18/06/2008 - 22:00

Freo incubator helps design dreams

18/06/2008 - 22:00

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Former emergency ward nurse and Glasgow native, Margaret Irvine, has turned her dream of a fashion business into reality, and she attributes a business incubator in Fremantle for her success.

Former emergency ward nurse and Glasgow native, Margaret Irvine, has turned her dream of a fashion business into reality, and she attributes a business incubator in Fremantle for her success.

"I had this idea when I tried to hire a dress in Perth and basically couldn't find anywhere that hired the dresses I wanted to wear," Mrs Irvine said.

Mrs Irvine, whose idea has spawned a company now running for two years, Dream Dress Hire, took her business proposal to the Coastal Business Centre for some advice on developing her ideas further.

"I went to the Coastal Business Centre and spoke to Phil Kemp. Phil coached me through the process of market research and how to find your feet with business, writing business plans and how to progress," she said.

The Coastal Business Centre, which runs out of the old Fremantle gaol, is a not-for-profit organisation that provides business advice and a variety of programs to established or future business owners in Western Australia.

Mr Kemp, the centre's executive officer, worked closely with other advisers and staff to help Mrs Irvine transform her dress hire vision into a multi-faceted business, incorporating elements of dress hire, couture house, personal stylist and fashion label.

After six months of market research, and a clear understanding of what her clients wanted, Dream Dress Hire was born, being run from a converted front room in Mrs Irvine's home.

"One of the options we looked at was for me to start from home, and that's how the business started. I actually converted the front of my house into a mini shop," she said.

The business started out small, importing a selection of the latest dress designs from two fashion houses in New York, and then hiring and selling them to clients for evening wear or special occasions; but with a difference.

Mrs Irvine said the aim of the business was to offer a personal service to customers and help them find the dress that would best complement their style, shape and personality.

"We run the business as an old-fashioned couture house," she said. "It was very stylised to a one-to-one service, the dresses were particularly picked for that client, for their colouring, hair, skin tone and body shape.

"Our attitude about the client is to make them feel individual, make them feel special, and at the end of the day to make them feel totally glamorous."

However, after 10 months, the business grew beyond the restrictions of her home, and again it was the business centre that provided a solution.

"It got bigger and bigger, until I had no space in my house, so that's when I made the move to the Coastal Business Centre because I was still at the point where I needed a stop gap between having a shop and working from home," Mrs Irvine said.

The business centre runs an 'incubator' system out of the gaol cells, providing businesses with shared office space and basic resources, while aiming to establish a learning environment between different business owners using the space.

Mr Kemp believes the incubator system is far more about establishing mentoring and a community than providing cheap office space.

"It's about office space, but also about community within the building. These are people who have all recently started their small business and they learn from each other, they learn from us and they experience that interaction on a daily business," he said.

After seven months in the business incubator, Mrs Irvine again expanded, opening her own store in Palmyra, attributing the fast tracked-success to the business centre and its incubator system.

"I wouldn't have had the confidence to do it [move into her own shop] without the incubator. The resources are invaluable," she said.

Mrs Irvine now plans to launch her own design label, Irvine Lee.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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