#31: Jacqueline Courtney, Founder of Nearly Newlywed

Jacqueline started Nearly Newlywed with the money she got from reselling her wedding dress. She launched NearlyNewlywed.com out of her living room with the support of her husband, family, and women all over the U.S. who sent their gowns to her apartment address and believed in what she wanted to build: A marketplace offering reused wedding dresses from the best designers at the best prices. A bridal revolution.

UL: What do you consider your top 3 core values and how do they affect how you lead your business?

JC: Grit, Gratitude and Bravery. Those are big words but they actually found me in a funny way. I was watching the show 30 Rock with my husband and in it, Alec Baldwin’s character is trying to psych himself up for a speech. Right before he goes on stage he screams in the mirror a series of slogans that are so well known it’s funny & silly, but it has always stuck with me.
He screamed:
"JUST DO IT (@nike)
IS IT IN YOU? (@gatorade)
IM LOVIN’ IT!!! (@mcdonalds)"
If you don’t know the show/clip, I recommend finding it on YouTube, it’s really funny and super short.
But anyway, the more I would say it to myself half joking, the more I realized that the slogans he hurled at his reflection embodied three of my central core values that I most appreciate and want to further develop. It is also probably a good lesson as to the universality of plugging your branding into deep-seated core values that we all aspire to in a larger regard, with or without fastfood and sports, but I digress :)
And so….

Bravery. JUST DO IT. Literally. Do it. Act. Do the thing I’m scared of or putting off or pretending I don’t know how or can’t. Just do it. Take the risk. Make the play. Give it a shot. Break down the fear and perceived problems. It’s all there.

Grit. IS IT IN YOU? - mmmm grit. Is it? Reminding myself what I’m made of. That I know I have what it takes and it’s there even when I want to pretend it isn’t or hide or get scared. Looking in the mirror and reminding myself I can do it and I am great and it IS in me. All of it. And to get after it.
Gratitude. IM LOVIN’ IT! - perhaps the best one and silly because it’s a fast food slogan but it makes me smile, which is actually, sometimes, the point! Reminding myself to love it. All of it. To be present and grateful and to try to enjoy the ride and the texture of it all. Working to learn to love and embrace the hard stuff, the fun stuff, the stressful stuff. Because all that there is is my experience of it, it’s happening in real time. If I can celebrate and embrace it all as it happens, I am stronger, happier, more alive and more equipped to deal with things as they come at me.

Oh can I pick 4? Collaboration over competition. Always. There is literally room for all of us to grow and help each other get where we are going. It feels good, its effective, and we need more of it.

UL: Can you share a time you either thought you failed, or actually did fail? How did you react and move past it, and what impact did it have on business decisions?

JC: One that sticks with me, I can feel my tummy flutter when I think about it still 12 years later, is when I was a press assistant at my first job out of college. The founder of the international agency was in town for an event in the Hamptons and I wanted desperately to impress her. It was to be an intimate gathering and we were waiting for 50 or so vintage reissue dresses to come in from Italy to be gifts for the guests. They had been stuck in customs for over a week and I doggedly called hourly to check in and nudge. Luckily they were cleared just in the nick of time and scheduled for delivery the day of the event.

I was left at the office to wait for the delivery. Anxiously tracking it, the moment the UPS driver arrived I signed, put it into the trunk of the idling town car and went on my way to the Hamptons lickety-split. I arrived while guests were already mingling and ran in. A few people noticed me with the box and said ‘Oh good you made it!! The dresses are here!!’

It was not until that moment, a four hour, $700 car service ride later that I realized... the box was small. It didn’t weigh much. My stomach dropped and I felt like I was going to throw up.
It wasn’t the right box. It wasn’t the dresses I had ceremoniously hand-carried to the luncheon with pride. I opened the box to find just three pairs of sample shoes and a few handbags for the models to wear to showcase the gifted dresses. The dresses I would come to find out were actually transported in two very large and very heavy boxes, and were being delivered in Manhattan right about the time I was opening this mini shipment. I almost literally died and I remember running to the restroom and shutting the door and thinking, I can’t go out. I can’t go out. I can’t face it. I can’t. But then somehow I did. And then it was a blur. It was a big big mistake, and I was so, so embarrassed, but like all mistakes, it happened and it was happening and then it was over. It just, was. And it was totally my fault and that was all there was to it but the world kept spinning and I remained in one piece, mostly.

So from a material sense, that isn’t my biggest failure. There are other mistakes that have had much more meaningful implications on the revenue and results side of things, especially for my own company over the past seven years. But this one, it was so fresh and so, stunning, that it will never leave me. It taught me in a short moment that failure happens sometimes even to the best laid plans, that its painful when it does, that you can’t outrun that and that ultimately, it will pass and I will heal. Failure stays with you, big and small, like heartbreak does, but like heartbreak too, you become increasingly resilient only through time and experience.

I think you hear that advice on repeat. That failing is an inevitable occurrence on the path to success and to embrace it. But that is a lot harder than it sounds in a soundbite. Failing hurts and feels uncomfortable. I think it must always shock the system and be painful as it happens because no matter your age and experience, the visceral shock still lands when it swings and smarts you out of nowhere with a ‘WHACK!’ But I do believe that with time, experience & effort you can lessen the fear that feeds your aversion to it. We run so hard from failure on a deep, deep level but when it finds us, it is what makes us and mints us into our new, next best selves. And facing that is how you build an innovative business. Stepping through all those fears, big and small, and taking the shots. I think! :)

UL: What types of projects do you have coming up that we can look forward to seeing in the future?

JC: We are just launching (Tuesday March 19th) branded storefronts and designer collaborations, opening up our platform for stores and designers globally to market and sell to our audience of over one million women shopping annually. With that we expand our product mix beyond wedding dresses to include engagement rings, fine jewelry, accessories, gifts and other items for the bride & her bridal party. We intend to become the ‘amazon of weddings’ fusing convenience & value with the curation & brand experience that the bridal customer needs.

And in the coming months, we will be rolling out showrooms, a section for bespoke and made-to order dress designers to feature their collections and the shops that carry them, which I am particularly excited about as it allows us to feature a range of talent globally and create transparency around costs, production & service tiers. This will all funnel back into our promise of sustainability and an end-to-end approach to promote the repurposing & rewearing of high-end, quality dresses and items.

These have been a long time in the works and have come to pass with many a bump and bruise, so I am very proud to see them coming to fruition. It will be meaningful steps towards our goal of being the primary global destination for brides to discover & shop for their wedding, merging discovery, content and commerce in a unique way for an underdeveloped industry and underserved clientele, bridal.