A couple weeks ago, I heard about this Grand Rapids formal wear consignment shop through a friend. At first I thought, “Maybe I’ll finally get rid of some of these dresses that are taking up space in my closest!” Then I started doing a little research on Second Dance and realized that the young women who own this cute little consignment boutique weren’t even old enough to legally buy a cocktail! I was super impressed and at the same time a little jealous. Jealous in the sense that I wish I had the courage at almost 30 to venture out and start my own business without hesitation, let alone being 20 and doing it. Then jealously turned in to curiosity and I had to meet these ladies. It was refreshing to meet these beautiful (inside and out), bubbly, smart, and business savvy young women who never gave up even when faced with skepticism and criticism. Here’s a little about their story…
Second Dance takes your prom, homecoming, wedding, and special occasion dresses on consignment. They look up the designer or brand of the dress, the condition, style, what it previously retailed for, what it is currently being sold for used, and they create a fair price for your dress. You receive 45% of the total sales of your dress. This may seem low, but typically when you go to a store that buys your items they are only giving you 20-30% of the total profit. This is a really great deal! Plus it’s no longer taking up space in your closet (this means more room for new clothes). Second Dance also takes formal shoes and accessories. You do not receive the money until the sale is actually made (this is how consignment generally works).
In addition to making money on your dress, you might be helping a young high school girl or even a bride create a lasting memory for less! I know most women can agree that shopping for a formal dress can be depressing, especially when you think about the price compared to how many times you will actually wear it. Emily and Stephanie, the young owners of Second Dance, totally empathize and that’s part of the reason they decided to fix the problem.
Meet the Owners
Emily and Stephanie have been friends since the age of five. They are both students at Grand Rapids Community College (Emily is taking this semester off). When I was chatting with them, I witnessed a genuine friendship that also acts as catalyst for motivation and support. These women are humble, but confidant. They do not compete with each other, but push each other to greatness. This entire business plan was a girl’s phone crying sess turned reality. These women are absolutely remarkable and their personalities are contagious. I was so fascinated by their determination and their ability to take criticism.
(Second Dance carries handmade jewerly from Standout Designs)
1. How did you come up with the idea to open a formal wear consignment boutique?
EJ: “Stephanie and I both use to work for bridal companies. I was working for a corporate company and it was one of those horrible boss situations. He was SUPER mean to me. I ended up leaving work one day balling my eyes out! So I called Stephanie on my way home and was ranting to her about how I was going to open my own dress store.Stephanie was like “I’ve always wanted to own my own dress store” so we spent the next two hours on the phone brainstorming ideas. That was the end of April  and May 17 we went and applied for our business license, and moved in to our store in July.”
2. How were you able to take your idea to a reality?
SH:“Courage! We weren’t going to let any obstacle stand in our way. It was such a process and it took lots of paperwork. At one point, we kept wondering if we would ever actually touch a dress.”
3. What advice would you give other young entrepreneurs trying to start their own business?
EJ: “Just do it! I can’t tell you how many places we went to realtors, city offices and the first thing they did was give us a dirty look and tell us that we looked really young.We would get questions like “Are you sure you want to do this?” or “Are you in college?” Yes, we are in college, actually community college, and we want to do this! Then we would show them our business plan and it was crazy to watch it completely turn. After seeing what we wanted to do and how serious we were, all of a sudden they were on board with us. So be serious about it! Don’t let people trip you up and tell you it’s too difficult. It is difficult, but you can do it if you really want it.”
I asked them how they continued to stay positive when they kept getting such negative feedback and responses. At some point most people, especially a 20 year old, would simply say I’m over it…moving on.
SH: “We have been through a lot together in our high school years. We really weren’t favorited by others in high school and we were bullied. We were so use to the criticism and we weren’t going to let it stop us now.”
4. What or who motivates you?
EJ: “Ourselves!We had a dream and we made it a reality…that’s motivating. Having a key to unlock your own store…that’s motivating.Our parents have been super supportive, but at the end of the day we have each other to motivate.”
5. What were your biggest challenges starting the store?
SH: “What’s the first step? We had no clue. We went to the City Clerk’s office and just asked.”
EJ: “We applied for the SCORE program through Grand Rapids, which is a program that pairs you with a current or retired business owner from the community who walks you through the process. We would meet with him regularly and ask him tons of questions. Then we paid $25 for an accelerated Entrepreneur class on opening your own business. Our best advice is don’t be scared to ask for help, don’t be afraid to look “dumb” to other people just get the answers you need.”
In addition to these struggles, the women also shared with me that they have used their own money or raised money with the support of friends and family to open this business. They are currently debt free, but are still working on building a savings. The other piece of advice they offered was being sure to have a savings prior to opening a business. Just to make life easier.
6. What would you say to inspire young women to start their own business?
SH: “Question everything! Don’t accept everything that people tell you. There’s not always a right and wrong way of doing everything. Don’t always follow the crowd.”
7. How do you balance life as a student, business owner, and a social life of a 20 year old?
SH: We have outside jobs too! We just use our motivation to succeed and balance the best way we know how.”
EJ: “Our social life is taken as a trade for owning this business and we understand and accept that. We do have each other…I mean Stephanie is my best friend, so we catch up and work.”
8. Are there any fun trends you are seeing in formal wear?
EJ: “Sequins. Everything is covered in sequins! Lots of bright colors and open backs. Gold is also on trend for 2014.”
9. What future goals do you have for Second Dance?
EJ: “We would really love to see this business succeed! Potentially we would like to open a store called the First Dance and sell brand new dresses. We would also love to expand our inventory and find a larger property for Second Dance.”
Stop in and meet Emily and Stephanie at Second Dance. Check-out their beautiful dress selection and bring them your gently used dresses. You will be pleasantly surprised to find an upscale formal wear consignment boutique.
Connect with Second Dance:
1136 Leonard NW
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Website Coming Soon...
(Image above provided by Adam Bird Photography)
I hope this post has inspired you. I know that these women have made me consider my own future. Often time we doubt ourselves or make excuses. After talking to the ladies from Second Dance, I realize we need to stop beating ourselves up and start accomplishing our goals. Things aren’t always going to be perfect and sometimes you might even fail, but it’s the failures in our life that define us as a person and keep us moving forward.
So if you have fallen recently, get up, brush yourself off, put on a pretty dress, and start believing in yourself! You got this….
Do you know someone that would make a great fit for our Young & Ambitious series? Contact me and give me the details! I would love to hear more and maybe feature them on Bailey & James.