After working in the wedding industry for more than 10 years, Leesburg resident Barbara Kriss said she realized wedding professionals in Loudoun County were in need of a place to call their own.
Kriss, a wedding stationary and web designer, envisioned a co-working space where she and other entrepreneurs could network and create a more cohesive community to share ideas and engage with clients.
Working with her business partner Paul Tartaglione, Kriss has spent the last few years researching the concept and searching for the right space to launch it. She asked fellow wedding industry executives their biggest struggle with running and operating a business.
Kriss says the launch of A Wedding Loft at 11B South King St. in downtown Leesburg is the solution that she and other wedding industry professionals have been searching for. The space opened in July but held its official grand opening earlier this month.
The bright and airy two-level office provides a “safe, secure environment” for female entrepreneurs, Kriss said. Downstairs, there is a large room that can be used for co-working or reserved for large workshops and events such as rehearsal dinners or cocktail parties. There are also four smaller rooms used for meetings with clients, makeup application, photo shoots and recording podcasts. Non-members are able to reserve space online on an hourly basis.
“Entrepreneurs, photographers, florists and wedding planners are able to use our meeting space in a pretty environment. Here you are surrounded by supportive women who understand each other,” Kriss said. “We are a place to come and talk shop and support each other. It is almost like a family here – we rely on each other and step in if you need something. There are so many resources and networking between the women here – everyone has been so helpful.”
Wedding planner Ashleigh Foy was interested in A Wedding Loft's concept because she feels that working from home can be lonely and filled with distractions. “Here, I can devote my time and meet my goals,” she said.
Carrie Schluckbier and Allison Phelps, owners of Forest Heart Photography, say A Wedding Loft has helped them bring in clients.
“This is a professional environment, and it has made a huge difference in our business. Usually we would meet with couples at a coffee shop. Now we are able to meet here – and everyone we have met with here has hired us,” Schluckbier said.
“Having your own studio is expensive, but to come in and rent space here is a step up. We feel comfortable and have made so many strong, amazing women connections,” Phelps said.
Schluckbier added, “This market is tough, very competitive – but to be around people who understand what you're going through is helpful.”
A young photographer who is just starting her career, Vera Thomas has found the Wedding Loft to be an opportunity to learn from more veteran photographers. In turn, she has taught them some of the photography techniques she uses and ways to use social media to their business' advantage.
All of the women agree they are in the right place to experience opportunities in their industry. They enjoy having someone to bounce ideas off of, and they are able to learn from each other everyday.
“There is so much talent here we are able to level up our business,” said Foy.