From the delivery room to her own fitting room – Tracey Goodall


Tracey Goodall (right) is ‘living her dream job’

Tracey Goodall, whose Brides of Dorset business is based in Gillingham, was a full-time midwife when she took her sister shopping for wedding dresses in 2006. ‘I LOVED it. The dresses, the shops, my ability to help … it was wonderful. A friend soon asked me to come with her to choose her wedding dress, then another friend… I have no idea why. There is just something about being in a wedding dress shop. It’s my passion. I come alive. And back then I said to myself “one day, I’m going to do this”.
‘I became a stay-at-home mum when my first child was born, but it’s been ten years, and it’s time for me to do something for my own career again. I already knew what I wanted to do. I just had to take a deep breath and go for it.
‘I took a year to plan, working in some bridal shops to gain industry experience. I knew it was the right thing for me immediately – I’m actually living my dream job! The first year has been amazing, I cannot believe how far I’ve come, so fast.
‘But I had a clear vision, and I stuck passionately to it. I did so much research and visited so many dress shops. I have been with friends who have left shops in tears and have heard some horror stories from my brides. Giving brides and prom girls that special experience genuinely matters to me – and in the end, all the research led me back to myself. ‘I have just stuck to my own values – I treat every single bride the way I would want to be treated. I’m sure that has been a key factor in my success.
‘The first year was tricky, mostly because the business was brand new. I had no expectations or plan because I had no idea what sort of seasonal trade swings there might be or how long it would take to build a solid reputation.
‘And you have to be ready for the quiet months. I quickly realised that’s the nature of running your own business. You’ve just got to ride out the quiet spells, cover your bills and keep going. It’s daunting, and it’s difficult.
‘But fairly quickly, my word of mouth reviews started to spread and everything began to snowball. And the wedding industry is like a new family – the local wedding suppliers have swiftly become friends and mentors. I stock a range of options for bridal gowns, in sizes 6 to 30. It was so important to me to be size inclusive, to ensure that fuller figure brides can have the exact same experience. Every bride should get a choice and feel special no matter their size, shape or style.
‘I have a team of seamstresses – Bespoke by Summer Mai in Dorchester – who are amazing.
I stock a range of ex-sample dresses which the seamstresses will alter and adjust – many brides will fall in love with a dress but want to add sleeves, or some sparkle or lace, for example. And the Louisa Jackson Bridal Collection is all made to order, with a four to five month delivery time.
‘Surprisingly, my biggest issue was finding the right premises. I nearly quit before I’d even started. I have no idea how businesses manage to stay afloat while they’re paying High Street rates. It was a total eye opener. Finding somewhere that was big enough and also affordable almost broke me. But then at the end of 2022 this place on the Kingsmead Business Park popped up out of nowhere – I hadn’t even considered Gillingham, but it’s perfect for me. It’s on the Dorset/Somerset/Wilts borders, and it’s gorgeous inside, attached to an old farmhouse with exposed brick and beams, huge windows so there’s loads of light … I knew immediately I could make Brides of Dorset into a destination experience, and I realised I didn’t need a High Street shop front.
‘Learning the nuts and bolts of running a business has been tough too – the admin, the tax, the finances generally. The not-fun bits you MUST do. It’s all so new to me. I attended a free course through Dorset Growth Hub which was incredibly useful. I strongly recommend it.
‘I had to make the choice to concentrate on what I was good at, and paying for what I wasn’t. I’m pretty good at marketing and social media, but don’t have a clue about websites (Vicky from The Graffiq Web Studio was an absolute saviour).

Tracey Goodall (centre), owner of Brides of Dorset

Love it or loathe it?
‘I love the flexibility I have to work around a young family. I love the absolute control that being my own boss brings – and also the lack of reporting to anyone else! Having said that, I work evenings, I work weekends … I probably work longer hours even than I did as a midwife. You’d never do it for an employer, but when it’s yours you somehow don’t mind. There’s joy in watching the business grow and thrive, knowing it’s down to you.
‘The flip side is that I’m constantly juggling – it’s a good job I’m a great organiser and good at time management! The balancing act is tough.
‘But in the end you’ve just got to be confident. Trust yourself and go for it. Because you’ll never know until you do it – and when you do, it’s fantastic.


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