Bridgette Raes really is an inspiring entrepreneur, and I think this interview teaches valuable lessons. She went through the process of finding what she was meant to be doing with her life, and later opened and developed her business. She learned the importance of believing in herself, identifying the things she needed help with, getting help and learning how to sell the service she provides. I hope you enjoy reading and learning more about Bridgette and her business as I did interviewing her.
Bridgette Raes embarked on a career in fashion design after obtaining her degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology. Despite the glamorous trappings of her career, from her participation in important events to trips to Europe, Bridgette wasn’t completely satisfied with her work. After a few years in the industry Bridgette realized she wanted more from life, and set out to find a way to combine her love for fashion and style with her interest in making a difference. She found what she was looking for in the field of personal style consultation. She recently went back to FIT to study image consulting, and in September 2002, after ten years as a fashion designer, founded Bridgette Raes Style Group.
Bridgette had learned from her years in fashion design that while most designers realize how challenging it can be for women to get dressed and determine their style, they don’t do much about it. She no longer could overlook women’s cry for help to figure out their image and style. As Bridgette explains, “Our image and clothes are powerful communicator of who we are, what we want, our goals, how we can achieve them. This is something that shouldn’t be ignored.”
Her ten years of experience, along with subsequent training in image consultation at FIT, gave Bridgette the key to her achievements. Bridgette’s instructors at FIT were fashion industry professionals in the business for over 20 years and successful business owners themselves. By paying attention to what they had to say and at the same time taking in consideration her own personal experiences, Bridgette was able to create her own business concept and mission.
Bridgette Raes Style Group
The current crop of makeover shows featured on the airwaves right now, from series such as Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Extreme Makeover to the makeover features on The Oprah Winfrey Show, are an indication of the public fascination with and interest in personal image development. During our interview, Bridgette mentioned people’s tendency to regress back to their previous image behavior following those makeovers, since there is no education and no long-term change in a makeover subject’s point of view.
In her own business, Bridgette helps her clients to establish lasting changes in their mindsets through a 5-step program she developed. Her program assesses a wide range of aspects of each client’s life and tastes, from her life and goals to her preferred colors. She helps her clients improve their wardrobe by guiding them through each step of wardrobe selection, from understanding what pieces do or do not work for her client to helping them shop. Bridgette also offers smaller programs as well as workshops. She has a roster of trusted professionals to whom she refer clients who need more help in areas such as makeup application, organization, and personal coaching.
Bridgette recalls that she was naïve as she first started out on her business; she believed the phone would start ringing without much effort. She knew she had a skill, but didn’t know how to market it. She later hired a business coach, who helped her gain more focus through creating a 5-year plan that includes specific goals of what she hopes to accomplish.
The business coaching, along with a few business classes she took at FIT, helped her to more effectively identify her client base and market her services. It opened her mind and changed her perspective on the business and how she presents herself. Building her business took time, and at first Bridgette continued to work part-time as a freelance designer while marketing and growing Bridgette Raes Style Group. But in May 2003 her business had expanded enough for her to work at it full-time, and today it continues to flourish.
The main challenges Bridgette Raes faced were learning how to become known, how to be taken seriously and how to sell her service. She remembers that many years ago she worked as a salesperson and had a great ability to sell products, but selling personal services was a different story. Joining networking groups, offering workshops, setting up her website and writing a weekly e-newsletter, are some of the steps Bridgette has taken to grow her business.
A look at the future
Instead of moving to different areas of style, as she envisioned at first, Bridgette wants to keep focusing on her core competences to continue making a difference in women’s lives. With that in mind, she is in the process of writing a book. She wants to help women revolutionize their relationship with themselves, saying, “It’s time for women to take the driver’s seat, and ask what fashion can do for them.” She shared with me her love for what she does, and how being able to make a difference in people’s lives makes her feel good.
Advice and lessons learned
At the end of the interview, Bridgette had a few caveats for prospective entrepreneurs. She pointed out that should you wish to start your own business, you should be prepared to receive criticism and negative feedback from people who do not believe in your ideas, giving as an example how some friends wouldn’t consider her decision to leave a 6-figure salary a wise step.
In her own words: “I really believe that when you follow your heart, you do what you are suppose to do, and you follow what’s right for you, the universe will take care of you. That’s why I really believe it worked for me, because I jumped into something I was suppose to do with my life.” She went on to say that you should surround yourself with supporters, and people who believe in what you are doing.
Realizing one’s weaknesses and getting help are lessons Bridgette learned the hard way, as it took her a while to hire a coach and take lessons to really be able to develop her business.
To end this article, I leave you with more inspiring messages from Bridgette: “Every day there is a lesson, allow yourself to learn, to let go, know that it’s going to work out. Sometimes it is out of hand, you are going to have to trust that it’s going to happen.” Bridgette Raes.
Read Bridgette Raes’ article “Dressing the part” by clicking here.
For more information about Bridgette Raes and her business, visit http://bridgetteraes.com/