Nicole Staple and Sonali Lamba are transforming the $14 billion wedding retail market from an outdated dowager to a digital darling with their Chicago-based startup, Brideside. Launched in 2014, Brideside marries technology and human relationships to create a fun, personalized, seamless online marketplace where bridal parties can purchase bridesmaid dresses and related accessories.
“Before Brideside, the wedding retail market was largely stuck in a brick-and-mortar channel that created a high level of stress and inconvenience for the bride,” Staple explains. “The industry had not evolved in the way that today’s women are planning and shopping for weddings.”
Brideside dipped a toe in the bridal waters by entering the $1.5 billion bridesmaid-dress category and then expanding into other offerings, including gifts, shapewear, men’s accessories and shoes. When a bride signs up on Brideside, she is matched with an in-house style consultant who serves as a go-to concierge for the entire bridal party and coordinates the selection and ordering of bridal dresses and accessories.
“We’ve found that 90 percent of women do not have friends who all live in the same location, but they tend to purchase their dresses together,” Staple says. “We’ve created a true omni-channel experience that allows women to access a dozen top dress designers in one place and then shop online, in their homes with Try at Home or in our Chicago brick-and-mortar showroom.”
Weddings tend to be pricey affairs, and the average initial purchase on Brideside is $1,200. The company realizes a 50 percent to 60 percent gross margin on the sale of dresses and accessories. This business model has boosted its gross revenue into seven figures, according to Staple. She expects revenue to quadruple over the next 12 months.
Staple sees both advantages and disadvantages of launching a startup in the Midwest. While the cost of building and operating a new venture often is less than on the coasts, venture capital can be tough to come by. “I have a firm belief that if the Midwest is going to succeed in creating innovative companies, the venture investment community needs to provide entrepreneurs with greater access to capital and showcase break-out successes,” she says.
Brideside participated as a presenting company at the 2016 Michigan Growth Capital Symposium, and although the startup did not receive any financing proposals from VCs in the consumer-products space, the exposure was still valuable. To date, Brideside has raised $3 million in financing from angel investors, family offices and venture capital funds. It plans to raise another capital round in late 2017.
The startup faced its toughest assignment two years ago when Staple herself agreed to tie the knot. “I used Brideside for my own wedding in August 2014,” she says. “It was great.”