VOL. 131 | NO. 20 | Thursday, January 28, 2016
SMALL BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT
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Husband-and-Wife Team Manage Brides and Business at Maggie Louise
By LANCE WIEDOWER
Molly Farrell doesn’t recall a childhood spent dreaming about wedding gowns and the perfect ceremony.
She didn’t need a childhood dream to launch a bridal gown boutique in Collierville a couple of years after graduating from the University of Memphis. The faith and support of others, some good business advice from her future father-in-law and a strong work ethic went into the creation of Maggie Louise, a bridal gown boutique she opened in September 2012 at 3670 S. Houston Levee Road.
But it also helped that her high school and college job was with Collierville photographer Allison Rodgers, where Farrell spent many of her weekends helping photograph weddings.
Maggie Louise boutique manager Kaleigh Cox, left, with co-owners Eric and Molly Farrell.
(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)
“As I helped I was the first employee and watched the business grow,” Farrell said. “I worked with brides. I shot weddings with her and helped run the day to day. I fell in love with that process.”
Farrell thought she wanted to be a photographer, but during her last year at the U of M she said she began dreaming of a bridal salon. She knew women who were planning their own weddings, and watched their search for the perfect dress come up just short.
“This is an once-in-a-lifetime thing that you get this moment in time to feel special,” Farrell said. “Everyone day dreams about it. And a lot of brides I worked with weren’t getting that. Their expectations were let down.”
Farrell graduated from Memphis in May 2010 with a degree in business and minor in photography. She continued working for Rodgers while spending the next two years creating a business plan. Learning on the job from Rodgers was important as she developed that plan.
And she also began dating Eric Farrell around that time. It was his father, Don, who gave the future Mrs. Farrell advice about her business dream while helping her realize it was possible.
In April 2012 she went to market where she picked out the store’s first dresses, even though a location wasn’t yet secured. But that all followed in the summer, just in time for a September opening.
Going to market and picking out inventory forced this dream business into reality.
“I knew I had six months from going to market but I hadn’t found the spot and trying to get a savvy businessman to take a 23-year-old me seriously was a little difficult,” she said. “Eric’s from Collierville and I’m from Mississippi. We were looking for space from Downtown to Collierville and hadn’t found one. I fell in love with the idea of Germantown and Collierville. That’s where our target moms are.”
Molly Farrell actually had her own wedding gown picked out before she and Eric were engaged, a year after she opened the store. They were married in April 2014.
She had created her dream dress in Photoshop, but never saw a designer create it. But then the next market, there it was.
“It came down the runway and I said, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s it,’” Farrell said. “Despite owning a store I had never tried on a dress. Bad juju. I had it picked out and ordered it before we were engaged.”
Today the Farrells run the store together, with Molly working with brides and Eric handling the business side of the boutique.
“I’m not selling the gown or helping find the dress but I’m assisting Molly in having that male input,” Eric said. “They want to know if a male likes it. I’m usually tucked back here listening and observing. I’ve developed better relationships with the moms, and Molly advocates for the bride.”
The store’s location is on the west side of Collierville, making it a natural draw for that area. But Molly Farrell said the business has customers from across the region, and even has brides travel from outside the area, in part because of the top 50 bridal salon in the U.S. recognition from Brides magazine.
There are more than 100 dresses in stock with a focus on special-order gowns.
Brides can drop in to have a quick look, but the boutique operates by appointment only. That’s so the three-employee business can better service customers. One-on-one appointments with just one bride in the store at a time creates the focused service Farrell said is important to the business’ success.
“We make sure we know them and what they’re looking for,” she said. “We plan for those brides so if there is a dress our designer has but it’s not in house, we’ll get in a certain collection that meets her needs.”
The process starts with a phone consultation to learn the bride’s tastes, styles, wedding vendors, floral selections and bridesmaids’ dresses. That helps hone in on the bride’s personal style, Farrell said.
“It helps her get all the anxiety issues out,” she said. “She can get to know us and feel prepared.”
As far as styles, Farrell said they work to choose styles that will make their brides feel beautiful. She knows Memphis is a traditional town, but she also likes to pull in some trendy looks, something that will help set them apart from other brides in the city.
“A lot of girls come in wanting a traditional look and sometimes what I love to do is surprise them with a nontraditional or trendy look,” Farrell said. “We do keep traditional styles. We just make sure if it is traditional that it’s exceptional.”