Interview
04/04/2024

Melanie Dischler, why is one job not enough?

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Whether it's for your own wedding, your best friend's special day, or the school dance, "Mellies Brautmode" (Mellies Bridal Boutique) is a second-hand boutique for women looking for the perfect dress in an eco- and budget-friendly way. For the past five years, Melanie has been serving customers in her charming half-timbered house in Kehl-Kork, Germany. Balancing her job as a photo editor while running her shop, she shares insights into her daily life between computer screens and wedding dresses.

Melanie, why bridal fashion?

Melanie: Ever since I was a little girl, my dream was to have my own shop. I loved playing shopkeeper. As I grew older, my fascination for dresses grew stronger because they express our femininity. Bridal gowns, in particular, offer a vast array of styles, designs and intricate details that allow each bride to truly reflect her personality. On top, bridal fashion is closely linked to highly emotional moments. Playing a part in the weeding process has a special meaning in my heart.

You've been a photo editor for 18 years. What about your job inspires you?

Melanie: I have a passion for storytelling - not only through words, but also through images. A picture serves as a vehicle to draw the reader into a narrative. It's the initial attraction that often determines whether a story is engaged or overlooked. A compelling image should spark curiosity. My job is to select pictures that build that interest. It's more responsibility than you might expect at first. But that's what makes it so exciting for me.

But you felt there was more to explore. Why take on another job?

Melanie: I wouldn't necessarily say that I was missing anything. I didn't necessarily need another job. I really enjoy my role in the editorial team. Especially since I've been working for Lisa for so many years, I know how it all works. I understand our target audience and the type of content that resonates with them. My daily tasks have become somewhat routine. That gives me a sense of security and the courage to explore new avenues in other aspects of my life. For example, pursuing my long-held dream of starting my own bridal business. The stability offered by my position at Burda, combined with the excitement of starting something new, is the perfect mix for me. If it hadn't been the business, it could have been a new hobby.

When did you decide to put your idea into action?

Melanie: At first it was just a fleeting thought that gradually grew stronger. As my son, who I had been raising on my own for years, grew older and became more independent, I had more time to pursue my own aspirations - including the dream of running my own business. It wasn't originally intended to be a fashion boutique. The concept evolved quite naturally through my work at Burda: At Lisa, we cover topics like fashion, beauty and sustainability in great detail. Dealing with these topics allowed me to keep up with the latest trends. So I unintentionally built up an expertise. I observed the growing importance of second-hand options for consumers. In 2019, I conducted thorough market research and realized that there were still no second-hand bridal shops in the Ortenau. But that didn't mean there wouldn't be one in the future. When the first floor of my half-timbered house became available, making room for the boutique, I knew this was my opportunity to take the lead. So I jumped in head first.

Starting a business can be incredibly demanding and often push you to your limits. Did you ever consider throwing in the towel?

Melanie: Giving up was never on the table. That doesn't mean I didn't have doubts in the beginning. Doubts are natural and an integral part of diving into the unknown. I was overwhelmed with questions and knew I had to learn the ropes: How do you even start your own business? What do you need to consider, and how do you acquire the necessary expertise? Fortunately, these are all aspects that are taught and can be learned, although it does take time and effort. Easier said than done.

I often struggled with the fear of juggling multiple responsibilities: my family, my boutique and my position at Burda. I was determined not to let my main job suffer in any scenario, so I requested my manager's approval. I wanted to excel in both. Working part-time at Burda, only 80 percent, proved to be extremely beneficial. It allowed me to devote my free time to my bridal business without feeling guilty. Still, sacrifices were inevitable in the early stages of the start-up. I spent many evenings and weekends doing financial calculations and drawing up business plans.

It was an exhausting time, but not impossible. Even when the coronavirus crisis hit shortly after the opening - with a lockdown of the retail sector and canceled weddings - I didn't let it knock me down. I was convinced I would make it.

Your boutique has been around for five years now. Looking back on the journey, was it worth it?

Melanie: Absolutely. I still remember the moment when the first white wedding dress was displayed in the empty room. I knew then that my little white dream had come true. Now the racks are filled with beautiful gowns. Working in my boutique fulfills me: giving personalized advice and bringing joy to people's lives. Even though it is an additional job, it never feels like work. It's like my own personal form of yoga - it gives me more energy than it takes.

You said that wedding dresses are connected with strong emotions. So why choose a second-hand dress instead of a new one?

Melanie: Not too long ago, there were very few stores that specialized in second-hand wedding dresses. The idea of a pre-owned wedding dress? Unthinkable for many brides. But every woman who has tied the knot knows that no matter how stunning the dress may be, it often ends up gathering dust in the closet. But it's simply too exquisite (and often too expensive) to be forgotten.

Now, however, times have changed and sustainability is increasingly valued by consumers. Used items are no longer stigmatized, but rather embraced. The benefits are numerous: brides can improve their post-wedding finances, bring joy to another bride-to-be, and give that beautiful gown another chance to shine.

So, would you recommend starting a business?

Melanie: Absolutely. However, you need to have a real passion for what you're doing. Starting a business is demanding and requires a lot of effort. You should only invest your time and energy if you truly believe in your idea. If you have that, I encourage you to take the leap of faith. Believe in yourself. If you're truly committed, you can do it.

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Mellie smiles as she stands surrounded by beautiful dresses in her charming bridal shop in Kork © Iris Rothe

Her partner Alexander Steinborn actively supports Mellie in all her endeavours © Iris Rothe

The bridal shop is located in a charming half-timbered house in the centre of the beautiful Ortenau region © Iris Rothe

Of course, no wedding is complete without accessories © Iris Rothe

Next to wedding dresses, Melanie also sells classic communion dresses as well as gowns for invited guests © Iris Rothe

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