with a planner, when you're a bride what your planner says. You take it very, very seriously. It comes with a high like, oh, they know what they're talking about and do if they're using you as a bridal stylist, they do know what they're talking about when you're working with a trusted planner. So that is so so smart. Now, you also mentioned having to hire because you were trying to do everything yourself. And I'm sure when clients book you, they want to work with you. So how do you duplicate yourself?

Selina Howard 39:51

Well, sometimes from the beginning, they're not always quite sure about the process of what's going on and who does what any way, unless they've been referred to specifically by planner, we're able to kind of distribute, but for the most part, I still manage 95% of the weddings, I'm still there, we do have an associate who also has her own client base. She's based in Atlanta. So she was getting a lot of the brides who are coming through our stores. So they will buy a dress from us. And she will upsell the styling services and offer to assist them to finish the process their accessories, and to be there with them on the wedding day. So she kind of had her own client base. And she built her own report. So she started getting clients through referrals, because she would have a bride and then the bridesmaids will see her at the wedding. So they will call specifically requests for her. But what I usually tell people, if the date is open, I'm usually there with one or two of my assistants. We've had times when we've had three weddings on one day, it's three weddings on one day, I have to divide up the team. So I can't be at all have a wedding. So I'm usually at one wedding with an assistant. And then we'll have two more at another wedding. And two more, I don't know why. But what I do is I kind of warm them up to it, though, I'll introduce them and advance to whoever is going to be there with them and kind of let that person finish the process for that they're familiar or whoever's going to be there will come to their fitting the last fitting that they're familiar with them so that they get

Nicaila Matthews Okome 41:19

a moment with you because that's what I would want, you know, like, at least FaceTime with you, and then you're like, oh, this person's, you know, gonna hold it down on my wedding day.

Selina Howard 41:30

Yeah, you're managing I'm still there throughout the whole process, managing everything. I met the fittings, making sure everything. But if they booked me and I, especially if they booked me and already have somebody on that day, I'll tell them when they're booking me, I'll be handling your process, but we'll have another team on site for the wedding day. Yeah, so I love that. Painters are usually okay with it. Because they know my team and they love they know my team is

Nicaila Matthews Okome 41:53

yes, I love that approach to scaling. I think that's very, very smart. Because it just it allows you to still feel like slim, it cares about me, I got that personal touch. But I know she's busy. I know she's growing. So I get it that I she might not be there on the day. So I love that approach. And that's a tip for anyone who's scaling, whether it's a course or what have you, you know, how can you Where can you insert your personal touch, right? While also outsourcing to your teams, to other matters, like, get those wheels turning?

Selina Howard 42:20

Right? Always all My Brides, you know, I have my personal number and they text me, even though we might have process we do formally through our client management system, just so that we can keep tabs on everything and so that if I'm not available, someone from my team can jump in and answer an email. But they know that when they're in crisis mode, or they're like, I can't do this email with you today. I just need to know when is it coming? And he texted me, I'm like, I got you, you know, okay. They know I'm always a phone call or text away.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 42:59

Good, good. So now, before we jump into the lightning round, I'd love to know, how are you marketing the business these days? Like those who know know, obviously, right? But then there's always that brand awareness that can be done to bring in even more clients. So how do you marketing?

Selina Howard 43:16

Right? So social media? Instagram rules do really well, when I posted on Instagram real showing, you know, kind of like our process, or how we interact with our clients, we always get an inquiry or two every single time.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 43:30

I love it effective real? Yeah. Do you have a formula to that effective real that you plug in? really

Selina Howard 43:38

my thing is this because I'm seeing a lot. Like I said before they were anybody who sounds now is brighter stylists everywhere. Okay, tons of them. They're coming up everywhere. We even hosted a workshop for bridal stylists last year. But what I like to display in my rules is something I don't really have a formula I like to catch my clients and special moments, something that's very specific to them. Like everybody has a different personality, everybody has their own way. And I like to capture that and just kind of the voice of the reel will just basically display what our overall relationship was like the whole process. Like I had one bride we fought the entire time. Back and forth and she just was like, Oh my God, you don't care about me it was just like, oh, yeah, but when we got down to that wedding day, I mean it was just like two sisters and I said girl she was just it she was Jamaican so he will play like so my real for her. I put it on a real I was like listen, we fought like sisters. But let me tell you something. This my girl right here. She loves me and I love her. And I wouldn't have it any other way to be able home her wedding day. So it's kind of like whatever we went through throughout that whole entire process. How I feel about them like I have brides that are just different. Some of them are very soft spoken. They don't say much. They're just kind of very humble and very just like, just very sweet and very caring. And you know, and then I have other brides, they're just overly gracious, like, oh my god, I'm so grateful for you, I can't wait to our appointment. So I like for the rules to kind of mimic what our dynamic was throughout that process. And to kind of show people that, for me, it's more than just okay, we're helping you choose your dress, I know that it's a very personal moment. And sometimes you don't know what brides are going through sitting it when they're getting ready. Yeah, so just kind of be there for them. So they don't have to worry, one thing they don't have to worry about is their dress is very important to me. So I like to display that. So that's kind of like my recipe for real just to show the human side of what we do. That is just not one robot, it's not just about a pretty dress. No, everyone is not going to like everything you post, they're not going to be in agreement with every style that every bride wears, I don't care. What was happening is she loved her dress, and she loved the way she felt. That's it. That's all we care about. This is not like, I tell people all the time styling for the red carpet is completely different than styling for a bride, your styling their emotions as well. So you got to kind of remember that. So that's my recipe for my social media, if I don't feel it, I don't use it, like people say you should post more, I gotta feel it. Like,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 46:28

