Local female entrepreneurs collaborate to serve the bridal sector

Businesses create own ‘Dundas Bridal Guide’ 

DUNDAS COUNTY — Sharing a bridal industry bond, some Dundas County female entrepreneurs are building upon their common cause by releasing a bridal brochure highlighting a collaborative message.

Kelsea Fawcett. Courtesy photo

The shops in this rural area offer much to the prospective bride and groom: That’s abundantly clear with the glossy sheet that tantalizes with the possibilities of selecting every nuptial need through the collection of local enterprises specializing in different facets of the wedding trade: A combined dozen businesses are all pursuing a joint passion for the wedding trade in one way or the other.

Their eye-catching custom page resides on the counters of the involved businesses, where it is seen by the demographic walking into those establishments with marriage on their minds and dollars to spend. And it’s thanks to the modern and ubiquitous short-run colour printing technology that allows graphic designer Kelsea Fawcett — naturally one of the pamphlet participants — to produce her handiwork in the comfort of her own home.

“Every business has a different skill set that complements each other and it’s great to feel confident that we can recommend each service to our clients,” says Fawcett, echoing a sentiment expressed by all of the participants, who agree the cooperative approach is beneficial to their businesses and customers alike.

“Yes, there’s always there’s always value in working together!” she exclaims. “I think being part of this collaborative brochure and working with the other businesses will help expand our client base. I think it will be beneficial to help to pool our talents to benefit our shared clients. It is nice to see everyone working together to increase our opportunities and support our own local businesses and friends!”

Fawcett enjoys designing and printing materials for local businesses but especially loves to “unleash her creative side” by working with individuals “on a more personal level … I have a passion for working in the bridal market and my main goal is helping someone achieve a specific vision for their big day. From invitations and seating charts to thank you cards, we get to work collaboratively to tailor your custom design until it’s just right! It’s helpful to work directly with a person, be it by email or in person, to make the process a bit easier and to bring your vision to life!”

Joy to Share Decorating & Rental owner Francine Duncan came up with the brochure strategy.

Francine Duncan. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

“Forget all the people in the city who don’t know about the services available locally, there are many people around here that don’t even know about all that’s offered here in the township!” exclaims the savvy businesswoman.

“I just approached these 12 businesses first because I have worked with each of them and they were all on board immediately,” Duncan says of the dozen participants. “It’s good that we can all work together and refer each other.”

She adds, “When I meet with clients, one of the questions I ask them is if they are using real or fake flowers. If they say real flowers, I always refer them to the Planted Arrow [in Winchester]… I love her bouquets!”

“And when they need printing done, I always mention Kelsea Fawcett’s printing. She does mine!”

“I believe it is important to have a great relationship with everyone,” Duncan continues. “Brides-to-be can stay in this area and find everything they need. You don’t have to go to the big cities. There’s no need to drive to Montreal or hours away.”

“It’s a one-stop shop here in North and South Dundas. We have it all here!” she says, adding the collective brochure approach also allowed the involved businesses to save money by splitting costs 12 ways while ending up with a “more inclusive” guide.

Having moved her business into a sprawling new showroom building last year, Duncan foresees 2019 and 2020 as “big years” for Joy to Share Decorating & Rental.

The Dundas Bridal Guide (digital version, above); zoom in or pinch and zoom! Click on the cards of the community-minded enterprises to learn more.

Terrace Green B&B proprietor Annette Angus has been a big believer in cooperation among like-minded businesses for many years now.  “I spearheaded this seven years ago when I joined forces with Winchelsea to host events,” observes Angus. “I really agree that businesses should collaborate rather than compete. I always refer.”

Annette Angus. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

“It’s good that I know the other businesses and the quality of their services. As a certified bridal consultant I would only recommend the very best and Winchester only has the very best!”

Catering to the wedding sector is “fun” and “very exciting,” notes Angus, adding that Terrace Green B&B has been “capturing the bridal experience” for over a decade, on a stately country property that already enjoyed a reputation as a wedding destination as far back as 1937.

“I find it very satisfying to take part in such joyous occasions,” she says, also highlighting her focus on making it an economical experience as well.  “We have always tried to provide couples with a frugal but nice wedding.

“I always say it’s never a good idea to start a marriage off in debt with an over-the-top wedding.”

Kelly Windle of The Planted Arrow Flowers & Gifts. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

The Planted Arrow Flowers & Gifts proprietor Kelly Windle said her Winchester flower shop has seen 40 percent growth in its bridal trade over the last two years.

“We offer packages for budget-conscious brides, bulk purchasing for the DIY bride and bridal workshops for brides that want to learn how to make their own centrepieces or bouquets,” says Windle. “I love my job and making things pretty … We enjoy bringing each couple’s vision to light and seeing it all come together on their magical day.”

Operating within a “fiercely competitive” florist sector where big-box retailers are making their presence felt, Windle says networking and aligning with other small businesses is “key” to survival.

“As a small business it is very important to align yourself with like-minded businesses.  Having professional references for your clients to be referred to provides better customer service while promoting revenue to the other businesses.”

As for the dozen local enterprises highlighted in the brochure, she declares: “There are many reasons to work with these wonderful people and businesses; they have great quality products, provide amazing customer service, and sometimes I get to eat cake.”

The cake makers at Simply Baked Catering in Winchester agree with the sentiment. “It is preferable to work within your community,” say the owners Cheryl Beasley, Anne Carriere and Claire Faguy. “Not only with businesses that are complementary to each other but even other local businesses [in general] — even the competition or supposed competition can work together in the same community.

From left, Anne Carriere, Claire Faguy and Cheryl Beasley of Simply Baked Catering. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

“We can enhance the customer experience,” agrees Beasley.  “If we work as a group, we can become a destination for people outside the community as well as our neighbours, then everyone benefits.”

