Nothing is more troublesome than trying to find high quality, high end fashions... especially if you're a plus sized woman. The reality is that there is a growing niche in the clothing market, a niche that many stores are not that quick to fill.
A plus sized woman herself, Michelle just wasn't able to find the fashions she wanted in her size. Together Michelle and her daughter Catherine decided to change that, so they made use of their combined talents and created La Grande Dame.
Tell us a little about La Grande Dame and your inspiration for the business.
We both share a passion for fashion and have spent the last decade shopping together. These shopping trips were often marred by tears in the dressing room and unkind words from sales people who “don’t have anything big enough” for size 18 Michelle. Petite Catherine could always find the perfect, fashionable, trendy clothing to fit her body type but unfortunately, as a college student and then a recent graduate she never had the money to buy those designer fashions. Michelle had the desire and the means to purchase those fabulous styles but more often than not they didn’t come in her size.
We started La Grande Dame to ensure that larger women across the country have the opportunity to purchase designer clothing made for their curves. La Grande Dame is committed to beautiful, trendy, high-end fashions for plus sized women.
Up to what size does the clothing you offer go to?
Most designers that we carry go up to a size 24 although we carry 4x (26-28) in Gayla Bentley.
What are some of the brands you offer?
We carry top designer brands such as Marina Rinaldi (Max Mara’s plus sized line), David Meister, and Not Your Daughter’s Jeans as well as boutique brands such as Anna Scholz, Melissa Masse, and t-bags. We have a huge variety of brands to satisfy women’s professional wardrobes, as well as fun, trendy, casual attire.
Which products are the most popular among your customers?
Our customers love fun tunics and figure flattering dresses. They also love things that are unique and hard to find. We sell a lot of Anna Scholz, Marina Rinaldi and t-bags. James Jeans are our most popular denim brand.
What impression do you hope a potential customer will take away from your website when they visit?
We want our customers to take away a couple of points:
1) That there are beautiful, trendy, high quality clothes available to women of every size.
2) They deserve to wear these beautiful clothes.
3) That La Grande Dame specializes in excellent customer service and we are available by live chat, phone or email.
It has definitely made us closer and we have a much different appreciation for the skills that each of us bring to the business. Before working together I always knew mom was creative but once we actually started La Grande Dame I was amazed by the good, creative marketing ideas she came up with on a regular basis.
She always knew I liked to write but was surprised to see how professional it was and how quickly and easily it came to me.
What is the hardest part of working so closely with someone you're related to? What's the best part?
The hardest part of working so closely together with someone you love is keeping emotion out of the conversation. For example financial conversations between daughters and parents are always fraught with emotion and bring back memories of child interactions. Discussing business finances without getting stressed is hard.
The best part is we get to see each other every day. We can work together better than we would with any other person, we get to bring our dogs to work and soon I will be bringing my baby.
What are some of the lessons your business has taught you?
Start small with the expectation of growth. When you think you are starting small, take a step back and start even smaller, especially in a recession! We knew our idea would be a hit — and it has been — it has just taken a little bit longer to really develop a strong customer base and to get customers familiar with our site.
Do you have any advice you'd like to offer fellow entrepreneurs that are just getting started?
Don’t try to start a business that you are not passionate about and that you don’t have complete faith in. You will put in too much time, money and emotion to commit to something you are not absolutely excited about.