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Building a Bride at Home

Heidi Elnora has found an in-home option to the bridal boutique.

Written by Joe O’Donnell | Photography by The Malicotes

Venue: Warrenwood Manor

From her energetic origins in reality television’s Project Runway to entrepreneurial successes in the bridal business, Heidi Elnora has always been open to inspiration.

So when she felt inspired last January, she knew enough to listen. The result was Build-A-Bride.

“I was walking around in my kitchen and I swear to you it was like, my friend said it more eloquently than I could, but she said it was like God spoke. It’s interesting because my sister-in-law had given me this journal at Christmas and I’m like, ‘Why did anybody give me a journal?’ I don’t write, I don’t read, I don’t have time to even do that. But she gave me this journal, and I grabbed the journal and just started writing all these notes,” Elnora says.

Build-A-Bride is the first ever, direct to consumer, in-home bridal boutique experience.

The business, which launched last August, is based on the premise of engaging women to become bridal curators, investing in their own Build-A-Bride business. Currently Elnora has 20 curators working their territories in nine states. The curators receive a kit with seven dresses, five veils, five belts, and 10 add-ons, Elnora says. She calls this her blank canvas.

“We created this rack that bends and fits into anybody’s car; we made it here in Alabama. It’s a display that you bring to somebody’s home. It’s so cool because you feel like you’re in a bridal boutique, but you’re at your house. And you’re sitting on your couch. You can eat as much food as you want to, and you can have whomever you want at your appointment. And it can be at whatever time you want. It could be on a Sunday afternoon, it could be a Monday night at 7; and it’s wonderful,” Elnora says.

Women invest in this company, and they basically own their own boutique without the brick and mortar overhead, she says. Another benefit for bridal customers and curators is the ability to finance either the whole kit (in order to enter the business) or an individual dress for a bride. The financing aspect is a major benefit, Elnora says.

Similarly the ability to mix and match the many options contained in the bridal kit is another benefit.

“What’s been a blessing is when I did wholesale, I traveled the whole country. I went to California and saw what girls in California want. I went to New York, and saw what girls in New York want. I’ve been to Texas. I’ve been to Chicago. I’ve been to Miami. I know what girls want. The collection is large enough and Build-A-Bride is so versatile that it can customize a girl from California, customize a girl from New York, all within these seven dresses.”

Curators participate in training sessions, what Elnora calls a “Bridal Boot Camp.”

“I teach them everything you need to know so that when they take their business back home, they’ll have it. And then once a year, we have a curator conference. That’s where we’ll show the new collections. We have a mini runway show, like what we would have at New York Fashion Week, but it’s for buyers who I know are going to buy, and they’re going to give constructive feedback on what best works for their market. I still get to create new dresses. I still get to service women. I still get to inspire people. When Birmingham Fashion Week (which Heidi launched several years ago) had to go, it made me sad because I love inspiring people. I love for people to have something to fight for, to achieve. This is like my next thing, where I can inspire people. And it’s just been awesome to watch.”

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