I gotta feel it. I feel that I experienced that as well. I'm big on energy and the vibrations that I have that day. And I only create content, obviously, when I'm in a good space. So I can batch create when I'm in a good space, but I can't, you know, schedule out content, but I definitely can't create when I'm in a negative space, I have to get out of that space first. So I hear that. And I like the approach of showing what it is because I feel like you can never educate people too much about what your business does. And you know who you are what you provide, because there's always gonna be someone coming for the very first time

Selina Howard 47:05

that don't know. And I constantly tell people over and over again, and I hope this year in terms of marketing, because I know you asked marketing, and I said that I primarily use social media for my marketing. But this year, we're going to be doing some other things. We're going to be doing some partnerships, some venues and hosting some different events. Because one of my goals has always been is to be more present and mainstream because I feel like wedding industry. And in terms of when we think of black love and a lot of people like to say all black love, but the caring is a black love are not really present in things. So like for example, if you go to essence Music Festival, you got makeup artists are being displayed, you got fashion, you got all of these people, but there's never a representation of people who curate black love. But if you see two people getting married and a famous, everybody's like, Oh, we love black love. We even had a docu series called Black love. Right? Right, right. What about the curators of black love, we are often left out of that conversation. So one of my goals has always been and I'm going to push forward that is for us to be more included in those spaces. And then those conversations on a broader stage with the TV people with makeup artists with hair stylists, with fashion designers, with the people who are just, you know, on the scene that we look at that we look to, for different things that for inspiration, because I feel like people don't know about us until it's really time for them to get married.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 48:42

So that's so true.

Selina Howard 48:45

Right is to kind of have to gain some strategic partnerships or to foster some strategic partnerships with some brands outside of the wedding industry, so that they know about us way before they get married. And I feel like that will kind of change the game and that will kind of elevate our brand and also elevate the status of black wedding professionals within not just the wedding industry. But you know, the broader stage that we all say,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 49:13

however, that my my wheels turning as you were speaking because I hear you in the sense that you may not be a bride or ready to get married. But you've heard about the knot. You've heard about different things like Zola, you may have seen a commercial in the back of your mind somewhere you associate Okay, Zola's weddings, but not as weddings. So in the same way how can we you know, elevate our brand so that there's that association like oh, you're getting married like oh, you need a stylist check out by me to investigate vainglorious brides. So that is definitely a growth and an important business goal that is also applicable to all of us as we're thinking and you know, don't get so happy with any level of success that you forget that hey, there are people out there who know these things. They're milestone brands, and they don't yet associate us with this space and they need to. So how can we do that? Right, one last thing on that now. So you've had major clients. So how does having, you know, helping someone like a Porsche, from Real Housewives of Atlanta being featured in people? How does that elevate your brand? Being that people is such a, you know, legendary brand, it's outside of just the space of black love for weddings, to cover everything? How does that help with that goal?

Selina Howard 50:31

Well, it kind of validates us, I would have to say, throughout this process, one of the things that I've struggled with is validation, not in terms of myself, I knew I know, what I do is valuable. But in terms of the industry, I even get people in industry who feel like what is the point of it? Um, why, you know, why? Why do you need somebody to do that? I can do it. You know, brides will say, I can do it, I'm on what is your point? Why would somebody pay you that? You even have people in the industry who think they can do it as well, you know, they're not really they're skirting around it. They're just doing little things that we do, but they're not really going deep with it. And you want to be the jack of all trades. You know, that's the thing I learned in the beginning, sometimes you can't be the jack of all trades, sometimes you got to scale back. But for me, to get to the point where there are these people, New York Times, Washington Post, essence, we've had features and all of these publications, it kind of validates our service, what we do is valuable. What we do is much needed in the industry. And any wedding planner that I work with will tell you that and it kind of elevates us and it keeps us on the books. So 1015 30 years from now my grandkids can look and see look granny was featured in publications, they can have all of that. And I've left my mark on history, wedding history, fashion history, because I've worked with different people. If you Google certain people in Google their weddings, our name will pop up. So yes, absolutely very necessary.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 52:10

