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B2B ID: Marcelia Muehlke, Celia Grace wedding dresses and accessories

Photo credit: Ollmann Foto

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NAME: Marcelia Muehlke

JOB TITLE, COMPANY: Founder & CEO, Celia Grace wedding dresses and accessories

WEBSITE: www.celia-grace.com

AGE: 29

WHEN THE BUSINESS STARTED: About a year ago

WHAT YOU DO: Celia Grace is a green and socially-responsible wedding dress company that makes exquisite wedding dresses with a story behind them that is just as beautiful. Celia Grace is a green company because we use hand woven silk made on no-electricity looms. All our dresses are made by small, carefully-chosen producer groups in Cambodia and Nepal that follow fair trade practices to ensure safe, fair and empowering work conditions.

EXPERIENCE: International development, business, project management and creating gorgeous and meaningful wedding dresses.

THE MARKET: Celia Grace targets so-called “green brides” who want to use eco-friendly or socially-responsible goods and services at their weddings. Weddings are a $60 billion industry in the U.S. and green or sustainable weddings are a growing trend.

HOW YOU REACH OUT TO IT: Celia Grace reaches customers primarily through blogs, social media and websites that cater to green brides. In addition, we tell our story through ethical fashion, fair trade, green and mainstream publications.

WHAT FINANCING HURDLES HAVE YOU FACED AND HOW HAVE YOU HANDLED THEM? Producing a high-quality product and paying a living wage are at the heart of Celia Grace. We work hard to keep the business lean in other ways in order to manage costs.

KEY TO SUCCESS: One of our keys to success is our mix of product and social mission. As a triple-bottom-line business, we consider people, planet and profit. Celia Grace works with partners in Cambodia and Nepal who offer both a compelling story and a high-quality product. From our hand-woven silk to the small producer groups who sew our dresses under safe and fair conditions, Celia Grace has built a supply chain that changes lives and produces stunning wedding dresses.

CHALLENGES: One of our biggest challenges is reaching brides and telling them not only about our product but also the story behind it. Some brides are very excited about the concept but others haven’t thought about where their clothing comes from or how they can use their purchases to help people.

MISSTEP YOU LEARNED FROM: Face-to-face communication is so important and powerful. I have learned that I can avoid misunderstandings and get exponentially more done by meeting with people in person.

WHAT OTHERS COULD LEARN FROM YOU: There are so many ways for complementary business to support one another. I have been amazed at how much I can support others, and they can support me, by cross-promoting or exchanging services.

WHO HELPED MENTOR YOU PROFESSIONALLY: I have many great mentors here in the Pioneer Valley – professors, professionals and entrepreneurship groups like Valley Venture Mentors and the Small Business Development Center.

ADVICE FOR OTHERS SEEKING BUSINESS SUCCESS: Balance the need to consider alternatives and research options with the need to make decisions quickly in order to move forward.

PARTING THOUGHT: We all want to do good in large and small ways. It is easy to forget that every time we spend money we have the opportunity to vote with our dollars for the kind of world we want.

B2B ID is compiled by Janice Beetle, owner of Beetle Press in Easthampton. Beetle Press offers writing, editing and graphic design services. www.beetlepress.com. To suggest a subject for B2B ID, email Beetle at beetlepress@charter.net.

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