In a word, captivated. That is the emotional state I experienced as I entered into the new headquarters of Brideside this autumnal Friday afternoon. It is an industrial, wooden loft with soaring windows, welcoming ceilings, and an attention to tectonic design that would make most architects swoon. Casual sunshine peered from near vertical angles, landing on an array of plush sofas and armchairs, that felt as if they had been strategically placed to allow customers to bask in the warmth of sunlight without the blinding effect of sunrays. It is spacious yet feels like home. There is a faint hum of a collective group of keyboards typing in unison. Let us not forget the seemingly endless supply of both amorous and elegant bridesmaid dresses. This is life in a startup.
(Brideside's headquarters: Shot with my Moto X Pure Edition)
If you are not familiar with Brideside, they are a startup based out of Chicago, IL. They specialize in providing the modern bridal party, that often consists of many bridesmaids in different geographical locations and incredibly busy schedules, a style consultancy and concierge level of service that allows each bridesmaid to try on dresses from the comfort of their own homes. It is run by co-founders, Sonali Lamba and Nicole Staple, and they are executing upon their vision for the future of the bridal industry with a top-tier MBA understanding of analytics and management, combined with a Steve Jobs model of product intuition. While I have had discussions with both founders in early 2015, I recently had a chance to catch up with Nicole to discuss how the past year has been going at Brideside. As you can imagine… they’ve been really busy.
They have relocated to a bigger office space, and secured $1.5 Million in seed funding. The biggest news for consumers is that they are about to launch their first line of bridesmaid dresses called #AltarEgo (notice the pun on the word “alter”). During my past year at Motorola Mobility I have been neck deep in discussions about mass customization for consumers and our #ChooseChoice mantra. So when Nicole mentioned that their #AltarEgo line of bridesmaids dresses was going to feature interchangeable and convertible designs, I really wanted to shine a light on how innovative of a direction they are heading. While the utility of convertible designs may not be anything new (e.g. reversible belts, hats, and jackets), the tying of that utility to the emotional concept of being a complex human being with a complex matrix of emotions and desires is certainly a transformative idea.
(Dress from Brideside's Altar Ego Collection)
With the #AltarEgo line the bridesmaid has the versatility now to express her alter ego. She can be one person at the altar, which is someone who is really loyal to a good friend in a very formal look. She can have her party side come out later, and be able to express all of that with one outfit. From a marketing perspective this is a concept that resonates even with me as a man. When I am at work I am pragmatic, measured, and understanding. When out having drinks with old college friends I can be rowdy, unabashed, and overtly blunt. When in conversations with women I have loved I have been unguarded, passionate, and uncharacteristically vulnerable. It is the dichotomy of these alter egos that makes us the beautiful humans beings that we are. Moreover the product intuition to marry these emotions to something as simple as an interchangeable outfit is why I referenced Steve Jobs earlier, and why I believe the two women at the helm of Brideside will be recognized as powerhouse executives by the end of this decade.
(The Brideside team in their new office)
I closed out my discussion with Nicole on the subject of women in technology and the unfortunate lack of overall representation in the tech industry. When I walked into their office it was fairly apparent that I was the only bass or baritone singer in the room, which has been the polar opposite of what I experience in tech companies. When asked about it she replied quite genuinely, “I love that we are an all women team.” She did provide the caveat that they do have men working at Brideside, but not in their Chicago office.
As we dove into how this has shaped their company culture, she discussed their values of authenticity, transparency, and being a tight knit group that is supportive of each other but ready to compete in the marketplace. While I wouldn’t instinctively classify any of those traits as feminine, I have to admit my own versions of being supportive have sometimes involved a declarative statement about my belief in an individual's ability, and then getting out of the way of their success. Sometimes it takes more nurturing than that to truly be supportive to your teammates. Perhaps that is why Michael Jordan isn’t coaching in the NBA. In all frankness their culture speaks to an emotional maturity that many business managers and aspiring young CEOs could learn from.
Isn’t it funny how conversations with friends can enrich our lives?
(Sonali Lamba & Nicole Staple)
To learn more about Nicole, Sonali, and their team at Brideside visit www.brideside.com. While you’re at it... be sure to share this with your friends!
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