Meet PE Finalist Danielle Wen, Founder & CEO of Lace & Liberty

We sat down with #PEIntensive17 finalist Danielle Wen, Founder & CEO of Lace & Liberty, an online customizable wedding gown service. Danielle discusses her personal struggle finding a wedding dress and how she’s completely changing the bridal market.

Tell us about your company.
Lace & Liberty is giving brides a brand new way to buy their wedding dress and challenging the antiquated bridal market. Instead of flipping through racks of gowns to find “the right one”, brides now have the freedom to design the dress they want, have it custom made to their measurements (heavily reducing alteration costs) and delivered right to their doorstep.

With our direct to consumer model, we are able to offer high quality, custom-made wedding dresses at highly attractive and accessible price points. Ranging from $400 – $2000, we are now giving all brides access to have a wedding dress made just for her, a luxury product and experience previously only available to a few.

We are doing things differently as the first to offer a hassle-free Try On At Home service. Our brides can schedule try on sample boxes at their own convenience, invite friends over for an intimate evening of fun or have it delivered when visiting family out of state (think Warby Parker for bridal).

What is the mission of your company and what is it attempting to change in the world?
We started Lace & Liberty as we weren’t satisfied with the status quo of the traditional bridal market, and we wanted to create a new bridal shopping experience in a personalized and convenient way that makes sense to the millennial bride.

Our mission is to give women the feeling of confidence and freedom in their wedding dress shopping experience. We want to make it a relaxing, fun, and memorable time that includes family and friends on her own schedule. We look to delight our customers in the process knowing that our bride’s needs have been met creatively and financially. We aim to offer a great experience and a custom gown that will truly reflect our bride’s own unique voice and personal style for such an important day in her life.

Where does your passion for this business stem from?
The idea for Lace & Liberty came directly from personal experience. When I was looking for my own wedding dress I was constantly frustrated with the problem of liking the top and skirt of different dresses, not having any personalization options and unable to find a great quality dress without spending a fortune. With many of my friends complaining of similar problems and through extensive customer & industry research, I realized that the bridal market was very antiquated, almost entirely offline in today’s digital world and had many other issues such as only providing standard sizing and long delivery times.

When did you know you had a good idea on your hands?
I truly believe that e-commerce breakthrough in bridal is now, as 85% of couples now plan their weddings online and over 60% of brides research their gowns online. Brides are actively looking for quality good value options on all aspects of their wedding (and in just about everything in everyday life) and there is a desperate need for modern, good-quality, and accessible options as 75% of brides purchase gowns under $2000.

After speaking to hundreds of brides and really understanding their needs & concerns, I knew that what we were building makes sense to the modern shopper. A brand with a digital first presence helps give more transparency to brides on designs, material, workmanship and they can have any general questions answered without making an appointment. Then if they choose to there is also the option to see our pieces in-person with a hassle free offline try on at home experience before making final decisions.

What has been the most difficult thing you’ve faced on this journey so far and what’s been the greatest reward? 
There are so many difficult things that seem to come up every day on this journey, however, one of the hardest things I feel is to remember to continually believe in yourself and believe in what you are building. It’s very easy to lose sight of the bigger picture and your vision when you’re entrenched in figuring out the smaller details to make things work and progress on a daily basis.

I’m often awed when looking back to see how far along we’ve come in a few weeks, or in a few months, and it’s extremely rewarding to see something that you’ve built from the ground up come to life and grow. Whenever a problem arises, it’s challenging to think creatively on how to solve it given limited resources but also very exciting when it works out well.

What has motivated you most throughout your entrepreneurship journey?  
My husband, family & friends have been incredibly supportive of me every step of the way (even on the bad days), which I’m immensely grateful for! I’m inspired and encouraged by other amazing entrepreneurs I’ve met along the way, and it’s the best times when we come together to help each other out in any way we can. I’m also grateful to be working with incredibly dedicated and hardworking people who believe in our mission and together looking to service every one of our brides well.

I feel very lucky that we can be a part of such an important day in someone’s life. Brides often send us heartfelt thank you emails and it’s so incredibly touching to see our stunning brides surrounded by their loved ones looking so radiant and happy. Our brides tell us a little about their lives and their love stories and they tell us how they share their dress experience with us to their friends which is something that we are so grateful for and keeps us going.

What words of wisdom would you share with other new entrepreneurs?
My advice would be to sometimes take a step back and think small. This seems non-conventional but as an entrepreneur trying to figure out so many things at once, it’s easy to aim too high, lose sight of priorities and end up not having not been able to achieve the basic steps that propel the business forward.