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Exploring Life & Business with Amanda Hunt of Lorien Bridal Boutique

Today we’d like to introduce you to Amanda Hunt.

Hi Amanda, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
My journey started about eight years ago when I decided that I wanted to try my hand at wedding planning. I’m a very organized person and I love list-making and event planning, so wedding planning seemed like a wonderful career choice for myself. After assisting a wedding planner for a summer, I felt that I needed to reassess and take some time to think about how I would want to build my wedding planning business, and while I did that I would get myself into the industry by getting a job somewhere in the bridal world whether it was in planning or not.

I got a job at a bridal boutique, and styling brides in gowns became one of my most favorite things to do. I realized that I was good at it and that I enjoyed it, which is not something a lot of people can say about their job.

After four years at that same boutique, I decided to branch out when I found out that another boutique was hiring experienced stylists, offering them a much better salary than I was currently making. I made the decision to apply there, got the job, and was happy for the position until I realized why the turn-around was so high at this particular boutique.

Without going into a lot of detail, let’s just say that my moral compass was not aligning with the business practices that were going on at that boutique. I could not bring myself to lie to brides during every appointment, let alone deal with horribly malicious management.

During this time, I realized how well-suited I was for not only management but customer service as well. I was constantly receiving “are you the manager?” queries and getting compliments on my problem-solving skills.

So, in a moment when I was watching an episode of “Say Yes To The Dress” with my mom and venting to her about some problems going on at this shop I was working at at the time, she told me she wished that I could open my own shop.

I told her that I had dreamed of opening my own shop for a while, but there was no way, as it would take up time and money that I just did not have.

But then a tragedy occurred that changed my perspective on life in general.

A good friend of mine passed away from breast cancer. She was 35 years young, just a few years older than me. Thoughts and emotions ran through me that I hadn’t thought or felt before, giving me insight and perspective that had never occurred to me… Why did she have to go? How is it fair that I still get to be here and she does not? In that time, I decided I had to take risks that I had previously been afraid to take. I would no longer live my life taking advantage of the fact that I was… alive. I would do this for her.

So after a few more conversations with my parents, talks with loan specialists, and some serious research. I decided to take the leap!

Before it could happen, though, I found myself at another bridal boutique (had to leave the other one due to my conscience not letting me sleep at night), learning more ways of running things.

This shop was larger than the last and they were not as dishonest to their clients, but they had their own set of issues (mostly too much downtime for their stylists with nothing to do since stylists were not allowed to do ANYTHING but clean or run appointments) which caused me to wonder how they were able to stay in business. I learned from this experience, too, though, giving myself some more insight into how I would and wouldn’t like to run my own shop.

I was still working at this bridal boutique when talk of COVID began, but I had already gotten my business loan to start my shop, found the place I wanted to create the shop in, gotten all the permits, designer contracts, and paperwork needed, and was ready to go.

When I decided to leave that boutique. COVID had been talked about but not considered too serious yet. So signing the lease for the location that would soon be Lorien was a joyous occasion! But then the world turned upside down and quarantine began.

I spent the two weeks at home and then decided to (since I would be by myself or just with my mom who was helping me quite a bit) start going to the space and begin demolition. The space that would become my beautiful bridal boutique was run down, dirty. and in need of serious renovation and construction.

Through blood, sweat, tears, and over two months of back-breaking labor, Lorien was in working order. I thought of my dear, late friend almost every day that I worked on building this boutique. Being the wonderful human being that she was, she would have helped me build Lorien if she was still here, so because of that, I thought of her every time something got difficult, and every time I just wanted to quit. My mantra in those moments was “this is not as difficult as breast cancer,” and after saying that a few times, I remembered my friend’s strength, and it pulled me through the most difficult of times building this business. I still use that mantra and think of her all the time, knowing her spirit helped inspire and create this beautiful place.

Lorien had been a dream of mine for years as, when I started to realize that a lot of brides that I was working with were my nerd brethren, I had wanted to create a space that really resonated with fandom-obsessed people.

