Penny Bowers-Schebal claims that she wears barn boots to bed and pearls at night.
In Austinburg, Ohio, a little village of fewer than 600 residents located about 50 miles east of Cleveland, the 55-year-old woman resides on a goat dairy farm. Before driving seven minutes to Genova, where her wedding dress store Formality Bridal is located, she tends to the goats and peacocks at sunrise.
Situated in a 4,000-square-foot vacant church, the store operates on a straightforward yet lucrative business plan: purchase heavily discounted sample gowns from large shops at a discount and resell them to nearby brides for as much as $999.
That is over $1,000 less than the typical wedding dress, according to The Knot’s study.
Formality Bridal has earned almost $313,000 in income thus far this year, per records that CNBC Make It examined. The five-year-old company, which employs five people, this week launched a second store in Erie, Pennsylvania, which is about an hour’s drive away.
About 20 percent of Formality Bridal’s yearly income, or about $57,000, goes towards Bowers-Schebal’s self-pay. Although it’s not the most money she’s ever made, she claims to be content, work fewer than 25 hours a week, and have a growing business.
We’ve always had enough money to cover our expenses, pay our staff, and yet have money left over for me personally.That is my definition of a small business’s success.
This is how she manages her wedding shop and farm life, and how, despite having “no experience,” she created a successful company.
From goats to gowns-
In 2016, Bowers-Schebal’s husband and her inherited the 33-acre goat farm from his mother. She claims it appeared to be held “together by duct tape.”
The couple at the time owned and operated a wine shop in Ohio’s Lake County. They used the $158,000 they received from the sale of the shop to rehabilitate the farm. According to Bowers-Schebal, they determined that selling maize and soybeans would be more profitable, and they currently make just enough money from the crops to break even.
Living off the land forced Bowers-Schebal to think about sustainability in a broader sense than just agriculture.
She considered the brief lives of bridal gowns; usually worn just once, they go out of style a few weeks after they are released off the rack. She also recalled her time spent working at the large insurance company Progressive, where she was trained to develop “strategic relationships.”
She ultimately sent out a pitch to retailers all throughout the nation saying, “Don’t throw away your out-of-season dresses; I’ll buy them at a discounted price.” In order to avoid being perceived as a rival, she exclusively contacted bigger bridal stores that weren’t in nearby communities, “from Maine to California,” according to her.
Although Bowers-Schebal’s farm wasn’t profitable enough to support a physical store, she did have savings of her own. At the age of 30, she had begun setting aside $25 a month in a Dividend Reinvestment Plan, or DRIP, account.
She took out about $25,000 to purchase a 1,200-square-foot office building, and in June 2018 she established the first Formality Bridal location—which was exclusively open by appointment.
Slow growth means Success-
According to Bowers-Schebal, the business attracted enough clients in less than a year to turn a profit.
She claims that word-of-mouth advertising on social media was quite beneficial. She was also consumed by her finances. I kept a very close eye on my finances and was able to provide you with daily updates on our account balance and how much I spent.
Formality Bridal’s office space ran out in 2021. Bowers-Schebal invested $48,000 in the deserted church in Genova, which, in her opinion, enhanced the immersiveness of the Formality Bridal experience.
The original pews have been replaced with racks of gowns, and prospective brides literally walk down an aisle flanked by 150-year-old stained glass windows.
Formality Bridal made $10,000 a week for the first time a few weeks after she moved. It felt like “a millionaire,” according to Bowers-Schebal.
It’s critical to keep going on that course. Her husband, who worked full-time at an aircraft repair centre, suffered a stroke two years ago, making it impossible for him to do his job. They are mostly dependent on her salary, but he manages the farm and gets disability payments.
Thus, it is much riskier to open a second location. According to The Knot, the average wedding cost in Pennsylvania is $7,000 higher than that of Ohio, suggesting a larger potential market, but Bowers-Schebal thinks it’s the logical next step for her company.
According to Bowers-Schebal’s estimation, Formality Bridal’s two sites might generate a total income of $1 million by 2024.
She says, “I think success is slow growth, especially when you’re starting out.” Meteoric rises aren’t my thing because they usually vanish extremely rapidly. With our larger, more recent store in Erie, I’m hopeful that growth will occur more faster than it did in my first adorable boutique, which was 1,200 square feet.