The wedding day is often considered the biggest day of a woman’s life. All attention is on the bride as her hair is primped, her makeup applied, her something borrowed, something blue safely in place and she is buttoned into the pièce de résistance, her dress – the envy of all who surround her. Once she takes the walk down the aisle, she can relax and enjoy the day that begins her married life. But, there is much stress for most brides leading up to the big day. Who’s on the invitation list, what’s on the menu, who are the bridesmaids, who are the groomsmen, what colour will the bridesmaids/ groomsmen wear, is there enough money – so many questions and what feels like so little time to make all the decisions. Gwen Cain-Shepherd, owner of Gwen’s Bridal in Dartmouth knows exactly how stressful a wedding can be for a bride, because she sees it first hand at her store. The best part for her is helping to ease the stress of the bride and the groom, because as she says, “when there are wedding parties of 25 it can be a little overwhelming to manage everyone’s opinion.” “When I was married, I had a wedding party of seven and I thought that was big!” says Gwen. Today, a wedding isn’t the only thing that’s considered a big occasion. Girls and young women are buying dresses for their graduation, high school dances, and most importantly, their Prom. “Prom is taking over the world,” Gwen says. Originally from Nova Scotia, she understands how big a deal Prom is here, Gwen’s Bridal Making Wedding Dreams Come True and points out that most bridal dresses in her store come in different colours, in case a girl likes a bridal style for her big day but does not want it in a white or ivory.
Her busiest months are from April to August, and with the rush of Prom and Graduation, Gwen reminds herself to breathe, because she’s doing what she loves best. She got the idea to open up a dress shop after her husband forgot to pack her suitcase in the car when they were leaving for a cruise. “His one job was to take the suitcase and put it in the car!” she laughs. Her sister reminded her that there are shops on board that sell clothes and dresses, and after getting over her hesitation, she decided to go into a little boutique on the ship. The storeowner was renting out wedding dresses, costume dresses and cocktail dresses. Having that experience brought back Gwen’s childhood dream of selling wedding dresses so when she returned from her cruise, she decided to give it a try. She started her business in Montreal, and after several years she made the decision to move back to her Nova Scotia roots. Upon her return, she noticed there weren’t any Black-owned bridal boutiques; she wanted to be the first one. She felt that it was important to demonstrate to other aspiring Black entrepreneurs that to try is the most important thing.
The Black Business Initiative (BBI) helped Gwen on her journey. She admits to starting her business with her heart, without any knowledge of what it takes to open and run a business successfully. That changed once she got involved with training programs and conferences offered by the BBI. Gwen contacted other Black entrepreneurs and says that she has benefited tremendously from their guidance and mentorship. “It’s been tremendous to deal with things on my own after taking BBI’s classes.” In the future, Gwen hopes to expand her business to other cities across Canada, so more women and girls can enjoy that fairytale experience of picking out the perfect dress. Whether you’re a bride looking for a wedding dress or a high school graduate looking for a prom dress, Gwen says that as soon as you walk through her boutique doors, you will be treated like royalty. After buying her third dress at Gwen’s Bridal for her daughter’s high school dance, Denise Lough says she refers Gwen to everyone. “I feel like she’s an old friend, she knows my face and voice, it feels very comfortable,” she says. Gwen says that her business would not have survived if it wasn’t for her community, her sisters, and her husband who nudged her in that direction when he purposefully forgot her suitcase at home.
Gwen’s Bridal 102 Albro Lake Rd, Dart., NS
Writen by: Sindi Skerderi B2B Issue 58