Bridal shop owner is celebrating 10 years in business

MGrace Penney, Owner of Diamond Bridal, Maylor Street takes part in our My Career, in WoW!
Bridal shop owner is celebrating 10 years in business

Grace Penney, Owner of Diamond Bridal, Maylor Street. Picture: Darragh Kane

Name: Grace Penney

Age: 39 (holding on dearly to my 30s by a few months)

Lives: Carrigaline, Cork

Job title: Owner of Diamond Bridal, Maylor Street, Cork city

Salary bracket: Most of what I earn goes back into the business. I take home far less money than I did in my previous career, but for me, job satisfaction and loving what I do means so much more.

Education background: After I completed my leaving certificate in St Angela’s in Cork city, I went on to study a degree in Business Studies specialising in Marketing in CIT.

In my professional career I went on to qualify as a Financial Advisor and subsequently completed a Post Grad in Certified Financial Planning.

Hobbies: I have been practicing yoga for over 20 years, I love how it connects the body and mind and allows me to truly switch off. We are lucky to live so close to the sea, I love spending time on the beach with my family and swimming in the sea.

I’m not sure if it’s a hobby, but nights out with the girls are just good for the soul.

Describe your job in five words: Demanding, emotional, enjoyable, glamorous, rewarding.

Describe yourself in five words: Positive, determined, outgoing, hardworking, sociable

Personality needed for this kind of work? You need to be customer-focused and friendly, a multi-tasker, a good listener and professional. 

You need to be able to put the bride at ease and make the appointment an enjoyable experience for the bride and bridal party. 

You need strong organisational skills, a passion for styling and a knowledge of fabric types and fashion trends.

How long are you doing this job? 10 years this November.

How did you get this job? After I finished college in 2004, as it was boom time Ireland, I had a number of interviews lined up, I got the first job I applied for in the bank. I climbed my way up in a short number of years and somehow found myself practicing as a financial advisor. As much as I loved my time in that industry and am so grateful for what I learned and the friends I met along the way, at the back of my mind the 9-5 was never for me. I wanted to be out there meeting and helping people, as well as fulfilling my love for fashion and styling.

In 2011, I got married and my sister got married the same year. Having experienced the process of dress shopping first hand and seeing the love and passion these bridal consultants had, and how amazing it all seemed, I just knew that’s what I wanted to do so, without too much thought , I went for it !

Ireland was now in the midst of a recession and people thought I was crazy, but I was so determined and left my well paid, stable job, and with the help and support of my family, Diamond Bridal was born in November, 2011.

Do you need particular qualifications or experience? Not necessarily, but what you do need is to be personable, upbeat and positive. A knowledge of fabrics and fashion trends and a passion for styling is also a useful skill. You need to be empathetic as you are dealing with people in a very emotional and life-changing time in their life, who need you to be there to guide and support them throughout the process.

Describe a day at work: I generally wake before 7am and use the hour before the school run rush to reply to mails, messages and post to social media.

I am always in the boutique between 9-9.30am to get ready for the day ahead.

Our first appointment is at 10am, appointments last an hour and a half, we take 5/6 appointments per day, where we meet and greet the bride and her wedding party, have a conversation regarding her wedding and her visions, and then we start the try on process.

Once the bride finds ‘the one’, we allow her time with her nearest and dearest to take it all in, we celebrate with her and complete all of the necessary paperwork and talk about the next steps.

We do in-house tailoring in the boutique one evening per week with our amazing seamstress Marie. This is a lovely time as it allows us see the finished product before the bride goes off to be married.

Pre-Covid, I would travel to 5/6 buying trips per year, attend many wedding fairs, fashion shows, photo shoots and charity events. Hopefully these will all happen again soon.

I personally manage all of our social media accounts and our website. Once I get home in the evenings and get the children to bed, I work on the website and social media and place customer orders.

How many hours do you work a week? Honestly, every waking hour. People often see the work that goes on in the boutique but the amount of admin required behind the scenes is exceptional.

If I am not physically in the boutique, I am active on social media, taking calls, replying to mails, researching new designs and dealing with the ongoing maintenance of the boutique.

Lockdown has taught me the huge importance of being around and being more present with my husband and two girls, but having said that, Diamond Bridal is my third child and it is so hard to switch off from it. I’m so lucky I love what I do!

What do you wear to work? I am lucky enough to be able to get dressed up for work which is one thing I love doing. We generally wear black as it is classy and dressy — I love a nice dress or a jumpsuit and accessorise with some nice jewellery.

I am slowly starting to get myself back to heels after months of slippers and runners!

Is your industry male or female dominated? I would say 95% female.

Does this affect you in any particular way? It doesn’t affect me but it would be nice to see more male bridal consultants / boutique owners — after all, love for fashion and styling should not be determined by whether you are a particular gender.

Is your job stressful? How? Rate it on a scale of 1-10: It can be very stressful and demanding due to how busy it is on a constant basis, but this is offset by how much I love it — for that reason I would give it a 5.

Do you work with others or on your own? There are three amazing ladies who work in the boutique, who I would be lost without. We work so well as a team, have our laughs and also have the support of one another.

I also have incredible relationships with my suppliers and other boutique owners around the globe who are always at the other end of the phone with a supportive ear and a giggle.

When do you plan to retire or give up working? Not for a long, long time.

Best bits: Helping our brides find the dress of their dreams for the most important day of their life, it is such an emotional and special time and we are so honoured to be part of it.

I do also love travelling the world and meeting the most talented designers and choosing from their collections.

Worst bits: I genuinely love everything about it, but the one downside is not being able to just head away and switch off, like you would with many jobs.

Advice to those who want your job? My advice would be to balance your passion with wisdom — follow your dreams but do market research and be prepared for the start-up phase. There are wonderful supports you can reach out to. I found Network Cork and the Cork Chamber of Commerce invaluable during my set up stage. Much of these connections made remain good friends today.

For more see 021 4949900

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