“Getting married is one of life’s milestone and a happy customer can lead to other happy customers and other milestones!”

And while the group’s latest marketing strategy is aimed at weddings, “it’s not the only facet of our business” at Simply Baked Catering, they note. Recently celebrating its first anniversary, the Main Street shop also caters business lunches, often collaborating with The Planted Arrow on a floral centrepiece for the event.

In similar examples of working together, Simply Baked Catering is experimenting with a breads made with grape skin powder from Stone Crop Acres (Morrisburg) and is working with The Heritage House Spa to enhance their customer experience, too.

“We have amazing local companies working together with a common goal to make the bridal experience as stress-free as possible,” says Kristie Barkley, owner of Winchester-based Barkley’s Shoes.

Kristie Barkley-Billings of Barkley’s Shoes. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

“When I was approached by Francine Duncan, my answer was a big yes to make a bridal brochure. I love working with other companies that have so much to offer. For a bride I can only imagine how nice it is to have all the information you need in one place,” she adds.

“Brides may know a few of the companies involved in the brochure but when everyone works together it gives them the full bridal package of what our local companies have to offer them that they might not have been aware of. We have amazing local companies working together with a common goal to make the bridal experience as stress free as possible.”

Barkley’s shop offers a great selection of shoes, sandals, and clutches of all kinds for the bride and bridal party. “Happy shoes make happy bride at the end of the night,” the owner also asserts.

“Weddings attract people of all ages who may not otherwise think to come and visit a winery. Once they visit, we know that they’ll want to come back!” exclaims Norene Hyatt-Gervais of Stone Crop Acres, which promotes itself as a reception, party and photo venue, as well as a place to buy wine made from the grapes grown in the vineyard on site.

Norene Hyatt-Gervais of Stone Crop Acres. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

“Our winery and vineyard has ties to the local agrifood industry as well as to the local arts and entertainment industry,” says Hyatt-Gervais. “We see our winery as not just a place to purchase locally made quality artisanal wines, but also very much as a ‘gathering place’ for family and friends to celebrate both the big moments as well as the everyday small moments in their lives. Having events like weddings, anniversaries, bridal and baby showers as well as birthdays, French classes, open mic nights and concerts are what give life and longevity to a local venue.”

Buying local strengthens our overall community ties and makes it easier and more convenient for those planning events,” she says on the idea of cooperating with other businesses in the area.

“Of course, working with your fellow business people whether in the bridal industry or other areas, it opens up everyone’s exposure,” agrees the owner of Winchester gift shop Samantha’s Emporium.

Samantha Chadwick of Samantha’s Emporium.

Samatha Chadwick says the brochure collaboration will help awareness about her inventory of items by drawing bridal traffic into her Main Street operation. “My shop offers other products and services and not only bridal, so this brochure also opens up my other business offerings to people who may not know what we can do to make any event more decorative.”

Adds Chadwick, “More traffic into a local shop benefits everyone, if we all work together in recommending the other businesses or provide additional service to those business it builds a stronger local core.  When we offer bridal products, this opens up our other lines of products that customers see in our shop.”

“There is a trickle down effect from wedding bookings to other potential events,” agrees Winchelsea Events Coordinator Liz Howarth, commenting on the collaborative approach.

Located north of Winchester on County Rd. 31, Winchelsea Events is “a growing business, and we are seeing an increase in wedding bookings for 2019 and 2020,” says Howarth.  “We are all booking weddings both here at Winchelsea and off-site, reaching from Ottawa to Morrisburg to west of Iroquois to near Ingleside. We are also seeing more couples from Osgoode, Russell and Ottawa area interested in our catering services, both here at Winchelsea and off-site.”

Natalie Brunidge of Heritage Health Spa. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

The Heritage House Spa recently moved into new digs on St. Lawrence Street in Winchester, where proprietor Natalie Brunidge reports the arrival of larger bridal parties thanks to the added space.

“Our bigger space also means bigger opportunity for new services,” adds Brunidge, also a firm believer in collaborating with other local businesses.

“We try to work with everyone as much as possible. We’ve paired up with many of our local businesses including The Planted Arrow for a special Valentine’s Day special.”

She also remarks, “If we didn’t have our little circle we’d be lost and so would our clients. If we weren’t connected we’d all lose out. This way it’s a win, win for everyone!”

“It’s all about keeping community people in the community!” the registered massage therapist exclaims, adding, “I like to think we have a lot more charm out here than businesses in the city.”

Annie Carrier-Gagnon of Dyad Imagery. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

“When it comes to the wedding industry, we believe that it is of the utmost importance that every trade works together as a team,” says local photographer Annie Carrier-Gagnon of Dyad Imagery in Chesterville.   “The stronger the team and the bigger your list of trusted vendors, the better we can support and guide our couples in finding the services that will be the right fit for their needs. Having a strong network of like minded businesses, helping each other goes a long way and keeps the industry healthy. “

The businesses in the brochure “are all owned and operated by women,” observes Carrier-Gagnon, partner in Dyad Imagery with husband Yves Gagnon. “We find it empowering to be able to be part of this group of proud businesses and be able to support and interact with them in the community.”

Weddings have always comprised an important aspect of the local photography industry, a market she describes as “very competitive.”

“But it is also one that has still room to grow in our area (North/South Dundas, Russell, Nation and surroundings). Our intention in participating in the brochure is to put more emphasis on this part and put our name front and centered as a strong contender in the region.”

The Dundas Bridal Guide (digital version, above); zoom in or pinch and zoom! Click on the cards of the community-minded enterprises to learn more.

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