It’s November, we’re coming into Winter Wedding Season! Owner and illustrator at Wedding Dress Ink, Bray based entrepreneur Audrey Vance creates personal wedding dress illustrations. Working from photographs, Audrey creates a one-off dress portrait with ink on watercolour paper, capturing the signature style of the bride on her wedding day. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us Audrey!
What led you to starting your business?
The idea for Wedding Dress Ink came about after my own wedding, because like most girls I loved my wedding day and my dress. After returning from honeymoon I created the first ink illustration of my own bridal gown, framed it and hung it up. When friends saw it they started asking me to illustrate their wedding dresses as a unique way of remembering their special day. Once I had my son I knew whatever I chose to do next had to work around my family’s needs. Wedding Dress Ink ticked so many boxes as a business that I could grow and enjoy.
How did you raise the start-up funds you needed?
Wedding Dress Ink had relatively low start-up costs and yet it still cost more than I expected. It was important to launch ready for market, therefore in the year running up to my start-up date, my personal savings were invested in logo, stationery and website design, framing, paper and ink trials, while also up-skilling in fashion illustration, business, social media, PR and marketing, through night classes. Since launching in March this year, income from portrait commissions has been re-invested in a new computer, office printer, camera equipment and packaging.
What was the most significant lesson you learned in starting your business?
Learning to trusting myself! To get on the right path I went to a career coach, Louise Nevin in Ballsbridge. Three sessions with Louise were both eye-opening and invigorating. The work we did together allowed me to see a clear vision of my future and the possibilities that I could create for myself.
Who is the entrepreneur you admire the most?
I admire any self-employed working mother who juggles work and family successfully! Closer to home however, the entrepreneur I admire the most is my husband, who’s been running and growing his own print business in Bray since 2005. Close up I see Rory’s customer-focus, creativeness and dedication to RV International, it’s inspirational and I hope some of it rubs off.
What have been the biggest challenges in your business to date?
Getting the Wedding Dress Ink website looking and working the way I wanted, on a budget, was challenging. As the online face of my business it needed to be professional, functional and yet personal. It was surprisingly time-consuming getting the site written and styled while also getting my products photographed professionally.
What has been the proudest moment in your business so far?
You jump so many hurdles to launch and run a new business and with all those challenges come plenty of moments to cherish. Previously afraid of public speaking, it took a lot to do the ‘Kick Start your Business’ slot on Newstalk’s Saturday Sit-In on the George Hook show, especially as I had only launched three weeks earlier. Having model and TV personality Pippa O’ConnorOrmond tweeting about her bespoke birthday present was special. Seeing Wedding Dress Ink get a little mention in Irish Tatler’s September issue was very exciting. But, going back to the start, I think selling my first commissioned illustration after launching was the most amazingly proud moment, getting great feedback from the client was even better.
What was the best piece of business advice you ever got?
“Trust your gut.” came from a friend and I needed to hear that at the time. I remind myself of her words whenever I’m unsure. Thank you Adrienne.!
Can you recommend a good time management technique for other entrepreneurs out there?
Each day I try to do the most important thing first, however, I still get easily distracted by incoming emails or calls. So I’m not sure I’m qualified to give anyone else advice. Working from a home studio I do strive to prioritize my illustration work over housework, considering how much more I prefer illustrating that’s working out well!
What magazine do you never miss each month?
Favourites include Tatler and Image each month and at weekends I love the Style and Sunday magazines with the Sunday Times. Bridal magazines are issued quarterly, I buy them all.
What is your favourite film?
‘Out of Africa’ – the costumes and beautiful cinematography teamed with the acting prowess of Robert Redford with Meryl Streep….must watch it again soon!
What is your favourite ad?
Don’t make that much time for TV anymore and I record anything of interest so I can skip the ads – time is precious.
What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs thinking of starting a business?
Same advice that made sense to me: ‘Trust your gut.’ Also, consider doing a Start Your Own Business course run by the Wicklow County Enterprise Board they are really informative and well run.
What do you like to do when you’re not running your business?
Since turning my hobby into a business everything else is a bonus. Walking the dog is a wonderful way to unwind and clear my head, as a working dog Ruby needs an hour of exercise each day. I enjoy cooking and a good movie but most of all spending family time with my young son and husband.
Have you found the self-employed formula for a work/life balance?
Sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day but my week is quite structured and that definitely helps. As a working mother having good and flexible childcare is vital, allowing me to totally focus on creating bespoke illustrations. Every day brings new challenges and I certainly don’t claim to have a formula, I simply keep trying.
What’s your website?
Do you have a Facebook page?
Are you on Twitter?
How has Wicklow CEB helped you and/or your business?
Thankfully I met with Wicklow CEB just before starting work on the website and they kindly helped me with a grant that part-funded my e-commerce site. It was such a wonderful boost to get from the board and their approval was worth it’s weight in gold. Have also availed of some of their day classes too, they’re a great resource.
If you could start up all over again, would you do anything differently?
Don’t think I’d change a thing!
A timeless wedding day gift or special anniversary present, Audrey’s black and white illustrations are framed in lime-wash wood, mounted, signed by the artist and embossed with Wedding Dress Ink logo ready for shipping worldwide.