Behind the Scenes Interview with Reena Wiseman of Vintage Vignettes

We get a lot of inquiries from our readers looking for more information on great places to find vintage rentals for their wedding in the Toronto area. We decided to go behind the scenes and dig deeper to bring you the story of one of our favourite rental outfits Vintage Vignettes. The following is an interview with Reena Wiseman and Claire Cockburn.

Q. Tell me a little bit more about how Vintage Vignettes was created. It sounds like you had a background in design, and a desire to help create a perfect wedding for you daughter… Tell me how that unfolded…
A. Vintage Vignettes opened in February 2012, but the idea sparked in August 2011 when my daughter Beth got engaged to her now-husband Adam. Beth wanted a vintage but elegant look, and I was determined to make her dream day a reality. Having a background in interior and set design, I was excited to set out and find all the vintage decor items for the wedding, but there was nowhere in my area that rented what we wanted. I’ve always loved vintage, so instead I just began collecting pieces of china, goblets and props. I had considered selling everything on eBay after the wedding, but when that day came, it was more beautiful than we could have imagined and people kept asking me where I got all the vintage items. That is when Vintage Vignettes really began to unfold.

Q. How early on was it when you realized that you might actually be able to turn this into a viable business?
A.  I realized when I couldn’t find a company that rented vintage items that other people must have the same problem. Vintage has been and continues to be a popular trend, and there are so many ways to incorporate this style into events, so I was confident that there would be a demand. After Beth’s wedding I continued collecting vintage décor and props to build up inventory. Once the website launched and Vintage Vignettes’ name started getting out there, the response was incredible. I knew this was going to be something exciting.

Q. Every business has it’s growing pains along the way, what was the biggest hurdle during the first year?
A. As the business started to grow, there were several issues that had to be overcome. Getting our name out to potential clients was challenging but essential to our success, and there were some internal hurdles as well. Storing and controlling inventory, and organizing and coordinating orders in terms of cleaning, packing, and delivery were the major concerns. Orders started coming in very quickly after we launched, so we had to play catch up.

Q. How big has the business gotten? Whose involved (shout out for Claire!)? You must have trouble storing all of your collection…
A. We now have enough inventory to cater an event of up to 200 guests, and we are still growing. The response we’ve gotten is truly amazing and we hope it continues. Claire has been working with me since the launch, and together we handle almost all aspects of the business.

Q. What’s in store for next year?
A. We’re looking forward to next year and the exciting plans for Vintage Vignettes. We will be putting together our own photo shoot and working with other vendors, we’re creating a brochure, we’re continuing to add new and unique pieces to our inventory, and eventually we hope to move into a bigger and better showroom.

Q. There’s definitely a trend (or at least it feels that way to us), for people to want to enter into a business like yours because they like vintage, pretty, stuff. It can’t all be sunshine and rainbows… What’s the hardest part about running your business?
A. The hardest part is balancing all aspects that are required for running a business, especially if you have limited staff. You have to handle pricing, inventory control, cleaning, packing, shipping, website, social media, invoicing, banking, marketing, and the list goes on and on.
b. You also have to have an eye for new products to buy. The key to vintage is mix and match, similar to mixing patterns and textures in a room. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth the effort.

Q. If there was someone out there who looked at what you’ve built and wanted to do something similar… What advice would you give them?
A. Starting a business is incredibly fulfilling and a great way to do something you love every day, but it takes a lot of time and dedication. Start small, dream big, and be prepared to pour yourself into the work.

Q. Do you have any secret marketing tips, or new business generation ideas? (You have to give us something here!)
A. It’s important to know where your customers are and to build relationships with them. Social media like Facebook and Twitter are great for keeping in touch with current and potential customers. It’s all about networking and relationships!

Q. Quick, name three places to snag great vintage finds.
A. Flea markets, garage sales, and estate sales.

Q. This is an easy one to wrap up with. Thanks again for you time. Would you rather browse on your Ipad or with a printed magazine?
A. Both Claire and I prefer the glossy feel of a printed magazine. What can I say, we’re traditionalists. J


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