Weddings are always exciting affairs – however any bride can attest to the stress that comes with planning it; especially when it comes to finding the perfect bridesmaid dresses. People have different styles, body types, and not to mention budgets! It can be very tough to make everyone happy.
Pastel Dress Party aims to make your wedding prep that much smoother by helping you find the bridesmaid dresses of your dreams! They offer dresses that are made-to measure and comes in over 30 different hues. And most importantly unlike most bridal dresses, PDP’s designs won’t break the bank.
Everything sounds fantastic, we only have one question – who came up with this amazing idea?!? We stopped by PDP’s Toronto office to chat and get to know the founders – Karen Tsoi and Janny Lam.
What is your current job title(s)/Industry?
J: Co-Founder and CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) at Pastel Dress Party
K: Co-Founder and CEO
What is your educational background?
J: Fashion Marketing and Merchandising at the Academy of Design and Technology
K: Bachelor of Electrical Engineering and Master of Management Science at the University of Waterloo
What did you want to be growing up/while you’re in school?
J: When I was a child I wanted to be a veterinarian. In high school I thought I would end up doing something science related. Turns out I’m not really into science (Except for watching Nat Geo)
K: Thanks to my dad’s influence, I knew I always wanted to become an entrepreneur, but just didn’t know what my business was going to be.
What type of training did you need to complete to be in the career you are in now?
J: From a wedding industry point of view my foot into the wedding industry came about by taking up bridesmaid duties for close friends. From an entrepreneurial point, aside from school I wouldn’t exactly call everything I’ve learned a specific type of training. Everyday I’m learning something new and that’s the awesome part of working in a startup!
K: When we decided to start Pastel Dress Party, I went to took dressmaking classes, learned about textile and pattern cutting, just so I can speak the language of the tailors. Otherwise, I think it’s the analytical background and strategic thinking that helps me with my daily challenges.
What are some previous jobs you’ve held?
J: Fresh out of school I worked for many fashion retailers. My last position was retail manager for Aldo group in one of their Flagship stores. I grew some thick skin there working in a crazy, fast paced, high energy environment.
K: I was a technology consultant for 5 years at Deloitte. Before that, I held various technical positions at RBC Capital Markets, Scotiabank and AMD.
What type of female would you recommend going into your field?
J: Any female who loves to challenge herself. Things change day to day at our start-up and you have to be be able to adapt to the changes.
K: Anyone with a love for fashion and open mind to take risks and start a business or spend a career at a fashion startup!
What are some aspects of your job that people might not consider before entering it as a career?
J: It’s not always rainbows and roses. It takes time to build a brand and earn the trust from your customers. Even though your business is your baby it’s important to listen and adapt to your end user, they will help you perfect your brand.
K: That being an entrepreneur or building a consumer brand is beyond just marketing geniuses. It takes discipline, creativity, and consistently to grow a brand steadily.
Who are your role models?
J: I don’t have a specific role model (aside from Beyonce). Each person has a unique set of experiences and I generally learn a little bit from everyone.
K: Elon Musk! His way of thinking, that he wants to make the world a better place one idea at a time is just so inspiring!
Who do you see as a strong female representation in your field?
J: Sophia Amaruso- She started off knowing very little about running a business and with the determination and mindset she’s building an admirable fashion empire!
K: Jeanne Beker, she is fun and fearless, open to challenges. We dream of having her as our mentor!
How would you define your style?
J: Is black a style? I like to to be dressy and casual at the same time.. So I guess Dressy Casual? It changes quickly though, maybe next month i’ll be into florals (highly unlikely)
K: Casual and sporty. I cycle to work a lot so my outfits need to be comfortable but presentable at the same time. For this reason, I wear a lot of boyfriend shirts (literally taking my boyfriend’s shirts and wear them) because they are presentable and is suitable for the startup theme.
What is your day to day like?
J: Aside for my regular morning ready routine my day is always changing. The beginning of my week is more heads down working with Karen on upcoming Pastel Dress Party projects and working with brides. When Wednesday hits the rest of our team joins us at the office and the rest of the week is packed with meetings and collaborative discussions.
K: Wake up, cycle to work, various meetings, cycle back home and get some alone time to do my own share of work. It sounds boring, but it is actually super fun because I absolutely love what I do.
What do you find most meaningful in your job?
J: I’ve always enjoyed working with customers, so it always put me a smile on my face when brides send me their wedding photos. It’s a brief “ahh!” moment, when all your hard work can be summed up in one photo. That’s what fuels me.
K: growing a team and helping each individual grow and excel in what they do. Helping someone find their calling might sound dramatic, but I would say my big role is being an enabler and challenge the rest of the team to unleash their boundless potentials.
Which upcoming project would you say you’re most excited about?
J: We’re hosting a Pop- up event next month at the Gladstone Hotel with a few other vendors to raise awareness for breast cancer. Since we’re Ecommerce based it’s always exciting to host an event for brides and bridesmaid to check out our dresses in person.
K: Bridal Lookbook! We are trying to build a function (similar to Polyvore) on our e-commerce platform, allowing the bride and her bridesmaids to plan their outfits according to the wedding theme online, it’s a social sandbox with a lot of creative freedom! This really will allow bridesmaids to visualize what they are wearing and how to match with the rest of the girls and theme on the big day.
Frankly speaking – what is it like being a female in the start-up industry?
J: I don’t have a technical background so it’s been difficult to find a place myself in an industry that revolves so much around tech. As a female, although the female startup community is small, the connections you end up making are much stronger! #girlboss!
K: it gets lonely at times, because it is a male dominant and tech dominant industry. We are 50% tech as well, but kind of like the ugly duckling that is awkwardly stuck in the middle, until we grow bigger and gain credentials. But I am generally used to the male dominant industry, coming from tech, so I have a fairly good idea on how to work around it.
Looking back on your career, is there anything you would have done differently? Or any advice you’d like to give to young women who are considering starting their own businesses?
J: Don’t be so scared, when I first started I had a lot of doubts about my capabilities, whether or not I had the right qualifications to run my own business or not. Starting your business isn’t always for everyone but luckily I have an awesome business partner that really help me through my ruts. Turns out it doesn’t matter how much you know (or not know). Everyday you learn something different, so take the bull by the horns and just go for it!
K: Dwelling in the past is not suitable for entrepreneurs, but my advice to myself 3 years younger would have been – stay focused, fix your eyes on that ONE goal and run until you are exhausted… and keep running.
Photos by Jessilynn Wong