Kelsey Doorey is the founder & CEO of Vow To Be Chic, one of the leading bridesmaid dress rental sites. In an AH-HA moment (and after multiple roles as a bridesmaid), Kelsey thought how easy groomsmen had it when renting tuxes for weddings. At the time, there were no bridesmaid rental agencies or sites and there are still none that hold a candle to the fabulous brands that are carried by Vow To Be Chic. She saw a need in an industry, created the site and has now doubled in size since inception as well as signed-on the most notable designers…. All in less than 2 years and before the age of 30.
We spoke with this accomplished woman entrepreneur and have the interview following:
Andrea Campbell: Did you just luck into your first bridal-related job?
Kelsey Doorey: It wasn’t luck, but maybe it was fate! I was a rower at Columbia University in undergrad. One year, I got injured first breaking my foot and then my arm–I was out for an entire year. Since I am not good at sitting still, I needed something to do during my free time, so I decided to do an internship in wedding planning. I have always loved weddings and wanted to help people with one of the most important, and happiest, day of their life.
A.C.: What was the deciding moment when you saw the impetus for the wedding rental biz idea?
K.D.: I went to a wedding in Colorado from New York. We got off the plane, headed up the mountain and my friend, who was also in the wedding party, stopped in a store for 10 minutes. Only $150 later, he left the store with his rental tuxedo in his hands. I, meanwhile, had spent $300, 4 store visits and quite a few hours investment getting my bridesmaid dress. It was pretty clear at that time–women were lacking the same option as men–and I knew something had to be done!
A.C.: For other young women, what type of plan do you suggest in order to be your own business owner?
K.D.: Use as many resources as you can get your hands on. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from others who have done it before you or have more experience. Get as many opinions as possible and then–trust your gut. And, whatever you do…..don’t take no for an answer!
A.C.: What personal characteristics do you feel helped you to get ahead?
K.D.: My tenacity and persistence–though my parents may tell you it is a challenge for them. Determination is imperative. You are gonna have tough days–as soon as you think you have things under control and everything is working in your favor–you are thrown a curve ball that you wonder how you will overcome it. Passion and belief in the business and mission, plus reliance on your team, friends and family is what keeps you going.
A.C.: Was going back to school the right choice?
K.D.: For me, yes. Going to UCLA Anderson gave me the time and opportunity to work on my business plan. It also gave me the courage and strength to make it happen because I had access to some great business minds and people who motivated and encouraged me. While it is not necessary for all entrepreneurs–it is something that I look back on and believe was instrumental to my success.
A.C.: What’s on the horizon and, are you going to use any wedding gowns yourself?
K.D.: We are continuing to grow the business and the team to keep up with customer demand. I am very excited about our past growth and what lies ahead. Bringing awareness that women can rent bridesmaids dresses is always top of mind. We plan to launch a few extensions in the coming months, so keep your eyes open. Personally, I have a few weddings that I am a bridesmaid in and attending this year and my friends obviously choose dresses from Vow To Be Chic.
Here are some other interesting facts about the industry:
- 11 million US bridesmaids annually, spending $2.6 billion on bridesmaid dresses
- $1,695 spent on average per bridesmaid; $234 per dress
- On average, a woman is a bridesmaid 3x in her life
- 9 out of 10 bridesmaids never wear their dress again
- 75% of women would rent a bridesmaid dress, 2x the number who rent clothing online today