GraceLace by LiefViLou
I recently saw a social media page for a lovely little shop called LiefViLou – GraceLace for Little Ladies. The gorgeous lace dresses for little girls are simply stunning, so I contacted the owner, Michelle, to find out a bit more about them. This is what she said.
How did it all start?
LiefViLou – GraceLace for Little Ladies started as a dream, when I visited South Africa about 2 years ago, and saw a pretty little dress made from Shwe-Shwe fabric. I wanted to buy it right then and there for my little girl as it resembled something of “home”.
Later during our stay I went fabric shopping with my mum, and ended up buying loads of shwe-shwe fabric to bring to the UK to use for making little dresses. I thought about starting an upliftment project in South Africa where ladies can be taught how to sew and receive an income from making dresses which could then be sold on here in the UK. The practical implications of getting a project like this off the ground (obtaining a premises, machines, etc), seemed to be too difficult and so I put that idea on the back-burner, but the dream still lingered.
Life then took over as soon as we returned to the UK, (raising children and running a home is quite a full time job!) and the fabric went into a drawer…2 years went by, but the dream was always just beneath the surface, coming up for some air every now-and-again and reminding me of its presence.
So you may ask yourself? Your business is about Lace dresses, right?
*click on the images to enlarge
Yes, I have ALWAYS been obsessed with lace, and when I was given a beautiful little embroidered lace dress for my little girl, I hung it on a pretty hanger and put it on display in her bedroom. Friends would always comment on how pretty it was, and I couldn’t wait for her to be big enough to wear it! And she did! And she looked so pretty! In that instant of her putting it on, it was like the “old dream” came up like a whale from the deep dark beneath and gave a spectacular show above the surface of the water! I realised: my love for lace and little dresses, must be put to good use…
As I am definitely not a seamstress, I started doing research as to where I could source similar dresses to then sell on. It turned out that these were extremely difficult to come by as one wouldn’t necessarily associate little girls’ dresses to be made with lace. The few I did find, and was unable to purchase, were from well known Design Houses like Dolce and Gabbana selling at £800-£900!
I then decided to shift the search to dresses with a lace-theme, and was able to (with a degree of difficulty) source some unique little dresses over a period of time. The collection grew but my confidence didn’t! I wasn’t a businesswoman and had no idea where to start. I didn’t even have a business name!
Where does the company name come from?
One morning, after dressing Issi in yet another dress (that was supposed to be sold on!), she lovingly said (with the most beautiful lisp in her pronunciation): “Lief vi lou, Mamma!”… and instantly it clicked! The name for my business was born, meaning “I love you” and so I decided then and there to create a Facebook page. The name “GraceLace” had also been on my heart for a long time, as the idea of subtly sharing a little bit of the Grace Gospel is important to me. (in the midst of giving an outlet my creativity and my love of pretty things!)
The Facebook page was created on 14/3/2015 and within a month there were over 3000 likes and the enquiries were streaming in. This was a humbling and nerve-wrecking experience. I felt so overwhelmed as I really didn’t envisage things to grow so rapidly! All I wanted to do is sell on a few unique little dresses to friends!
Juggling family life and business
I realised that being a mummy to my beautiful children, must be my first priority, but then felt so frustrated as I struggled to find time to work on other important essentials to establish and grow the little business…business cards, website, packaging, sourcing more stock, pricing etc. Being a perfectionist, these decisions would not be made light-heartedly!
A major initial personal drawback as an aspiring “mumpreneur”, was that I really struggled to “take money” from customers and so would put such a ridiculously tiny mark-up on the dress prices. Profits were next to nothing, and I found myself spending hours in the evening when the kids went to bed, searching for special requests for customers, when I didn’t have enough stock in to supply to the demand. I felt like giving up on it altogether as the investment capital which was required to get all my ideas off the ground, was not yet achievable.
One evening I shared my heart with a dear friend and her husband, and said how tough I found it to start a business and being a full-time mum. I expressed the need for a business partner who could be a soundboard and a friend with whom ideas, issues, to-do-lists and copious cups of strong coffee (!) could be shared. A business partner who is not in it for making loads of profit but to share some “pretty” and grace and having fun whilst doing it!
I never once thought that she would be interested, as she is also hard at work raising 3 little boys and was also dreaming of setting up her own small business.
When Corné called me the following morning to suggest coming on board , I was so grateful…an absolute answer to prayer! She shares in the vision to one day soon, start a small-scale, long-term upliftment project in SA where we aim to teach ladies to make our handmade accessories range, whilst we minister to them and give them the opportunity to be part of a safe working community and gaining much needed income. Corné has such kind and compassionate heart and has a gift to make everything around her beautiful. She abides in and lives by Godly Grace: such an asset to the GraceLace Team!
At the same time as Corne was joining the business, we also received a small capital investment-confirmation to get some of our own (to hopefully be available from January 2016) designs into production! Another prayer answered!
Taking the business further
We are still mummies first, but when we find a little time, we do research, have multiple discussions with suppliers, designers, manufacturers, investors, etc. Things are slowly starting to take shape! We have also been so honoured to be invited along to an Editorial (styled) photo shoot by Alison Jenner (Alison Jenner Hair Stylist) who pulled together some of the very best in the wedding industry! It was such an experience! It gave us an opportunity to network with boutique owners, photographers, venue stylists, bakers, florists, etc…people who have all started small and had experienced similar challenges.
From networking with others we were able to determine our target market and price ranges. We have also joined our local Entrepreneurial Mums’ Group, which has partnered with the Southwell Scoop, and have found this so valuable! It resembles a sisterhood whereby we support and promote each other’s businesses with the acknowledgment that it is hard to juggle mum-duties and running a small business.
Where can I get one?
LiefViLou – GraceLace for Little Ladies has been approached by a number of bridal boutiques and boutique shops in England, South Africa and Namibia and we are currently looking into supplying to a select number of stockists.
It has been such a learning curve, but we are getting closer to officially launching our business.
For now, our dresses and outfits are sold through our Facebook Page or Twitter Page where customers can contact us direct or via email () to place orders. We will also be launching our website and on-line shop very soon…
Obtaining a GraceLace dress must be a beautiful experience, whether you buy it on-line or from our future boutique stockists: From that first moment of seeing the dress, to receiving and opening your beautifully wrapped/gift-boxed garment and then wearing it. A GraceLace dress is not just for a special occasion, but a dress that can be taken from the wardrobe again and again…reminiscent of beautiful childlike innocence, in which you can run and do cartwheels! When you’ve outgrown it…hang it on a pretty hanger and display it in your room, or put it in your childhood keepsake box and hand it down as a heirloom to your daughter one day… a dress that can be treasured for generations to come. We pray that abundant grace will accompany each beautifully wrapped dress and lovingly envelop every little girl who wears it!
Our planned label “GraceLace by LiefVilou”, along with our carefully selected collections of sourced garments,will aim to shift the focus from the old-fashioned stiff meringue-like satin dresses (which costs an arm and a leg!) and really doesn’t look unique or comfortable. The truth is that these dresses usually end up at the back of a wardrobe and never get worn again.
Our sourced garments and future own designs will be “in tune” with the current trend of dreamy-softness and romantic-sheerness with a vintage, yet classic feel, as seen in the latest wedding gown-designs.
We want to make our dresses, outfits and accessories affordable and prices will range between £8-20 for accessories and £20-£40 for dresses and outfits. A more exclusive, higher-end, (and limited edition) collection may also be available from 2016. Our GraceLace Collections will range from infant sizes up to 10-12 years in most designs.