One Step at a Time: A Small Business Owner’s Journey to NY Fashion Week
In just four years, Chantel Galloway went from selling a handful of wedding dresses out of her 500-square-foot apartment to showing a collection at New York Bridal Fashion week. From humble beginnings with one sewing machine and a two-person crew (Chantel and her husband Tyler), the Chantel Lauren brand is now distributed by 25 retailers around the globe.
How did she make the leap? One step at a time.
“We have seen so much success for our little dream in just four years,” says Chantel. “We view all of the baby steps we’ve taken as massive success beyond anything we imagined. I’m confident in my skills I’ve worked hard to perfect. Every day I learn something new and see how I can use it to make my business stronger, better, and sustainable,” says Chantel.
Take Baby Steps
In 2014 Chantel and Tyler moved into a home with an unfinished basement where they worked tirelessly developing internally before unveiling the Chantel Lauren brand at New York Bridal Fashion Week in 2016. There they booked 11 stockists from all over the world, launching the brand into its first business space with additional employees and upping production to just under 300 gowns that year.
Two college dropouts, newly married with no credit to their names, Chantel and Tyler couldn’t qualify for a loan but did the best they could bootstrapping their budding business. Both worked minimum-wage jobs and Chantel took side jobs doing alterations for local brides. They saved and purchased what was necessary along the way, but they needed working capital to keep pace. After three and a half years in business, they came to Lendio and qualified for financing from American Express. The financing has allowed Chantel and Tyler to keep up with the expense of sourcing quality materials and growing their brand at such a rapid pace.
Chantel says developing her brand is like walking in a dark room with her hands stretched out just hoping she stumbles into the right path. “There is no handbook, no guidelines, and no one to really show you how to start a business,” she says. “All of our successes have come from a few errors made to know what was right.”
Work Hard Every Day
Since the day she wore her self-designed and constructed wedding dress, Chantel aspired to create edgy, free-spirited dresses for other brides. She believes every girl deserves her day in the spotlight and that an original, handmade-with-love gown is the foundation for that unforgettable moment.
Each Chantel Lauren design is made to order in an extensive process that sets it apart from traditional dresses. Using fabric from around the world, sketching designs, hand-drafting patterns, and modifying fits, Chantel creates a unique experience for every bride. Her 2018 line features simplistic country elements that tie back to her Texas upbringing.
Chantel knows that women in business face struggles their male counterparts do not, but she isn’t afraid to face the challenges head on. “I know there are incredible disadvantages in the workforce for females … but I’ll just continue to crush it every day,” she says. “In my industry of bridal fashion, most owners are female but that does not make it easier. The drive and creative flow makes each designer unstoppable and intensely competitive.”
Her advice to aspiring female entrepreneurs: work hard, and be nice to others, but be true to yourself. “If you want to do it, I mean really want to, it’s not easy. It’s not glamorous. It’s not fun and games with a pretty sign on the outside of a building. It’s an incredible amount of hard work, unimaginable amounts of tears, and late nights resulting in exhaustion. You can’t be afraid to hurt people’s feelings because you will,” she says.
Keep Knocking on Doors
Through all the highs and lows, Chantel says the key to her success is avoiding self doubt. “Doors will be slammed, but just knock again in a few days, or better yet, wait for them to come knocking back. They always do,” she says. “You cannot have self doubt when it gets dark or you won’t be successful. I just stay in my line, get things done, and people respect it. My continued growth and success will speak for itself.”
What keeps Chantel going when times get tough? “The thought of the two of us, with our future family, sitting on our big porch in our dream house on a ranch with a few animals just spending time together,” she shares. “Tyler and I have sacrificed our personal lives including losing relationships with friends over petty observations. But we wouldn’t change a thing because the people who really support us have been walking beside us cheering us on since day one.”