If you’ve planned a wedding recently then, chances are, you’ve heard of Polka Dot Bride, Australia’s ‘most loved wedding blog’. Started by the somewhat mysterious (and anonymous) Dorothy Polka — aka Ms Polka Dot — take a look at the gorgeous, information-packed site and one thing’s certain: whichever clever entrepreneur is behind the pretty facade, she sure knows a thing or two about weddings and blogging.
So, Dorothy, tell us about your business…
Polka Dot Bride is a wedding blog that was first written out of a long held passion for weddings. It was first started as a little story blog, where I created a pseudonym (Ms. Polka Dot) and posted items of interest about weddings. As it grew, I decided to remain anonymous, and as the wedding industry has changed and grown in Australia, I continue to find things to inspire and delight that I love to share with our readers.
Who are your clients?
We have two tiers of clients — firstly, our advertisers who are the financial backbone of the site and, secondly, our readers. Without the readers, we’d have no advertisers, so there is an obligation to provide continual high quality content.
What prompted you to start your business? Did you identify a gap in the market?
Polka Dot Bride started as a tiny blog where I just wanted to showcase unique and incredible wedding finds and things that inspired me about weddings.
In Australia, at the time, there were no wedding blogs, although I did not identify this as a gap in the market that needed to be filled. I just started the blog out of passion. Polka Dot Bride grew quickly by osmosis really, and suddenly I realised that I had ‘grown up into a proper business’. It was only then that concrete ideas to expand were implemented, as I realised that I did indeed have a viable business (even though, at that time, it was in the relatively new sphere of blogging)!
What’s special about your business? What’s your ‘Point of Difference’?
I am anonymous, which has been a challenge but in some ways it has been part of the blog identity and this mysterious part of our growth. Polka Dot Bride is inclusive and aims to showcase weddings of all styles, price points and genres. And, importantly, keeping the personal touch, both in the way we present the stories and in the way we deal with clients is very important to us.
Who are your competitors?
At Polka Dot Bride, we are very committed to forging our own path, regardless of what anyone else in the blogosphere is doing. So we don’t see any other blogs as competitors, as they are also travelling their own paths.
… we don’t see any other blogs as competitors, as they are also travelling their own paths.
What was your first major achievement in the business?
I would have to say this would have been when I first released advertising spaces about ten months after I started the site. We had a major vendor ask us if they could advertise on our blog. I was so thrilled and surprised that anyone would want to advertise on our little blog! We offered this advertising to them at $10 per month, and from that small start, we grew to what we are today.
What has been your biggest challenge? What obstacles have you overcome?
Recognising that I couldn’t do it all myself, and employing staff to content manage, and manage the vendor advertising enquiries. The business is about to grow to the next level as I’m realising that, for me to survive, I have to outsource my own tasks more so that I can concentrate on the things that make Polka Dot Bride the blog that it is.
Managing staff is not a natural thing for me to do, so I’ve had to work on my skills in this area.
Finding the right web hosting as we outgrew our web hosts one by one, as we got bigger. We found that our previous hosts couldn’t accommodate the growth, as their service delivery levels were not able to accommodate our needs.
And finding an excellent web developer has been crucial to our ongoing needs for the constant tweaking and issues that arise from having a blog of this size and complexity.
Remaining anonymous has been a challenge — I think we may have grown a lot faster if I was out doing interviews and had a presence, so to speak, but I have learnt that the success we have had is based entirely off our content, and being in the limelight is not something I have ever been comfortable with.
Keeping the blog fresh. We have gone through several major reincarnations of the look and functionality of the blog (thanks to our brilliant web designer who just ‘gets’ us). We’ve added more blogs as specialty blogs to accommodate under-represented groups in the wedding-sphere, for example, grooms (Groom blog), brides writing about their own weddings (Weddings blog), and honeymoons (Honeymoons blog). We have also provided a Wisdom blog, so that vendors can write about their ‘pearls of wisdom’ to bridal couples.
Tell us about your marketing strategy…
We are very active on Facebook and Pinterest, as well as Twitter. I suppose our main marketing strategy, though, is the way in which we look after people who make contact with us – whether they are vendors or brides. We have excellent staff that deal very professionally with clients from the first point of contact to the time they leave us. We have a client concierge whose main job is to look after our client needs and assist with any issues that arise. Looking after our bridal couples and vendors promptly, and going the extra mile for them, is always uppermost in our minds. From that, we continue to receive referrals and enquiries, and we continue to grow in readership.
Who inspires you?
I find lots of inspiration in those around me. I have family and friends who are running their own businesses, who I have found inspirational, who have buoyed me when I am having my butt kicked and who have been there for me, if only as examples of how to keep going when everything around you seems too hard.
What’s one thing you could be doing better in your business? What’s your opportunity?
Freeing myself up from some of the more mundane tasks, so that I can concentrate on building excellent content and keeping the ideas for the blog fresh. Not getting bogged down in the minutiae of the day-to-day business and outsourcing that to someone who is skilled and willing to take these off my hands.
… treat everyone with grace and kindness – you never know who you are talking to, and who THEY will talk to about YOU!
Do you have a mentor?
I have several mentors – family and friends in business. I have watched them in their own businesses and have modelled some of my own business ideas on what I’ve seen them do. I don’t think I’ll ever stop watching and learning to try to do things better!
How important has this been to your success?
I think an openness to learning from mentors engenders an open attitude in your own business. You have to be willing to change to accommodate the changing playing field, and this openness — plus some frank (and sometimes painful) discussions, help me to move forward.
What does the future hold for your business? Where to from here?
I think this question is best answered, funnily enough, by me moving aside from the day-to-day engine room of the business, and leaving that in the capable hands of other skilled people. Keeping the new ideas coming, increasing quality content on all the blogs, putting into action some exciting ideas I have for keeping the content fresh… all that and more. The world is our oyster, as they say!
Are there any particular business women you would like to connect with to support your business?
I’d love to connect with anyone. I think you can never predict how someone can help or inspire you.
What’s the best business advice you can give to our readers?
Act with integrity and kindness always.
I love my business because… it allows me to write about my passion, about new ideas, and to share that with readers and vendors in the industry. And I love to think that being anonymous, with our little team of patterned people (Ms Paisley, Ms Stripey, Ms Gingham, Ms Herringbone and Ms Floral), adds a little extra charm to Polka Dot Bride.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Number one is ‘earn your way to success and respect’. It’s all about working harder than you ever think you will have to work, being prepared to put in the long, long hours often with little reward, learning how to work smart, and being modest. And treat everyone with grace and kindness – you never know who you are talking to, and who THEY will talk to about YOU!
At a Glance
Full name: Ms Polka Dot
Location: Melbourne, VIC
Position: Owner and Editor
Year Business Established: 2007
Number of Employees: Five contract staff, eight freelance writers and a number of project based contractors (designers and developers)
Industry: Wedding blogger
Visit Polka Dot Bride
First published September 2014