From a seven-month construction delay at Bespoke Bride’s flagship location in Bend, Oregon, to a caved-in roof and a record-breaking snowstorm, Jennifer Nichols and her business faced many setbacks getting where they are today—opening a second location in Boise, Idaho.
Along the way, there have also been many victories for Nichols, who studied business administration and entrepreneurship at the Lundquist College. For instance, in 2019, Bespoke Bride earned the Best New Vendor and Best Dress Shop designation from Oregon Bride magazine.
So far, the biggest challenge for Nichols and her business has been COVID-19 and the pandemic’s effect on the bridal industry. Throughout it all, Nichols has remained resilient, hitting significant growth metrics quarter after quarter.
In addition to custom bridal gowns, Bespoke offers menswear, event planning, and wedding design, among other services.
Resiliency is second-nature for Nichols. She came to the University of Oregon with a plan to study psychology and possibly become a school counselor. After finding work at a Eugene bridal shop, however, she fell love with the industry and dreamed of one day opening her own shop. She switched her major and enrolled at the Lundquist College.
“I used Bespoke as my class project in almost all my classes, greatly impacting the success of the business,” Nichols remembered.
“It was really cool because the entrepreneurship concentration coursework essentially follows the progression of a business startup,” she continued.
Nichols added that as a single-founder startup, the entrepreneurship concentration allowed her to bounce ideas off classmates and teachers, helping her feel less alone.
“It brought different perspectives and ‘what-ifs’ that I might not have considered otherwise,” she said. “I think one of the biggest benefits of opening this business immediately after graduation was all the knowledge was fresh in my mind.”
Nichols said in the three years since opening her business, she’s leaned into her Lundquist College experience, something setting Bespoke Bride apart from the competition.
The biggest piece of advice Nichols would give a student currently enrolled at the University of Oregon who dreams of one day owning their own business is that there will never be as many resources at your fingertips as there are right now. So take advantage of them.
“Your classmates, your teachers, the entire staff at the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship [LCE], connections to RAINmaker grants—use them,” Nichols urged.
“If you don't know where to start, do what I did, walk into the LCE office and say ‘so I have this idea,’ and I promise you, doors will open,” she said.
Most of all, there will be a perfect day to start your business, Nichols continued, so don’t be afraid to start.
“You're never going to know all the answers,” she explained. “You just have to go for it, and know that you'll never know what you don't know until you go through it.”
—Will Kennedy, Lundquist College Communications