Josie Daga conjured up the idea for PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com in 2004, long before the country plunged into recession. But, not surprisingly, when the economy did implode and consumers began reining in their spending, Daga's business really took off. As the name suggests, the concept is pretty simple -- Daga's company connects newlywed women who want to sell their wedding dresses with brides-to-be looking for a deal on a pre-owned gown.
Seven years ago, when Daga started, PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com had 431 listings. This year, she expects to top 10,000. Not bad for a stay-at-home mom juggling two young kids and a business.
Daga, 40, worked in advertising until coming up with the idea for PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com. Because her website acts as the middleman between seller and buyer, she doesn't carry any inventory. The gowns usually sell for about half their retail price. Daga charges a $25 listing fee and doesn't take a percentage of the sale, giving new brides a chance to recoup much of their investment in a dress they'll only wear once.
Where did this idea come from?
I started PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com when I wanted to sell my designer wedding dress but couldn't find a good way. I tried several times on eBay with no luck. I had only scam responses on Craigslist. And I couldn't find a consignment shop to take my dress.
Why wouldn't consignment shops take your dress?
Well, I could find them, but when you take your dress to consignment shops, they want so much money. Each store has its own scale, but in general, they take 50 or 60 percent of whatever they sell it for. And I just started thinking that if other women were having this problem, maybe there was a market for this. And when I had the idea, I was pregnant with my first child, so the timing was right. Appropriately, the business has grown along with my family.
And there were no other websites selling pre-owned wedding dresses at the time?
Actually, there was one site when I started -- UsedWeddingDresses.com, selling wedding dresses for only $250 and under. When I started, I focused more on the high end. They eventually went out of business, and I ended up buying that domain. So there was one business that I had as competition, but now there are 26 sites, and they're coming up every day.
So what sets you apart from all your competitors?
Well, the difference with our site is that we have so many dresses -- tons and tons of dresses -- and we work very hard to make sure that all the dresses are still active listings, whereas some of the other sites don't do as good of a job. And we have hundreds of search features. So it's very feature-heavy and offers a powerful search engine, which is important when you're looking for a dress.
It seems like such a common-sense idea. Any thoughts on why this idea didn't catch on sooner?
Wedding dresses are so expensive and beautiful, but you wear them for a short amount of time, and it just makes sense to sell them. They're too pretty to sit in a closet, and a lot of moms want their daughters to have the joy of finding their own dresses, so they end up selling their own. It's just an idea that's time has come. Our mothers' generation was different. My mother saved her wedding dress, and she was divorced. She kept it in the garage, where this generation is a bit more modern and practical, and certainly the recession changed how brides looked at their dresses. Wedding dresses are very expensive. If you buy a $90,000 Mercedes and own it for one year, the cost of ownership is 17 cents a minute. If you buy a $5,000 wedding dress and wear it for five hours, the cost of ownership is $16.67 a minute. And brides are recognizing that they have an asset. I have some brides who post information about their dress right after they come back from the honeymoon, and even some who post before the ceremony. They negotiate for a buyer before they wear the wedding dress. Brides today don't attach the same sentimentality to their dresses. Instead, they attach sentiments to their photos and memories. Now, their dress is like a tablecloth -- it's just another part of the wedding. For my mother, though, it would be blasphemy to get rid of her dress.
So your mother still has her wedding dress?
She does. I don't know what she's waiting for. I'm 40, I'm married...
Name: Josie Daga
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Employees: Several contract workers
The original version of this article appeared on AOL Small Business on 6/14/11.