And where do you see the business going from here? Will you continue to

Selina Howard 52:16

education? Oh, tell us more. Like I said, I see a lot of bridal stylists coming up now. So what we did last year, we created something called on the runway vainglorious bride. So remember, circling back to bridal market, what I did was I rented a luxury jet Sprinter van and I opened up for for aspiring or current bridal stylists, who have never been a bridal market to come to bridal market. And I'll show them how to bridal market. Nobody showed me I had to figure it out on my own. So they they tack them they some of them to one girl flew in from the Bahamas, one from Miami, la from New Jersey. So we have three ladies. And they came around with us hot from runway showed a runway show. And in between shows. I did little mini workshop sessions. So different styles and relates to bridal styling, I touched on any questions that I had about starting their business, running their business becoming a bridal stylist, they were able to pick my brain for two days. So that was just the beginning of it. So oh, we're gonna host a full two day bridal styling workshop experience for anyone. And I feel like that's necessary because I do want to maintain the integrity of what it is that we kind of got going over the last 10 years. Because again, this space wasn't there were people here and there that were doing it but on a broader stage in terms of celebrities, branding yourself a vital style. No, no.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 53:46

I love it. So now let's transition into the lightning round. You know the deal just answered the very first thing that comes to mind. You ready? Okay, I'm ready. Speaking of education. So what is a top resource that you can share with the side hustle pro audience that has really helped you with vainglorious brides. You too? You too. All right, was that

Selina Howard 54:10

just looking at different ways of service servicing clients? sewing, learning how to hand sew,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 54:20

zipper learning

Selina Howard 54:22

all those different types of things, little things like that.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 54:25

True, true. Okay. Number two, who is a non celebrity black woman entrepreneur who you would want to trade places with for a day and why

Selina Howard 54:35

my girlfriend, Alicia Reese,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 54:39


Selina Howard 54:41

Because she gets to host all of these amazing events, but she also gets to be in a space with so many different people who have lots of different businesses that they've started and she gets to talk to them and coach them about how to grow and maintain their business and even how to speak for yourself. Have, she just gets to meet the most amazing people and she's just like a bubble of light. I would love to take over her to get to just be in some of the places that she's in and meet all amazing people that she meets. Number

Nicaila Matthews Okome 55:11

three, what is a non negotiable part of your day these days?

Selina Howard 55:17

meditation, meditation, meditation, meditation is a non negotiable I gotta Yes.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 55:26

All right. Number four, what is a personal trait about Selena that has helped you be so successful in business

Selina Howard 55:34

consistency. I've been since I've started this, I've been extremely consistent about relationships. So I will say consistency with building and maintaining and fostering and nurturing great relationships is a good trait that I have, which has brought me from the very beginning to now we could

Nicaila Matthews Okome 55:51

definitely see that we could see that with the relationships you have. And then finally, number five, what is your parting advice for our listeners today, who want to be their own boss, but are worried about losing a steady paycheck,

Selina Howard 56:05

find something that you love to do find something that you enjoy to do. And within that something, figure out a need that's missing, that needs to be met, meet that need, and you'll never go broke? That's pretty much what I did. And I think that as long as you have a need, there are people who need whatever it is you have. And you just always have that goal with that passion, and the consistency to foster and maintain great relationships. That's all a recipe for success. So scale it down to the finest, most minut part of whatever it is that you love. Like what is it that I love? And then exploit that one little thing? Goldmine,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 56:49

goldmine. And then where can people connect with you? And vainglorious brides after this episode? You

Selina Howard 56:57

can connect with me on Instagram at vainglorious brides. Yep, our website www dot vainglorious brides.com. I'm also wanting to be on Twitter as vainglorious bride on Tik Tok as interest and Facebook as and what Selena Howard as well. So

Nicaila Matthews Okome 57:21

you guys, you heard it here first. Thank you so much for being in the guest chair Selena. Thank you. Thank you for having me. Of course. Let her know you heard her on side hustle Pro. All right. And with that, I'll talk to you next week. Hey guys, thanks for listening to side hustle Pro. If you like the show, be sure to subscribe rate and review on Apple podcasts. It helps other side hustlers just like you to find the show. And if you want to hear more from me, you can follow me on Instagram at side hustle Pro. Plus sign up for my six bullet Saturday newsletter at side hustle Pro, that CO slash newsletter. When you sign up, you will receive weekly nuggets from me, including what I'm up to personal lessons and my business tip of the week. Again, that side hustle pro.co/newsletter to sign up. Talk to you soon.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Meet the host:

Nicaila Matthews-Okome

Hi! I’m Nicaila, the Creator and Host of the Side Hustle Pro Podcast. I started Side Hustle Pro when I was a side hustler myself. I was a digital marketer at NPR by day, side hustler by night. Through the powerful stories shared on this show and the courage to launch my own initiatives, I was able to quit my own job and go full time with Side Hustle Pro.

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