For Adrienn Braun, early March was a rude awakening.
“Brides just started calling me and said, ‘Hey, we canceled the wedding,’” the bridal fashion designer says. “It was one call, two calls, three calls.”
Her business, Adrienn Braun Bridal and Fashion Studio, based in Hoboken, New Jersey, was badly impacted. Balances were not paid in full, consultations got canceled, and brides began asking for less elaborate dresses for smaller-scale, backyard weddings. Many of her plans to custom-design dresses turned into alterations – a fraction of the price she earns to design from scratch.
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There were over 2 million weddings in 2019; 2020 is expected to see just 1 million– half that of the year prior, according to The Wedding Report. Braun went from working on 200 to 250 weddings a year to an expected 160 for 2020.
Niki Siracusa, one of Braun’s clients, had to postpone her wedding three times due to COVID-19.
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“It was very emotional. We were all set to go. All the venues, all the vendors were paid,” Siracusa says. Siracusa now plans to get married in March 2021 and is working with Braun to custom-design a dress.
Wedding industry workers like Braun have a choice: Lose revenue or pivot.
As the calls from distressed brides came in early March, Braun began getting calls from friends working in hospitals around New York and New Jersey who were desperate for masks. Braun believed she could help. She took leftover fabric from her store, made of 100 percent cotton, and made and donated over 6,000 masks – not just to hospitals, but also to shelters, volunteer ambulance corps and police departments.
“The silver lining of my business during COVID-19 was definitely the opportunity to meet other people that I never thought that I would,” Braun says.
The new work also helped Braun get closer to her husband. Because her seamstresses were working from home during the pandemic, Braun had to take on a bigger load herself. Her husband, Emilio Mazzucotelli, who had no experience sewing prior to this year, stepped in and helped her make the masks. “We did whatever we could,” she says.
Word of her masks began spreading among the community in Hoboken. Soon she was not just donating masks, she was also selling them to the general public. Now she makes more elaborate masks for wedding parties as well.
All the attention Braun has gotten brought her new potential customers. People who were already married or who had no plans to wed asked how they could support her. So this summer, Braun began designing children’s clothing and summer dresses.
“Why not? If I can make a wedding dress, I can make a summer dress,” she says.
Braun’s advice to other businesses struggling during the pandemic – ask yourself: “What are [you] good at? What tools do [you] have in your hand to go and take other steps?” And then adapt and be flexible, she says.
“You will have little bumps,” she says. “Just don’t give up.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Small business: Wedding dress designer turns an industry in free-fall into an opportunity to give back during COVID-19