"The Lord has encouraged me and I have seen my faith grow along the way. It’s scary to start a business, but He would speak to me. I would hear, 'you’re on the right track, you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, trust me.'”
In this blog, we interview Teresa Eklund, owner of Renee Grace Bridal in Cincinnati, OH.
WiM: Tell us a little about your business. When did you get started? What do you
TE: I have a degree in fashion design and got drawn into bridal a bit unsuspectingly. I had women asking me to do
bridal dresses when I was in college working in a store with one of my sisters. People asked me to make wedding, bridal party and mother of the bride dresses. So I have been doing custom bridal for 30 years.
When our youngest was going into high school, the Lord led me to step back into design after taking a long break to focus on raising and homeschooling our kids. In 2018 I decided to get into doing my own designs. Previously, people shared their ideas and I executed them. I decided I wanted to create my own designs.
Renee Grace Bridal provides a unique experience custom to each bride. We have thrown out the bridal-standard sizing. Women get a dress that is customized to their body type. They don’t have to pay extra if they don’t fit into the industry standard. We can change the dress to fit who they are. We do everything in house and make it to suit the bride. I have also worked with brides virtually. We take so many measurements there are typically no alterations needed.
WiM: Who is one woman who has encouraged you in your work?
TE: When I started college, I was studying retailing. After my freshman year, my sister came to me and said I was too creative to simply do business. She wanted to see me use my skills in art, drawing, and sewing. My sister encouraged me to look at what I was created to do and go for it.
I come from a line of scientists – my mother, father, one sister, a brother are all scientists. Another sister is an attorney and I have a brother in electronics. This family of scientists saw my artistic ability and encouraged me in it.
WiM: How have you seen God’s hand in your work and the growth of your business?
TE: Years ago, God spoke to me through a friend saying that He has “gifted me with gifts of garments.” There was a season when I was focused on raising and homeschooling our kids. Not much else was happening during that time. I helped direct the Cincinnati house of prayer where we were doing about 10 hours a day of prayer and worship. It was in that place that the Lord said it was time to go back into design. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back there but the Lord kept pushing me. So I took the leap.
The Lord has encouraged me and I have seen my faith grow along the way. It’s scary to start a business, but He would speak to me. I would hear, “you’re on the right track, you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, trust me.” When I need a person, He always provides.
I had a pattern maker who moved to another state. I didn’t know what I was going to do. That same day, a girl who worked for me had a friend ask if there was any chance we needed a pattern maker.
This type of thing has happened over and over again.
My confidence has grown. Every day, when I think how do I address this situation, I just take the step hearing the Lord say you can do this, and He meets me there.
In the beginning I was going to the bridal markets at a point when no one knew me. I had a business coach tell me it would be three years before anyone picked me up. Here I am from the Midwest going to New York, and Atlanta, and they may have been thinking, “can anything good come from Cincinnati?” Yet, we were picked up the first season. I have experienced the favor of the Lord. When you are doing what He created you to do, He meets you each step of the way.
WiM: How do you see your work as a means of unleashing your faith and loving people?
TE: The way we do our work is honoring to every person regardless of who comes into my store or who comes into my employment. My gowns are not inexpensive. There are times when a girl walks into the shop and it’s way beyond her budget. I treat her with the same amount of dignity as everyone else. I make the experience as special as I can. Women aren’t penalized for their size one way or the other – the price is the price.
With my employees, I focus on what they are good at and pull that out, encouraging them in what they do well. Everyone has feelings of inadequacy. It’s my job to encourage them and let them know what they are amazing at. I don’t hold people tightly but look at how I can help each one be their best, even when that means going elsewhere.
I can show Jesus to employees, customers and vendors. We have people from a variety of backgrounds. I just love them where they are and show them they have value. Sometimes that’s tough love. Sometimes it’s coaching them to do their job better. Sometimes it’s letting them move on.
I also have an opportunity to show my brides that they have value by providing a very personal and custom experience for each one. I get to display in the natural what Scripture tells us we will experience. The Bible starts with a wedding in the Garden and ends with the wedding of the Lamb. We have a certain amount of time on earth and I get to remind people there is an eternal bridegroom they are going to meet some day.