3225 Riverwatch Parkway. Augusta, Georgia 706-736-8224 Opened on July 10, 2001
Where Brides from Georgia & Carolina Find Their Dream Gown! Where Life Moments are Made & We Say "Yes" to the Dress!
What inspired you to start your own business?
Fathy has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. He always wanted to own a business and control his own destiny financially and was continually coming up with business ideas. For years he tried to get Jane to agree. They both agreed that whatever business they went into that it would be ministry based and service would be a main component. Jane had an interest in bridal and wedding planning. Knowing that the Godly marriage counsel they received when they married in 1983 had been so important, they wanted a business that might plant seeds of wisdom for brides as they begin their own marriage. With ministry as the foundation, Fathy’s business gifts, and Jane’s vision of a full-service bridal salon the idea of Elegant Bridals was born.
What inspires your work and what sets you apart from everyone else?
Our staff. Our staff are women who understand the foundation of Elegant Bridals. We begin each day in prayer asking wisdom and grace for our brides. Elegant Bridals is a safe and nurturing place to begin the journey up the aisle. Our bridal experience. We have the opportunity to be part of a life long memory that the bride, her family and friends will remember forever. That inspires us to be the very best at what we do and give our brides the “Disney Experience”.
What is your background and how did you develop the skills to start your business?
Fathy has an MBA and an MHA in Administration and has a great understanding of finances and is a retired Department Administrator from Augusta University. He truly is the business mind behind Elegant Bridals.
Jane had a passion for the bridal industry from watching her grandmother as a bridal consultant at JB White’s as a child. Jane also loves her calling as a teacher and used that to help educate brides in their wedding plans. Both continued their careers to retirement and focus now full time on Elegant Bridals.
What has been your biggest success to date?
That depends who you ask, Jane: our successes come with every sweet note of thanks and online referrals from brides who were touched by the service and feels the love as an Elegant Bridals Bride.
Fathy: Financially our biggest success was being able to build such a beautiful place for brides to be served. The building was Jane’s vision and Cliff Eckles was so much a part of making it a reality.
What has been your biggest challenge?
We opened our doors on July 10, 2001. Almost two months after beginning a new business Our nation was shocked by the disaster of 9/11. The tragedy was a gamechanger as brides scaled back their weddings and weren’t wanting to spend as much on the couture gowns we had in our inventory. That was an unexpected change of direction in the industry followed by a hard economy. We had to change the vision to fit the brides needs and wants.
Most recently our nation has once again been devastated with the economy due to COVID-19. Our business closed as did almost all others. Of course, we had been in operation for more than nineteen years and had just opened our very own two and half million Bridal Store! We chose Faith and not Fear but a great debt of thanks to our personal banker Cliff who was on the phone with Fathy sometimes several times a day navigating the red tape of helping us know which grants to apply for so that we could keep our beautiful staff employed and without fear as well. We are very blessed to be with a banker that offered us a sense of calm and confidence.
Which small businesses are you inspired by?
Brittany Bagwell the owner of Brittany’s is a great inspiration and a great competitor. She is a wonderful business woman that is both intelligent and kind. She is without a doubt a retailer that carries her business and herself with class.
Two come to mind, although they are not small now, they once were very small and faced the same struggles and challenges that we face. I look up to Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby because not only are they leaders in their respective areas, they do not compromise their faith over constant attacks or profits. Their commitment to their faith and carrying it throughout their company as they have grown has inspired me to develop the same company, on a smaller scale of course, that would do the same and stand up for our faith in an ever more challenging environment.
If you could go back to the beginning knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently?
I wish we had known the impact technology would have on our future business and been a leader in reaching our brides on that new medium.
Another change is we wish we had found Cliff years ago! We probably would have built our building years ago. We spent well over a $1.5 million dollars in renting retail space. We both feel like Cliff offered us advice and confidence that helped us make the leap into ownership. He really took such an interest in all the small details and appreciated the focus we had put into the service of our future brides.
What’s your best advice for someone who wants to start their own business?
The best advice we received as we were starting out was to keep our day jobs until business can afford to pay you a salary. That took significantly longer than we had planned. Start a new business with the smallest amount of inventory you can possibly get away with. Learn the business before you go deep! Every business is different. KNOW, KNOW, KNOW your numbers, your expenses, your margins and the metrics that you have to meet to be successful. If you are new to a business as we were, Hire a consultant that knows your industry. Listen to your banker, it’s not their first rodeo! They can open your eyes to possible or the potential for pitfalls, Plan for pitfalls and Pray for Wisdom and protection always.