BEING laid off can seem daunting, but Jane Burbeary turned it into an opportunity to launch her own bridal bridal boutique stocking plus-size gowns.
Inspired by her own difficult experience of finding a wedding dress over size 16, the 50-year-old from Sheffield set up the shop in 2016.
But her dream of “being her own boss” only became a reality after a tough year.
Jane opened her shop, Celebrating Curves, after she was laid-off from her job in the training industry – her third redundancy in just seven years.
The same year, she also split from her husband.
She told the Sun Online: “I was 48 at the time and with the big FIVE O coming, I decided it was now or never.
“My father was a self-employed painter and decorator, so I always had the idea of launching my own business in the back of my mind.”
Jane set up her company with a loan from the government-backed Start-Up Loans Company, which offers a six per cent fixed rate on borrowing up to £25,000.
The organisation, which merged with the British Business Bank in 2017, supports businesses trading for less than two years.
Now in its second year of trading, Celebrating Curves is expected to double its annual turnover to £150,000.
So what makes the store a success?
“As a plus-size woman, bridal gown shopping can be a nightmare,” according to Jane.
In fact, she compared her own disheartening experience with a famous scene from the movie Pretty Woman, when Julia Roberts’ character Vivian Ward is shunned from a boutique because she doesn’t look like she can afford it.
“I had my Pretty Woman moment when I walked into a bridal boutique and a saleswoman looked at me from head to toes and said – I’ve got nothing here to fit you,” Jane said
How to get a start-up business loan
IF you need financial support in setting up your business, you can get loans of up to £25,000 to help along the way.
- Virgin StartUP offers government-backed loans from £500 to £25,000 to help entrepreneurs launching or growing a business that’s under two-years-old in England or Scotland. It has a rate of 6 per cent interest.
- The Start-Up Loans Company, which lends government subsidised loans up to £25,000 at a rate of 6 per cent.
- The Princes Trust also offers loans, up to £5,000, at a rate of 6.2 per cent.
Being plus-size herself, the business owner understands the needs of curvier women and aims to give advice and reassurance to every customer who walks through her door.
Brides-to-be come to the Sheffield shop on an appointment only basis to put nervous brides at ease in a relaxed atmosphere.
Jane’s favourite part of the job is seeing plus-size brides who struggled to find their dream dresses in tears of joy as they find their perfect fit.
Jane’s tips on how to start your own business
CELEBRATING Curves founder took the plunge and started her own business. Here are her top tips to make it a success
- Do your research: Research your idea thoroughly and not only on your friends and family, check out what else is out there and how to make your idea unique.
- Make sure you can manage yourself financially: I carried on doing some freelance training work so I could pay my mortgage and to make sure I could financially support myself while I was launching the business.
- Learn as much as you can about social media: Most customers expect to be able to reach you through social media. It’s also a great way to understand who your loyal customers are and attract new ones.
- Trust your instincts: All the decisions are down to you. Be brave and trust your gut.
She said: “Ninety per cent of the time they come in and describe what they don’t like about themselves.”
“So when they find THE dress that makes them feel like a million dollars, you can just tell and that’s priceless.”
But she admits that running a business is a “a double edged sword”, which leads to lots of sleepless nights and responsibility.
“It’s good that all the decisions are down to me but it’s also the worst part of running your own business. I am questioning myself constantly,” she said.
“I’m really lucky that I have a good network of friends that will help me when I am exhibiting or when I need a pep talk,” she added.
Celebrating Curves currently has about 2,200 followers on Facebook and 700 on Instagram and want to improve her social media presence next year.
“I think social networks are massively important for any small business. Most of my customers come from either social media, the website or when I exhibit at sort of wedding fairs – that’s where my business tends to come from,” Jane said.
The business is also branching out with a brand new prom dress and occasion wear collection.
“Teenage girls have really bad experiences when it comes to buying their prom dress. And in some extreme cases they end up not going to their prom at all – and I think that’s awful,” Jane said.
“For now we have a small collection but it’s already getting very good feedback on social media. Something to look forward to in the New Year,” she added.