The business - BELLUCIO
Julie Sufi is combining real estate with the red carpet, studying property and designing gorgeous custom-made gowns. Julie is studying property and real estate and hopes to complete a PhD in business. She also loves fashion and decided to open an evening-wear store with a twist. BELLUCCIO offers an affordable designer service for women aged from 16 to their early 60s, and already has 20 employees.
This dynamic and talented business woman is still only 21. 'My long-term goal is to be a renowned evening-wear designer and at the same time, have property development projects along the side,’ said Julie.
BELLUCCIO offers exclusive custom made evening and bridal wear. Custom orders take just 14 days to make in BELLUCCIO's Indian production house. The plan is to relocate it to Brunswick allowing an even faster turnaround of five to seven days.
'We like to think of ourselves as the next Mariana Hardwick but tailoring towards red carpet wear as opposed to traditional bridal wear, and at a fraction of the cost.
'We not only provide a ready to wear range; but cater for custom made orders allowing for clients to make changes according to their needs whether it be changing the fabric, the colour, the length or adding features to make it unique. Clients can also have their own designs custom-made,' said Julie.
The challenge - setting up a business and retail shop at a young age
While Julie was confident and had done her homework before opening her business, she wanted to ensure its success. She was also having trouble obtaining a shop lease due to her youth. Small Business Victoria recommended the Small Business Mentoring Service to assist her.
The SBMS is a non-government, non-profit organisation of volunteer expert mentors, supported by Small Business Victoria, who give their time and experience to help small business.
The assistance - Small Business Mentoring Service
SBMS mentor, Matilda Parisi, with her wealth of retail experience, provided a sounding board and helped Julie with ideas on how to establish her business and how important it was to get the launch right and maintain the company’s image. She also helped select a store location, secure a lease, fit the store out, and develop marketing materials and runway shows.
Julie had everything ready except the shop, so Matilda advised her on what she had done so far. She also suggested subleasing part of the large store to help with the rent and focussing on the showroom and custom-made garments rather than wholesale. Julie sublet to two businesses, a beauty therapist and spray tan and eyelash extension service.
'Matilda's advice helped a great deal and as a result I have focused on attracting custom made clientele. This has definitely boosted my confidence as I am the only custom-made, red carpet, evening-wear producer on Sydney Road (apart from Mariana Hardwick who caters for bridal),' said Julie.
Julie says Matilda allowed her to discuss her ideas and thoughts about the business and its potential, offering valuable feedback and suggestions. She also stressed the importance of maintaining the image of the business and ensuring that as long as the image is maintained and clients are well looked after the business is bound to grow and capture a valuable share of the market.
Business today at BELLUCCIO
BELLUCCIO is already doing well. The business has an experienced team of designers, pattern makers, fabric cutters, tailors, creative artists and fashion forecasters to ensure its clientele are wearing the best possible evening wear to their special occasions.
'I don't know what I would have done without Matilda,' says Julie. She put me in touch with all the right people when I came across a hurdle and motivated me to maintain focus when times were tough! I believe this has strengthened the foundation of the business and in the long run will set a benchmark for the process of expansion of my future stores across Australia.’
Feedback has been terrific and Julie says many customers are relieved to find an affordable way to stand out from the crowd on their special occasion.
Matilda is hugely impressed by Julie's talent and initiative, and is certain she will succeed.
'I've got no doubt,' said Matilda. 'She's already a success in my eyes, from working, going to school and opening the shop. She's an amazing girl. She was a pleasure to work with. I was just blown away by the energy of such a young girl.'
- Setting up and running a retail premises guide: find out more about buying or leasing a retail premises
- Checklist - Retail Lease Agreement: download this checklist for questions you should ask before signing a lease
- Research your market: download this guide to find out how market research can help you find customers
- Events Calendar: use the Events Calendar to search for Small Business Victoria's workshops and events near you
- Small Business Mentoring Service: find experienced business mentors or coaches
- Financial statements template: use this template to produce financial statements such as profit and loss, balance sheet or cash flow statements.