Inspired By The Dress
Teri Butler sewed her own wedding dress at age 19. Years later, she purchased the same fabric to design her daughter’s wedding gown, which became the debut dress for Inspired By The Dress, a design studio for custom creations and wedding gowns Teri started in her home in 2013.
“That was when I thought, ‘I really enjoy making brides look beautiful,” Teri recalls. “Any body — and I mean body shape or size — can wear a beautiful garment if it’s made and designed for that shape. I am really drawn to making every body look good in what they choose to wear.”
Like any small business owner launching a new venture, Teri navigated personal and professional obstacles. At different points, she pulled back and stopped advertising, but word of her beautiful designs kept brides knocking on her door. When Teri connected with the Central Virginia SBDC in 2022, her business blossomed.
Teri applied for the Scottsville Community Business Launch program run by the Central Virginia SBDC in collaboration with Community Investment Collaborative (CIC) and the Town of Scottsville. Alongside a cohort of entrepreneurs, she attended seven training programs that covered topics like marketing, branding, pricing and recordkeeping.
What Teri did not realize when enrolling was that the program’s final week included a pitch competition. Her program advisor, Central Virginia SBDC Assistant Director Greg Dorazio, helped Teri build a business plan and practice her final pitch.
“Greg helped me do some local research on the Charlottesville/Albemarle County area,” Teri explains. “We wanted to focus on how Inspired By The Dress could benefit the Scottsville community and support local businesses.”
Greg was Teri’s business advisor and cheerleader.
“We really connected,” Teri recalls. “He absolutely wanted my success, and he felt the energy that I had for this dream and this desire to be successful.”
Teri’s pitch won her a $15,000 prize, which she used to lease a storefront in Downtown Scottsville and rebuild her website. She is currently planning for a future where her studio can be a place for aspiring designers to learn the artisan skills of dressmaking and pattern-drafting.
Teri continues to work with the SBDC as she receives brides by appointment in Scottsville. SBDC advisor Ellen Martin assists her in managing QuickBooks and her payment system. In Teri’s opinion, the SBDC is a well-kept secret that should not be so well kept. She is working to spread the word.
“I tell everyone that if you’re an entrepreneur, you need to check them out,” she says. “It really is a wealth of resources.”