Introduce yourself and profession to our readers: I am Lori LeeAnne Conerly, owner of LeeAnne’s Luxury Bridal Boutique. LeeAnne’s is Detroit’s newest luxury bridal salon, created to help rewrite the narrative of marriage within the black community. I am young, I am black, and I am a woman in business.
What inspired you to pursue this area of interest? Honestly, bridal was a career that I stumbled upon. I was away at college, I had recently lost my job at a camp, and I was newly unemployed. I reached out to a Soror (Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.) who, at the time, was the assistant manager for a local bridal salon. Long story short, I applied for a position as a bridal stylist and got the job. I absolutely fell in love. I didn’t just fall in love with the fact that I could play life size dress up for work, but the transformations that would happen right before my eyes.
There are so many different types of gowns, from varying shapes, silhouettes, and details. When a bride puts on her dress, the dress that is apparently the dress for her, you can honestly see her transform right before your eyes into a gorgeous bride to be. Even the most unique dress, that I thought looked completely odd, I have seen transformed into a gorgeous gown on the right woman. A woman’s wedding day is single handedly one of the most important days of her life. It is a sense of fulfillment that you get when you help find one of the most important details of the wedding itself, the dress! After working for other big name bridal companies over the years, I knew I wanted to make a name for myself in the industry.
My love for my city is immense. Away at a predominantly white institution for college and constantly comparing the area to home, I noticed that Detroit didn’t have the same type of salons for brides-to-be. I noticed that Detroit had barely any bridal and special occasion wear salons. Not because Detroit girls don’t get married, but because the city is a part of a system where the government and outsiders look down on us as if we’re this ghetto-poverty stricken area that doesn’t deserve nice things.
If you’re from the city, you usually travel to the suburban outskirts to experience such luxuries. That is how LeeAnne’s was born. I wanted to created a luxury bridal and special occasion wear salon for actual city girls. LeeAnne’s focuses on creating an experience while shopping, catering to the customer by offering private appointments, wine, and hors deurves. If we deprive our youth of experiencing simple luxuries in their own neighborhoods, how do we expect them to learn, grow, and prosper.
What advice would you share with those interested in a similar pursuit? The advice that I would give to other ladies interested in the same pursuit as I would be to go for the goal and never look back. As I’m only 23 years old I’m not quite sure if this is safe to say just yet, but opening my own bridal salon takes the cake for the most fulfilling time of my life. Entrepreneurship is in absolutely, no shape, no form, or in no way easy, but I wouldn’t trade this adventure for anything in the world. People tend to think that being your own boss is this glorious life of sitting around taking pictures for social media all day, attending fancy event, and making big bucks.
Well honey, reality is I’m a penny-pincher, living in my dad’s basement, working countless hours day in and day out to turn my dreams into reality. On top of chasing the dream, make sure that you are dedicated to the dream. By that I mean, work hard and never stop working hard. As a solo business owner, with no silent partners or partners of any sort, I am the team. If I decide to take a day off, the entire business takes a day off, and let’s be honest, when you’re a new business you can’t afford days off.
Throughout the journey, you encounter so many doubters and disbelievers, but you can never let another being steal your joy and steal your sunshine. Even when the funds are low, and the bills are high, believe that where there is a will, there is a way. Where there is will, there is determination and heart. At the end of the day, the only person who is completely obligated to believe in you, is you! So, believe in yourself and your dream so much that even when it isn’t reality just yet, it’s the only reality that you know.
Discuss a professional challenge and how you overcame it: The biggest professional challenge that I have overcome is the perception that I should not be taken seriously. Realistically, I just turned 23 and the first thing I did straight out of college was open my own brick and mortar bridal salon. So many times I’ve had other professionals laugh in my face, asking “well how are you going to do it”. So many times I’ve had family members look at me and treat me as a child, thinking for some reason I was incapable of conducting business because of my age.
Being a black woman in business is a hurdle in itself, so going into the industry I knew there would be naysayers. I say this is the biggest challenge because , the doubt from outsiders is based on things that are out of my control and can not be changed. I am 23 years old. I am a woman, and I am black. I’ve always been a show versus tell type of person, so I did just that. How did I overcome the naysayers? I did what they said I couldn’t, alone. I have no partners, no investors, and no team. I secured manufacturing, I secured financing, I secured a location, and I secured the dream.
What is next for your brand/business in 2018? In 2018, I’m dreaming big! It may sound weird, but I can already feel the Lord’s presence over me, pulling me towards the new year. At the start of the year I will be launching our prom collection, and look forward to the partnerships and mentoring programs I hope to secure with high schools. Kicking the year off with philanthropy, I will host my first business workshop for the AKATeens (Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. teen mentoring program) of Detroit at LeeAnne’s, speaking on entrepreneurship and building a business plan.
In the new year, I also plan to host my first fashion show, showcasing wedding gowns, prom dresses, and special occasions gowns. As of today, just before the new year begins, I am working to secure partnerships with a few different black owned businesses to carry their bridal related products in my storefront (ex. Men’s custom bowties and socks, personalized bridal gear, etc.). I’m so excited about the new connections to be built, that I know are on the horizon for 2018.
And of course, maybe the most exciting thing of all, brides will be walking down the isle in LeeAnne’s wedding gowns in 2018. Orders that were placed since opening in September (dresses take 3-4 months to arrive) will be arriving in the new year, brides will begin their alterations, and they will strut down the isle in my salon’s dresses. I claim this new year as a year of growth, a year of prosperity, and a year full of a whole lot more black girl magic!
How can readers connect with you online and through social media? Readers can follow me on Instagram at leeannesluxurybridal, Facebook by searching LeeAnne’s Luxury Bridal Boutique, and visit me online at leeannesluxurybridal.com.