When Lanie List wanted to grow her bridal dress shop business, she turned to an unusual route: franchising. The seven-year-old business that first started with one shop in New York City’s West Village, now proudly numbers 12 stores across the country. Three of those stores are owned by List herself, the others by her franchisees whom she has carefully vetted. Lovely Bride isn’t just an ordinary bridal store. The atmosphere is one of beauty and cozy charm from the moment you walk in the door. I personally experienced the effect as a bridesmaid while I dutifully helped a friend try on dresses at the New York City location (now in TriBeCa) in 2015. The aesthetics from store design to dress design cater to millennial brides who are attracted to independent designers. Dress prices average $2,000-$3,000 each and last fall List introduced the first collection designed exclusively for Lovely shops called Louvienne, followed by two other exclusive collections since then.
List says that every store is averaging 20-40 percent growth year-over-year. She self-funded the business and currently has no debt, which she credits to the franchise model. List counts approximately 24 employees; four corporate, and around 20 in her fully-owned shops. List and I met for coffee one morning outside Laughing Man, right next to the Lovely NYC location, and then we popped inside the shop to take a couple of fun photos. Read on to learn how List got started, her thoughts on which businesses make the best franchises, and what to look for in a franchisee.