Lace and weddings go hand in hand......
When I was growing up in Crete, at a time when no one owned a car and people were able to sit outside their home on the street, all the women would come out in the afternoon after a day's work, and hang. They would stitch, or crochet and teach the younger girls to do the same. They would work on their daughters dowries. I created many cross-stitch and single stitch projects on painted needlepoint canvas those years. My sister was taught to crochet by a neighbor. She was really good at it and created many beautiful things for me like curtains and a blanket. Crochet lace is a lace I have known all my life. Missing those happy, relaxing, worry free days!!!
After I moved to the US and lived with my paternal grandmother, I saw that she knew how to crochet as well. She has made for me many doilies and an amazing crochet tablecloth that I even use today. Of course, as I was getting older, I was noticing other types of lace, machine made as people would say. These were more affordable and would be used for window treatments or decorating home furnishings.
We love using lace at ‘dahlia’. It’s elegant, romantic and just plain beautiful. We search for pretty lace everywhere we go and try to be very creative in how we use it. Wedding dresses have lace, why not our candles. There is no reason why you should not add some romance with lace to any style wedding!
Continue reading for a short history of lace
“Do you have a website?” was the common question at our open house.
Why were people asking this? Why were we surprised? What did we NOT know? Well, the answers to all these questions were about to unfold.
We had to get with the times. Everyone shopped on line!!
Argie and I had some discussions on how to go about this but didn’t really know where to start. We didn’t know how to create or run a website and simply could not afford to hire someone to do this for us.
As always, our families came to the rescue. Argie’s daughter introduced her to Weebly. Together they created our first website. It was a free website that we were able to download pictures of our products for people to see. Little did we know that this was the beginning of a much bigger undertaking.
For about half a year both Argie and I would design and create our products, take pictures with our Iphones and download them onto our Weebly website. We were proud to be able to do this. The demands didn’t stop there. Now people were asking if we were selling on line. We were being encouraged to convert our simple website to a selling one. This would increase the ease for people to shop from us and since our business wasn't taking off we decided to do it.
Needless to say, for two inexperienced women in business, marketing and computers, getting into all this WAS SOOOOOO overwhelming!!!
Did I mention how family always came to the rescue? My brother in law Scott volunteered to help us set up a selling website AND how to take better pictures of our products.
January 15, 2016
When the idea of decorating candles presented itself, Argie and I thought that we would have immediate clientele with the parishioners of our church. It seemed so easy that we would simply mention that we own a business selling wedding and baptismal products and by word of mouth people would shop from us. What were we thinking? Did we think that people didn’t have choices? Why would they automatically choose our product over someone else’s that has been in the business for a long time? Never thought about people not liking our style and or our prices. Another one of our downfalls of not having any business education; no marketing experience.
We prepared to introduce our business at an open house in February of 2014. We hoped that this would get our business going. Within six months of us deciding to start dahlia, we felt that we had enough products to show everyone what we do. Our home based store looked great with our beautifully displayed products and the nice food spread for everyone who came to enjoy. It was a party to introduce ‘dahlia’.
We enjoyed this day with our families and were thankful for all the friends and acquaintances that came to celebrate the true opening of our business.
There was a common question of the day: DO YOU HAVE A WEBSITE?
What did this mean?
The idea of a one stop shopping experience for all the baptismal items seemed like an awesome idea and something we wanted to offer to our customers. Therefore, we created the “Baptismal Basket”. Much thought went into what items we would include in this considering the cultural and Orthodox Church traditions.
Upon doing our search, we learned that many vendors in the U.S. import their products from Greece. It was something we looked into briefly for some of the products. Due to the hassle and expense of shipping, methods of payments required, we decided to use products we can find in the U.S. We also took into consideration what people in our area would like to see in this basket. One of our biggest challenges were the ladopana (oil clothes).
At the end we felt happy with what we chose and the baptismal basket became our signature product:
Spending a substantial amount of time across a table with your business partner while you both are working on the same candle, handling all the decorating material together, is a time to get to know them. You become a business family. You learn how to get along together, support each other, solve business problems and make big business decisions. All this can only happen with great communication, patience and understanding.
Argie’s basement was ideal for our work shop. We decided to start decorating baptismal candles first. It was fun and challenging for us as this was something neither one of us had attempted to do before. Argie and I spend hours on trying to create new designs for the candles. There were times that we doubted ourselves and wondered if future customers would be attracted to something unusual.
Argie easily and happily agreed for us to create new and fresh designs for wedding and baptismal candles. That part was easy. She had planned to go to Greece the very summer that our business was starting. It was the perfect time for her to experience the culture of candle decorating there before we started ours. I was very eager for her to go and be inspired by materials and colors used on the wedding and baptismal candles. She really enjoyed visiting the shops and seeing the different items they offered for the sacraments. I warned her that she would be shockingly surprised with the designs in Greece.
Argie was impressed with what she saw. It was so different from what she was used to. People in Greece decorated with a freedom and happiness using happy colors and romantic materials and dried flowers; something we don’t see here.
Needless to say, we studied styles in Greece, both U.S. coasts, the midwest, Canada and Australia. We quickly learned what we liked and didn’t like and began to create our own style. How fortunate did I get to find a partner that had the same likes and dislikes as me, and that we both wanted to create and offer something different . It was evident that whatever styles we came up with would be coherent, elegant, soft and happy.
I liked the challenge…..
From the beginning my thoughts were to decorate candles for weddings and baptisms in different designs and materials from those presently used in the U.S. and Europe. You may ask why? The European designs seemed over the top with all the trinkets and yards of tulle hanging down off the candles. The U.S. designs seemed to either be imported from Europe or be accented with a bow in various colors and sizes.
Could I do this? Would Argie agree?
Having three of my children baptized in Greece, I was exposed to all the different styles of candles and materials used to decorate them. One large “lambada” (word for a single large candle) is usually used for the baptism that is decorated with lots of tulle, fabric, ribbons, a decorative gift item for the baby like a stuffed animal, toy or silk, dry or fresh flowers. More recently, a decorated floor candle stand with a pillar candle is another option. Three smaller candles decorated with colored ribbons are placed in the holders on the baptismal font or carried by younger children during the appropriate time in the service.
We were really excited to have decided upon a name for our business: “dahlia”. Registering the business with state and country made the business feel real. But now we had to deal with the dollars and cents. Argie asked me the minimum amount of money I thought we would need to get started. I replied, "$800 for the both of us”, thinking we could “bootstrap” the business. I guess I knew the concept at the time but not the term. I’m not talking about a rodeo! Bootstrapping is where you start a business with a minimal amount of your own money, but plow all your income back into the business, growing over time. To come up with a number I made an educated guess on the cost of materials to create a set of wedding and a set of baptism candles (lambades) knowing we could buy more materials once we sold these initial products.
“The only source of knowledge is experience.” -Albert Einstein
We needed to do many things to get the business going. Even though we didn’t write a business plan prior to agreeing to start the business, one was certainly beginning to unfold.
Sure, you can read books that attempt to guide you through the process. But we found that the best learning comes from experience. Here are just a few lessons I had already learned along the way:
Argie studied graphic design when projects were done by hand and not with the help of a computer. She worked many consulting jobs throughout the years while raising her four children. I worked as a surgical nurse for nearly twenty years and seven years dabbling in interior decorating, faux finishing and murals while raising my own four children. What did we know about starting a business? Did we know about company naming? Did we know about the financial burden and how to manage finances for the business? Did we know about all the legal paperwork? Did we know anything about marketing and advertising? Did we know the amount of time we would spend trying to develop our products and our company? And here is the big one...did we know what it meant to run an online store?