We met Erin Szymanski, owner and proprietress of the indie bridal boutique, Glitter & Grit when she signed up for our very first Mastermind Group in 2013.
We quickly learned that Erin is driven, creative, and insanely passionate about the kind of experience she creates for her brides. She is a true innovator in the space and has certainly made an indelible mark in the industry.
In the years we've know Erin, we've witnessed first hand the power of staying true to your grand vision and how collaboration, support, and generosity are impeccable tools for running and growing a business and brand.
We hope you enjoy getting to know Erin as much as we have. And if you want to see how far she's come in the last four years, here is her very first interview that we ran back in 2013.
For those that don't know you, tell us about yourself and your shop.
I'm an introverted, intuitive, romantic-at-heart — yet dryly sarcastic — boss lady attempting to use my powers for good. From my very first job scooping 31 flavors, I knew that I wanted to someday have my own business. Never in a million years, though, would I have imagined that would lead to a bridal boutique!
But after a handful of shopping trips with engaged friends, I started to realize that the status quo wasn't speaking to me. The bright and busy, giant-embellished-dress-filled shops were both over- and underwhelming to me. There had to be other options for less "traditional" brides-to-be! I had loved fashion for as long as I could remember but simply didn't see myself — my style, my personality — reflected in the stores or magazines.
I opened Glitter & Grit to offer an alternative. To provide a safe and welcoming space for women in Pittsburgh on the search for a wedding dress (or hey, jumpsuit or pants) that truly reflects their personal style, and a low-key experience that doesn't add pressure to an often vulnerable or stressful situation.
When we first interviewed you on the blog, you were in the very beginning stages of opening your store. What has the journey been like over the past 4 years? Was it what you expected?
Oh man, it's far surpassed anything I could have expected. My thought had been, "I can't be the only one who feels this way!" But there wasn't really any way to know that for sure in advance. It's been so wonderful to learn how many people resonate with how I have structured my business.
I was also quite unprepared for how deeply fulfilling it would be, to be a part of this momentous occasion in peoples' lives. To be able to turn a client's frustration into excitement, to help them know that they don't have to change who they are in order to get married, and hey — to get to play dress up all day! — is all so much more rewarding than I ever imagined.
What has kept you inspired through the natural ebbs and flows in running a business?
Those moments of really connecting with a client give me the very solid feeling of, "Yep, I AM doing what I'm supposed to be doing." That's when I know that the ups and downs are all worth it.
One of the things we love about you (and there are many) is how you have remained true to yourself, your aesthetic, and your values throughout the years. How do you do it?
If you do the work to identify your Why, then you can always refer to it when making decisions.
Sometimes it takes really deliberate intention and focus. I try to remember to check in with my gut when anything comes up that is new, different, or challenging. Sometimes that's some quiet reflection time, and sometimes it's bouncing ideas or questions off of someone who knows me — and my business — really well.
Have there been any growing pains over the years?
There's always something to learn, and I feel like I tend to need to learn them the hard way. There are more obvious things that are a result of growing, like having employees, or subtleties like having more demand for your time and/or resources as people become aware of your business. It was a lot easier to say "yes" to people's requests when I wasn't quite as busy at the store. P.S? being a boss is VERY different from being a solopreneur!
What have been some of your proudest moments as a business owner?
Anytime I step outside of my comfort zone, I feel pretty proud of myself and the business I have created. From speaking on your So You Want to Open a Storefront panel, to creating and hosting Hitchburgh events, to giving a speech about Taking the Leap, to throwing the Bridal Revival — putting myself, my ideas, and my passion out there — is incredibly intimidating and so very worth it. I feel like, no matter the results, any time you see something new through to the end is worth being proud of.
What's on the horizon for Glitter & Grit? Will there be a second location coming?
Indeed! For the longest time, I wasn't sure how Glitter & Grit would grow when the time came. It didn't feel like the right thing would just be to open a second location. While I love where Glitter & Grit currently is (both physically and as a concept), I want to do a little more. So I'm opening a sister store this summer called Luna, in Sewickley. We'll be doing some more fashion-forward, higher end bridal there, as well as evening and cocktail dresses for all occasions — and many options that can swing either way! Colorful wedding gowns that are perfect for formal occasions, and occasion dresses in shades of white for the laid-back or last-minute bride. I'm excited to continue to push boundaries and blur lines in Pittsburgh fashion!
Famous last words... What advice would you give to women who are struggling to find balance — emotionally and physically — as they navigate the wonderful world of entrepreneurship?
It's a constant struggle, I think, to try and find balance — and I don't really know that I think balance exists; I think it's more of a cycle of priorities. It's important to be self-aware; listen to your body and your mind, and allow yourself the emotions and feelings that come up. And then find support for them. Spending time with friends, sitting alone quietly, or moving or pampering your body — only you will know what you need at the time. Honor yourself in those moments, and give yourself grace. We're all human and doing the best we can.