Oh! You Pretty Things, and the arrival of The Off-White Wedding
Cuckoo Vine’s Mike Carthew looks into a rather unlikely business model, and a very likely success story in the world of wedding one-up-manship…
I’ve just been talking weddings with a girl who’s received no less than 13 invitations for next summer. Bit extreme isn’t it? But Alex Holdsworth isn’t the party girl that her calendar implies; it’s just that most of these weddings happen to be borrowing her granny’s old crockery. This is the story of how a business can spring from the unlikeliest of circumstances. And this one’s just our cup of tea.
Like Alex, I too am at ‘that age’ in my life, when friends seem to be getting hitched at a genuinely concerning rate of knots. Recently though, scattered amongst all the white lace and canapés I’ve noticed a small splinter group. This cell of open-minded, free-thinkers is collectively asking, ‘Hang on, what if I don’t want a massive and bank-breaking, white wedding? And more to the point, what if I can’t actually afford one’?
So, of late, there is a small but strong counter-current developing in the world of satin and silk. Granted, it’s hard to notice unless you pay attention to the style of the invitations and the bridal mags in the dentists, but look a little closer. In the third row, there’s a girl who’s done her own hair. Her shoes are a bit knackered (I believe the correct terminology is ‘vintage’) and she’s made her own flowery headpiece. Hmm. Not only has she spent about three hundred quid less than the other girls, but she actually looks pretty flipping cool. Now look at the stain on the sleeve of the suit you just rented. Don’t you feel a tit? Me too. All hail the intentionally low-key arrival of the ‘Off-White Wedding’.
Alex Holdsworth has recently started a business at the core of this group of free-radicals. Moreover, she’s launched her enterprise with timing that most entrepreneurs can only dream of. Forming her company, ‘Oh! You Pretty Things’ only this summer was bit like someone buying vogue.com just before Vogue found out what the internet was. I asked Alex to explain the strategy and timing of her entry into the marketplace:
“It was a complete accident really! My Granny was one of the old-school. She loved a truly English afternoon tea; the cakes, the crockery everything had to be perfect. I collected Granny’s tea sets and thought they were so beautiful I had to hang on to them. Before I knew it I’d lent them to a friend for an afternoon tea party. Then the offer of supplying to a wedding came in and I just thought what a great idea it would be to try to expand I saw the opportunity and jumped to it.”
Far from the twee and fluffy, I quickly became aware that the girl behind ‘Oh! You Pretty Things’ is actually an extremely astute and quick thinking business woman. OYPT is at face value a beautifully simple idea, but what we love here at Cuckoo Vine is how the ethics and values behind Alex’s business are woven seamlessly into the overall offering.
“At first expansion seemed pretty daunting, but I realised it just had to be a balance between what I wanted my business to stand for, and what the market had started to look towards. We can do 150 covers now but still all the crockery is pre-loved and in matching sets, I make my own cake stands and try to work alongside socially and environmentally responsible businesses wherever I have the choice.”
So how does Alex see OYPT’s place in the market? What can her clients expect apart from an upbeat, bohemian slant to their events?
“We’re not cheap but we’re certainly competitively priced. The key to our success though is that choosing OYPT to set the tone for an event can really bring costs down. Instead of beef and salmon, our clients are opting for Victorian style sandwiches, cupcakes and cocktails from a teapot. It’s way more fun and typically brings the cost per cover down by around 50% when compared to traditional catering. This can reduce overall costs by around £4000 when you’re looking at a whole wedding party – the price of a pretty nice honeymoon!”
Teamed with a completely different vibe is the satisfaction that Oh! You Pretty Things truly are sustainable to the core. Not only is all the crockery sustainably sourced and ‘pre-loved’, but 10% of OYPT’s profits go to charity. It’s this genuinely considered approach to trading which means OYPT represents the values that Cuckoo Vine aims to promote in UK businesses. Social and environmental responsibility is at the very heart of this business, not just an afterthought or a selling point in a brochure.
“As a company we’re still young and people have suggested waiting till things are well established before donating to charity, but I’m committed to start as I mean to go on. We have a different charity each month, November is Macmillan and December is PEAS (Promoting Equality in African Schools). As well as donating money, we’ve been involved in running the Macmillan World’s Biggest Coffee Mornings for charity too.”
What’s fantastic about Oh! You Pretty Things is the organic way it has evolved as a company. From crockery to cocktails, Hen-Do’s to Christmas parties; nothing feels forced or engineered. Alex has responded to the needs of her clients and sees the natural evolution of services as integral to the development of OYPT. I asked Alex how far she’d let the clients lead her business.
“I think as long as the ethics of the company aren’t compromised then I’ll evolve to provide what my clients need. I’m having a great time running my own business and I’m helping a lot of people make some great memories. I’m happy with that as business model!”
In years to come I expect people might refer to Alex as a pioneer, or a trend-setter. In the meantime, you’d better give her a call before she gets booked up.
Check out what Oh! You Pretty Things has on offer and what Alex’s recent clients have to say on Cuckoo Vine: http://cuckoovine.com/listing/oh-you-pretty-things-sw9-0ll
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