‘I turned my daughter’s prom dress nightmare into a dream business in Solihull’
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Lisa Groutage, 55, is the owner of Bridal and Prom Bar, a successful prom dress shop in Dorridge, Solihull. But her journey to becoming a businesswoman was not easy. It all started when her daughter Megan, then 15, was looking for a gown for her school leavers’ prom at Lode Heath School.
“My daughter was so excited about her prom but she was left heartbroken buying her dress because she was treated as a second class citizen because she wasn’t buying a bridal dress and the shop didn’t really cater for prom girls,” Lisa recalls. “What should have been a really exciting day for both of us was a huge let down.”
Lisa, who lives with her husband Neil and 18-year-old son Mackenzie in Yew Tree Lane, Solihull, says she was upset at how Megan was treated and thought she could do better. “I thought that I could make girls feel special and offer them a much better experience and that was the lightbulb moment for my business,” she says.
Six years ago, Lisa opened the Bridal and Prom Bar in Hall Green with just 25 dresses. As a former mobile hairdresser, Lisa had no previous experience in the fashion industry, but she had a passion for helping young girls find their perfect prom dress.
“Megan was going to pull out and I persuaded her to try a second shop where we had a better experience finding her dress. That was the moment I knew I wanted to open a prom shop - to make a difference for others,” she says.
Her business quickly took off and she now stocks more than 500 dresses at the new much bigger premises in Station Approach, Dorridge, which Lisa moved to a year ago. She operates with five stylists who individually pick the fairytale gown so that all their customers feel like a princess on the night of their proms.
Most mixed schools in the West Midlands - state and private - have them to celebrate the end of the school year after GCSEs - a tradition picked up from America where the prom has been part of the high school calendar for decades. Lisa says the demand for prom dresses is high and she has customers coming from as far as Grimsby to bag the best dresses after finding the shop on social media such as the Bridal and Prom Bar Instagram which has almost 3,500 followers.
Lisa refuses to sell the same dress - even in a different colour - to two girls from the same school, so every pupil looks special on the night with a unique outfit. Dress wars break out as girls compete for the most popular designs which can cost as much as £450. The best seller for 2024’s proms is a £600 ball gown which has already been sold to 15 schools in the West Midlands, and the average price of a dress is between £299 and £650.
Lisa is aware that this a stretch to lots of families and she gives away dresses each year to pupils after schools nominate girls who need help. She operates a scheme with Woodrush High School in Wythall where some dresses are donated. “I want every girl to have the chance to feel amazing on their prom night, regardless of their background or circumstances,” she says.
Lisa says she loves her job and seeing the smiles on the girls’ faces when they find their dream dress. She says her daughter Megan, now 25 and working as cabin crew for the airline Jet2, is proud of her and supports her business.
“She is my inspiration and motivation. She is happy that I turned a negative experience into a positive one and that I am helping other girls avoid what she went through,” Lisa says.