Darden is recognized as having one of the leading entrepreneurship programs among all graduate business schools. With more than 25 entrepreneurship electives, $1 million in entrepreneurship scholarships and over $13,000 in available funding through the Darden Business Incubator for selected students to launch their own ventures, Darden will help you develop the skills and knowledge necessary to become an entrepreneurial leader.
Lauren Byrne, Founder and CEO of Bridal Brokerage and MBA Class of 2013, tells us about launching her company through the Darden Business Incubator:
What is Bridal Brokerage?
“The first ever company specializing in buying and re-selling canceled weddings. When weddings are canceled, we buy non-refundable wedding packages that have been already paid for. We then re-sell the wedding to a different bride and groom at a discount.”
How did you come up with the idea for Bridal Brokerage?
“I was taking a walk with a friend who was supposed to be in a wedding in St John – but the wedding was cancelled. Everything was already paid for and not refundable – the dress, the airline tickets, etc. So we started joking around that we wished one of our other friends could just use the wedding package instead. That’s when I thought of the idea and I started to realize it could be a real thing.
I didn’t tell anyone for three years before I decided to pursue the idea. The only person I talked to was my brother who is a lawyer and could help answer my questions about legal concerns. In fact, I chose Darden because I knew about the incubator program and that it would be my one shot to try it out and see if the idea might work.”
How did it go last summer in the Darden Business Incubator?
“It was good – we had a lot of different meetings and speakers come talk to us about being an entrepreneur. It really fostered an environment where you had to hustle to do whatever you needed to do to get your business going. It helped some people understand that they really wanted to be entrepreneurs and others realize that they didn’t want to be entrepreneurs. That’s part of what the internship is all about.
Having the people and resources of Darden and the Batten Institute were super helpful – and if they didn’t have the resources there, the staff found the right people in the community we could talk to, including investors. So much of the success of my business hinged on pitching to the public and getting people interested in the idea. I got to practice pitching and telling my story over and over, and it was very beneficial in helping me market my business.”
What were your biggest challenges and what have been your biggest “wins” to date?
“Having time in the Second Year at Darden. I am working a separate job, doing Bridal Brokerage and taking classes all at the same time. But I’ve been fortunate that some of my classmates have been helping out, stepping up and taking ownership of the business as well.”
“The press. Being in the New York Times, The Knot and some other media outlets has been really exciting. 20/20 came to campus to do an interview and some filming a couple of weeks ago. We’ve had over a dozen offers for reality TV shows. The media seems to think this idea is a good one and that has been encouraging.”
What plans do you have in store for Bridal Brokerage?
“We are in a crazy stage right now where we have people looking to sell their weddings and we’re trying to help. I’m not exactly sure how things will unfold after graduation from Darden. I’m pretty sure the concept is going to develop into something amazing whether it’s me or not. I’m excited to see which direction it all goes.”
How has Darden helped you pursue your idea and get it off the ground – whether the Darden Business Incubator, classes, or otherwise?
“I think the biggest thing was my fellow students and the community at Darden. After I pitched my idea in the Concept Competition at the Entrepreneurship Conference at Darden, Darden and Batten really got behind it. I’m pretty sure I would have taken a traditional internship if it wasn’t for the encouragement of classmates telling me that I have to try it.
It’s the entrepreneurial spirit and the supportive, non-competitive, communal culture here at Darden that helped me do this. The Darden Business Incubator program is a great opportunity and the staff are fantastic, but it’s really been the overall community that has helped me most.”
About Lauren Byrne
Lauren grew up in Shrewsbury, New Jersey and worked in Consumer Products marketing before Darden. She will be going to work for Snyder’s-Lance on the Cape Cod brand in Charlotte after graduation. Lauren has never ridden on a school bus but has been to every NASCAR track in America.