I wanted Lorien to be a whimsical, forest fairyland that made you excited, rather than nervous, to try on bridal gowns.

Standing on a pedestal, being judged in clothing, can be terrifying. You should not be in that position while also feeling pressured by a stylist to buy something, or worried about budget, or scared that you are not going to fit into anything, or just uncomfortable with the atmosphere.

Lorien was created with nerdy brides in mind, but traditional brides also love it because it’s a fun, calming, and welcoming environment.

We don’t implement crazy mark-ups in pricing, we don’t private label gowns, we carry samples that fit most bodies because not fitting into a gown should never be the reason you don’t wear your dream gown on your wedding day, and we even run themed appointments! Yes. Coming to your bridal appointment in cosplay is most definitely encouraged.

Wedding planning can be stressful enough without the added pressure of making a decision on your wedding gown. Your bridal appointment should, therefore, be fun and stress-free! It should feel fantastical, romantic, and exciting, and that’s what brides experience at Lorien: the land of dreams.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Opening a new business is never easy, let alone opening a business during a global pandemic. 2020 was extremely difficult, weddings were being pushed back to future dates which kept sales at a very low number, and getting the word out about Lorien was incredibly taxing. Marketing is always strategical and can be very fine-consuming, but when you’re competing against big, established companies (many that are within walking distance of your very own business), there’s an added sense of fear that you’re not going to make it.

But Lorien has an edge other shops don’t. The risk I took opening the first bridal boutique created for nerdy brides has actually made marketing a bit easier. We stand out. We can get away with posting photos that other shops don’t spend the time to create or perhaps don’t even feel the need to create. The lazy thing to do is to take a designer’s photos and post them to your Instagram and hope people respond. But if hundreds of other boutiques are using those same photos, why makes your business unique?

Lorien thankfully has its uniqueness embedded right in so that, no matter what, our photos, videos, and conversations always stand out from the pack.

Creating that content was not easy (days and days of photoshoots that are long and tedious, as well as recording videos that hours to edit) though, and perhaps that’s why most boutiques do not create it, but I knew I always wanted to use my own content for marketing purposes and it’s worked out so far!

Besides marketing being difficult, the logistics of running a business is always difficult, and physically building/setting up Lorien was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but getting to hear someone tell me how happy they are that this place exists makes every struggle SO worth it.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
Lorien Bridal Boutique is the first bridal boutique created for nerdy brides. We cater to all brides, but we can’t say you won’t know more about Star Wars once you leave your appointment 🙂

We carry bridal gowns, veils, other bridal accessories, and a few rings of power, but those are not for sale, as we’re waiting on a couple of hobbits to come in and take them to Mount Doom for us.

Our shop is different in the obvious ways of being able to hand a bride a sword or lightsaber or wand to make sure they feel as powerful as possible in their bridal gown, but also in the way that our business practices are very honest and helpful. A bride never feels pressured or taken advantage of at Lorien, and we make sure that every one of our brides has the most relaxing and fun experience possible.

Lorien’s brand is obviously the nerdy stylings of bridal gowns, and I am most proud of the fact that, with the marketing of our cosplay/bridal photos, we have hosted so very many sci-fi/fantasy obsessed brides and given them a “home.” One bride told me “I just feel at home here,” and that hit my heart more than anything. That is why I created Lorien: to give a space to people who didn’t think they had one.

Are there any apps, books, podcasts, blogs or other resources you think our readers should check out?
Because I love comedy, my favorite podcast helps keep my energy up most days. It’s called “My Brother, My Brother, and Me” and it’s just the best.

I have a solitaire app on my phone that I go to play on when I take breaks since it forces you to focus, which, for a while, calms my brain of the worries of running a business.

There’s a book by Lin Manuel Miranda that I read a page or two out of almost every day. It’s called “Gmorning, Gnight!” and is basically a pick-me-up every morning as it gives a little positivity or just something to contemplate each day. It has helped my stress and self-doubt quite a bit.

Pricing:

  • Price range of all gowns: $900-$2700
  • Average price of gown: $1600

Contact Info:

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