Into the Spotlight, sponsored by Huddersfield-based Scriba PR, is a weekly feature which highlights some great independent businesses. Here, we introduce Shannon Martin who runs Dotty Bridal and Off The Peg bridlewear shops in Holmfirth
The pandemic proved to be an opportunity for bridalwear entrepreneur Shannon Martin and she’s now reaping the rewards.
Shannon, 34, who runs Dotty Bridal and Off The Peg in Holmfirth, struck out on her own in 2014 after a successful career with big-name retailers including Victoria’s Secret and Cath Kidston.
Her businesses were doing well until the wedding industry came to a crashing halt with the first Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020.
But while some wedding businesses stopped completely, Shannon decided to work even harder behind closed doors and enhance her presence on social media and keep supporting the brides whose dreams were in tatters.
“I remember watching the lockdown press conference in tears wondering how we were going to carry on,” said Shannon. “I was devastated.
“But after that initial shock came a determination. Life deals you these cards and you have to respond and get on with it.
“Even though we were closed and no-one was allowed in the shop our workload was crazy.
“All the staff were furloughed but myself and my business partner Beth had to crack on.
“We had to help and support the brides too, and keep their spirits up. Thank God for social media!
“No-one was understanding how brides felt. People were saying ‘they are only getting married, it’s not the end of the world.’ But to them it was.
“Some wanted to get married first and then have children. This could push their lives back two years.”
Shannon, who at the time had Dotty Bridal in Holmfirth and Off The Peg in Denby Dale, said lockdown for her was hard work, not a time to sit back.
“A lot of other businesses thought ‘we are in lockdown, we can’t do anything.’ But we did the opposite. We did more in lockdown and worked so much harder.”
Shannon even set up a new venture, DOT Branding, to help and advise other businesses on branding, marketing and social media.
That led to other avenues opening up as Shannon found she enjoyed sharing her knowledge and experience and advising others.
Shannon now writes for the bridal industry’s biggest trade magazine – Bridal Buyer – and is also involved in some ‘Instagram Lives’ for the brand.
She also hosts their business advice clinic at annual trade shows in London and Harrogate.
Shannon opened her first bridal shop, Evelyn Taylor Bridal, in Holmfirth in 2014 when she decided to leave the corporate world and seek a new challenge.
The catalyst proved to be an application to take part in TV business investment show The Apprentice with Lord Sugar.
“I applied for The Apprentice and made it to the interview stage,” said Shannon. “My business idea for the investment was a pre-loved wedding dress store.
“Though I didn’t get through they thought it was a great idea and that spurred me on.”
Evelyn Taylor Bridal was a huge success offering pre-loved wedding gowns. During this time, Shannon would often get asked for new dresses and saw an opportunity to expand further.
In 2015 Shannon found new premises in Holmfirth and opened Dotty Bridal, securing a relationship with one of the world’s biggest wedding dress designers, Pronovias.
After having her first child, Shannon struggled to manage the two shops and closed Evelyn Taylor Bridal to focus on expanding Dotty.
In 2017 Shannon opened Off The Peg for brides who didn’t have the budget for a Dotty dress. The following year Dotty expanded into the shop next door.
After coming through the depths of the pandemic Shannon saw the opportunity to relocate Off The Peg to Victoria Street in Holmfirth.
Off The Peg opened last September and sales hit record levels. The two shops feed off eachother and both businesses, with a team of 14 staff, are doing well.
With many couples having postponed weddings until 2022 or 2023, it’s boom time for the weddings industry and 2022 is expected to be the busiest ever.
The year 2021-22 has already proved to be the best for Shannon’s business and she puts much of that down to the hard work behind the scenes during lockdown.
Shannon, who lives in Shepley with husband James and children Nori, five, and Elvie, three, isn’t about to take her foot off the gas. In fact she has some unfinished business.
It’s almost 10 years since she applied to go on The Apprentice and she’s seriously considering trying again, with another business idea.
“Lord Sugar is an idol and The Apprentice helped me decide to leave a well-paid career in retail and go and do it for myself. Lord Sugar has a lot to answer for!”
Shannon said she wouldn’t relish living with a bunch of strangers for weeks on end but the business tasks wouldn’t faze her.
“I have a great work ethic and I would make a great business partner for Lord Sugar,” she said. “Why wouldn’t I do it?”