If the name Alyssa McElheny rings a bell for you, it might be because she took head shots for me a while back and was mentioned here for doing so. Maybe you’ve been seeing her work pop up on your social media feeds? Well, even if the name isn’t familiar, you should meet her.
Alyssa has been taking pictures since 2011 (Alyssa McElheny Photography), and recently began a new adventure by opening up a bridal shop in Grand Rapids, MI called Lamb Bride. In addition to selling wedding gowns, the space can be rented out for bridal showers, getting ready before the wedding, or any other event and currently serves as Alyssa’s office to meet clients or make many of her beautiful flower crowns and bouquets – some of which she worked on while we caught up and chatted.
Besides being a totally cool entrepreneur, Alyssa is kind, down-to-earth, and such an inspiration. She really embodies the whole “if you want the dream to work just do it” spirit and I’m constantly impressed with all she’s accomplished so far. Big things are coming her way, you can just feel it.
So you’ve developed your career as a photographer over the years, photographing hundreds of weddings, interning, etc. what made you shift gears to bridal shop keeper?
When I’m a bride, I want the full deal – small and intimate, super special, precious, pretty, etc. I was in Brooklyn shooting for a bridal designer Schone Bride and we were in this little shop with beautiful display and vibe and I just thought “I could do this”. It spurred a passion project. I was working on it and simultaneously thinking it might not happen, but I’m impatient so every opportunity I got to advance the idea I took it. When our space became available it was obvious. I was scared, but I got a lot of support from wedding vendors around the area and social media feedback. It’s worked out well that I can use it as more than just a shop. It’s my office, my rental space, my store, etc. It just makes sense.
You certainly have the talent to move anywhere and do your job, what made you decide to stay in Grand Rapids, MI?
GR in the last few years has been growing in such cool ways. New housing, restaurants, businesses, etc. are keeping it exciting. I also think Lamb Bride helps fill a niche that Grand Rapids has needed. It’d be harder to get started in a bigger city. I’d love to see weddings in Grand Rapids take on more unique aesthetic and the more planners and photographers I talk to it seems like we’re itching for those unique experiences. Not everyone will want to wear a dress with yellow neon flowers on it (yes, she has one), but it’s fun to share new ideas and capture those as well. I just wanted to offer something different to those who want it. (She’ll have some more traditional items as well, just some “pieces of flare” thrown in).
What was the hardest part about starting a business like this? How do you work through those struggles?
Finding the balance of shop hours and appointments and how much I should be present in the shop, but that’ll change as we grow. It’s rewarding to see people come in who are really excited about it all.
You’re obviously busy LOTS of weekends traveling, taking pictures, etc. and then editing and prepping during the week, but you also manage to spend time with your husband and family and exercise regularly. Any tips?
I see my mom a lot – she lives close by and I just stop by on my way home. It’s hard that my husband and I have basically opposite schedules (he’s a teacher). We make it work and we do coach cross country together which helps, but there are times where we kind of realize we haven’t seen each other in a bit! A lot of my time during the week is spent behind a screen which makes me feel anti-social so I try to be present when I can.
What would you love to see for the future of Lamb Bride? Do you think you’d transition to fully being in the shop rather than photographer and shopkeeper?
I never want to get away from photography completely, but I may be more selective and I’d like to be in the shop more. Weekends free would be nice! Gowns from designers are coming in later this fall and I love meeting clients here and being able to rent out the space for people. I’m already trying to use it as my office more and we’ll see how it grows!
What would you say to other young people who have a vision like yours and want to start their own business?
Ummm…freakin’ do it! It’s going to be uncomfortable and feel scary, but making your own hours and working for yourself is so great. If you don’t do it and regret it, that’s much worse. I don’t like to ask for help a lot, but that’s definitely been necessary and is something you should do. Use other people’s knowledge!
Whether you’re engaged or not, stop in the store and meet this lady. She’s fantastic. Check out all the ways to get in touch with her below.
- Alyssa McElheny Photography: Website: Instagram: Facebook
- Lamb Bride: Website: Instagram: Facebook
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