Eternal Bridal and its CEO Sebastian Lee, who operates the business with his wife Lyndell, had been finalists in several categories at the Optus My Business Awards in both 2016 and 2017.
Undeterred by not getting the opportunity to take to the stage in either year, Mr Lee entered the awards for a third time in 2018 — this time with his business being crowned Wedding Business of the Year at the November ceremony.
Change in tack proves a winner
“We went in without any expectations to win — we see this as a great evening to connect with other SMEs and to learn and to be inspired by many, many other successful businesses in Australia,” Mr Lee said.
“But to take home the title of the best wedding business in Australia is definitely a bonus!”
Mr Lee said that a big difference in his approach to the most recent submission was to look beyond business processes to outcomes, and how those outcomes pertain to its core philosophy.
“In the past submissions, we had been focusing a lot on the internal side of our business operations, the experience that we’ve got along the way and the growth that we’re heading through as a business,” he explained.
“What made this [winning] submission different is that we took a step back to really look at the reason why we started Eternal Bridal in the first place… and that was to provide a level of unprecedented service that we felt was lacking when we were dress shopping for our own wedding.
“As part of this process, we actually asked our brides what is the one thing they will remember from their experience shopping at Eternal Bridal, and to much delight, pretty much all of them said it was the service. So, we were then able to reveal how much of this we have achieved… and delivered on our core founding principle.”
Value of awards goes beyond a trophy
Such a deep dive into the value proposition of his business proved valuable operationally and not just in the submission, the CEO said.
“100 per cent, there is no doubt about it. Sometimes, in business we are so caught up in day-to-day activities — the things we have to attend to — it’s rare that you get the time to look at what [the business] is about, understand further from our customers and listen to our customers to see what we have done well and what we could improve on,” he said.
“It’s definitely an opportunity to look at the business from another angle.”
Mr Lee said that winning a major business award had done wonders not just in recognising their own efforts and those of their staff, but generated many public shows of support from customers and industry partners alike — both in Australia and from around the world.
“As soon as we were announced the winner, a few posts went up very, very quickly on social media, and as soon as we shared the news, we received a lot of congratulations and loads of messages from our brides, key industry partners and even internationally renowned designers,” he said.
“I think it proves to say that in Australia, even though we are quite far away from others, it is definitely a market that everyone is watching.
“We will be travelling to New York this April for a bridal market, and we will be meeting with many new designers, and I will say this is definitely an achievement that we won’t be shy to share.”
Advice to other business owners
For Mr Lee, the credibility gains and marketing potential of being named a winner are just one part of the equation. He suggests that simply attending industry awards and events are a crucial part of being in business.
“Whether or not you become a winner or a finalist, it is just such a great night to be in the same room with so many other SMEs as well,” he said.
“Most of the time as business owners, there aren’t a lot of people you can share your stories with, there aren’t a lot of people who can really understand your story, except for people who are in business in Australia as well.”
As for the submission itself, Mr Lee offers these words of wisdom:
“The variety and the number of submissions for the award can be quite overwhelming, because literally, we are talking about hundreds if not thousands of submissions, and the judges do have very limited time to go through all the submissions. So I would say: delve deep into what makes your business, your service and your offering unique,” he said.
“And how your business has contributed not just to the Australian economy, but more importantly to your clients and to everyday Australians.
“I think if you go in with a very open mind, sometimes you will be surprised with the result.”
Mr Lee said he hopes to be back again in 2019 to defend the title. Details for this year’s Optus My Business Awards will be revealed mid-year.