10 Questions with Sandy Leone of Love Couture Bridal
1) How long have you had your salon and where is it located?
I’ve been a bridal salon owner since 1997. Love Couture Bridal is my second salon, and I opened it in 2010. It is located in Potomac, Maryland.
2) What inspired you to open it?
I was a partner at my first salon for 13 years and I always dreamed of being on my own. Since I started my career at the young age of 21, I waited until it felt right, and then I took the leap to open Love Couture Bridal.
3) What makes it unique to your area?
There are three simple, but key principals that I believe differentiates my salon from other salons in my market. First, we pride ourselves on being full service. Many salons do not offer alterations and bridesmaids dresses because both departments present challenges for the business and they aren’t very profitable. Our brides love that we can fully serve them and their bridal party! Second, we have a wide range of bridal gown styles. Rather than being known for one particular bridal aesthetic, we offer gowns from more than 20 different designers. Finally, we don’t believe in saying, “No.” If a bride has a request or asks for something out of the norm, we go the extra mile to fulfill her request.
4)What type of venues do your brides marry in the Maryland /Virginia area?
Brides in the DC Metro area have so many options when it comes to venues. Most of our brides select country clubs that their families belong to, historic hotels in Washington, DC, such as the Willard, and an array of beautiful vineyards that are about an hour outside of the city.
5) How did you become a contestant on “The Apprentice” and what did you learn from that experience?
After watching the first season of “The Apprentice,” I was hooked on the business show. I mailed an application and a video tape of me in my salon, and I applied for the second season along with a million other applicants. I got a call back and I was first interviewed by producers in DC. One interview lead to another, and eventually I was selected to meet with executive producers in LA where it became official. I had three days to pack, and before I knew it, I was in New York City for eight weeks — barely eating or sleeping and trying to keep up with the tough competition of the Ivy League grads who were also on the show. It was then that I realized that I don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, I just needed to be willing to work the hardest. During that time I have never been prouder of the fact that I dropped out of college to become an entrepreneur. The other contestants were incredibly accomplished, but it was my ability to take risks coupled with my real-world business experience that lead me to become the 2nd runner up out of 18 contestants. .
6) How informed are the brides when they come in for an appointment?
Brides are more informed than ever before. They have planned their entire wedding with social media inspiration, and they have a concept in their minds as to how they want to look on their wedding day. Although they have it mostly figured out, we still take time to educate them on fit and fabrics, and we offer our knowledge to help bring their dream gown to life.
7) Any particular trends/looks selling well?
Since our salon is in a diverse multicultural area, we always do well with classic and traditional gowns. We’ve noticed that brides are asking for sleeves and cleaner looks lately.
8) How often do you prefer to buy for your store?
My favorite market is in April because I receive my samples by late Fall, which gives us a fresh, newly stocked inventory for the busy season. The October market has more options, but by the time the stock arrives the busy season is coming to an end, so I feel like there are missed sales opportunities.
9) What do you like most about running a salon?
I honestly love the whole operation. I am still humbled each time I hear a bottle of champagne popping because a bride said yes. The excitement you feel in the salon never gets old! I love seeing my team work together to accomplish great things. I also appreciate the various challenges that I face because 22 years later, I am still refining, I am still growing, and I still feel incredibly passionate about my bridal salon.
10) What did you wear for your own wedding?
I got married in 2007, and I wore a Luci Di Bella gown, a designer from Australia, and Haute Bride accessories.