I guess Kelly Clarkson got it right: What doesn’t kill you does in fact make you stronger. In today’s interview, you’ll learn why Emily credits the mountains she had to overcome in her personal and professional life with building the resiliency she needed to grow not just one, but two very successful brands.
While you may not know her name, if you are in the wedding industry, it is nearly impossible to not know the iconic brands she has built: Once Wed for starters, and If I Made today. Meet Emily Newman.
“There’s opportunity everywhere. You just have to keep your eyes open for it.”
This is a phrase Emily Newman heard often from her dad growing up. It’s a phrase that, as it turned out, would prove to be true in just about every season of her life and business.
She found opportunity overseas in Bangkok as a commercial and catalog model after high school.
She found opportunity returning to the states to plan her wedding.
And she ultimately found opportunity in building a business that met the needs she uncovered in the wedding industry along the way.
That’s really how her iconic brand, Once Wed, started: as an answer to a problem she now had the opportunity to solve.
“I found a wedding dress that I wanted, but the price point was way above my budget. So, I started searching online to see if I could find it used.”
What she found in that search was more than a dress.
“There were hundreds of women in posting in online forums to find and sell wedding dresses. In them, I saw an opportunity to build a platform that could meet their needs.”
Emily slowly built up a database of dresses to list online. She also started creating consistent content, blogging on a regular basis to garner traffic to the site. And in 2006, Once Wed officially launched.
What started as a simple wedding website eventually grew into the a go-to brand and constant source of inspiration in the wedding industry. By the time she sold the business more than a decade later, she’d grown to nearly 20,000 dresses regularly listed for sale on the site. Impressive, right?
“I was very intentional about what I posted. I focused on quality over quantity, creating just one post a day that was really specific to my audience. That’s what brought traffic to the site over time. That’s what helped us grow.”
Eventually, Emily started partnering with more than just brides. Once Wed became the go-to brand for wedding vendors in the Atlanta area to showcase their work online as well.
“Partnering with vendors was huge for us. It helped me start creating original, curated content for the site and that’s when things really took off.”
But, about seven years into running Once Wed, Emily found herself in the place so many entrepreneurs do: burned out.
“I felt like I had nothing new to bring to the brand. My gut was trying to tell me it was time to move on, but change is scary. It requires loss because you have to let something go in order to move to something new.”
Difficult as it was, Emily made the choice to move toward something new. Instead of serving only brides, she decided to lean toward serving her most loyal audience at Once Wed: wedding industry vendors.
“Looking at those vendors, I saw an opportunity to create an online learning platform where they could find the skills to grow and develop their own businesses in an affordable, accessible way.”
So, Emily launched If I Made, an online learning platform for creatives in the wedding industry. If I Made offers courses in different facets of the wedding industry, all designed to give vendors the tools they need to start and grow their own businesses in the industry.
“The brand awareness we had with Once Wed really helped us launch If I Made. Because of the reputation we’d built with Once Wed in the industry, people knew what they were going to get when they came to If I Made. They knew us, so they trusted us.”
Of course, starting something new doesn’t come without its challenges. Even with brand awareness, a loyal audience, and an incredible platform, Emily still found herself facing new challenges with this new brand. The key to facing the challenges she’s found in business and in life? For Emily, it’s resilience.
“I developed a lot of resilience through modeling. When you get told ‘no’ 99% of the time, you have to be willing to pick up and keep going. If not, you’re going to give up pretty quickly. Though it’s a different industry, I’ve used that same resilience to help me keep moving in this business, too. It’s helped me keep climbing any mountain that’s in front of me.”
The resilience it took to keep going when she could’ve given up paid off, both in business and in life.
“I created If I Made to help other people learn from those who have gone before them in the industry. By giving them access to the lessons and mistakes of experts in their fields, my hope is that students will walk away with more clarity on where they want to go in their own businesses and how they want to get there.”
“If I could go back and tell myself one thing when I was starting out, it would be this: You’ll figure it out. Remember all the times you thought you couldn’t figure it out? Well, you did. And because of that, you can be sure you will again.”
“Right Now. Right now is my pinch me moment. That I’m still doing this, that I’m still here.”
Over the years I have had the privilege of working with Emily and her team at Once Wed, and was humbly honored when they asked me to be one of their very first featured educators in the wee early days of If I Made. Emily is a strategic and smart business woman but the thing I admire the most about her is the way she always turns the spotlight off of herself to shine it on others.
🎧 Press play to hear Emily’s entire interview, or download the full transcript.
Emily Newman is an entrepreneurial executive with 15+ years founding and running companies in the online wedding space.
She is currently the CEO of Atlanta-based online learning platform If I Made, a company she founded in 2015 and has grown to amass more than 150,000 registered students worldwide.
While strategically developing If I Made, she was also serving as CEO and Editor in Chief of internationally-renowned online wedding blog and used wedding dress listing service, OnceWed.com. She sold Once Wed in 2018.
August 18, 2022