The Innovative Bridal B.A.B.E.

The Innovative Bridal B.A.B.E.
Photos by James Acomb

By 2017 it seemed Heidi Elnora had already done everything a wedding dress designer could do. The Savannah College of Art and Design graduate was a contestant on Bravo’s Project Runway in 2005 and was the star of her own show, Bride by Design on TLC, in 2014. She’s the owner of her self-named company and has had her designs featured in magazines and on television and sold in Nordstrom. A wife and mother of three, Heidi also manages the Heidi Elnora Atelier, which she opened in 2016 on historic Morris Avenue in Birmingham, Alabama.

But Heidi knew she was meant to do more. “On January 2, 2018, I was walking around the kitchen and I thought, I know this is not the end of the story,” she says. “God wouldn’t have brought me this far and I wouldn’t be blessed with all these things if God was just going to be like, ‘Well, you’re done. Just hang out.’”

Then it happened.

Heidi says that when the idea came to her it felt as if God had hit her with a bolt of lightning. “It was like information was being downloaded from the sky into my brain,” she says. She grabbed a journal her sister-in-law had given her for Christmas and filled the pages with details of the idea that would be the next chapter of the Heidi Elnora story.

In 2018 Heidi launched Build-a-Bride Entreprises, Inc., a company offering the first ever in-home bridal boutique experience. “When people are like, ‘This is genius!’ I say it didn’t come from me,” Heidi says. “God gave me this.”

At a time when many bridal businesses are floundering, Heidi’s brand continues to flourish, thanks to her innovation and commitment to customer service. “Just watching our world change, how successful Shipt has become, and how I like to shop Amazon, I thought, ‘Why can’t we do this differently?’ ” Heidi says. “We bring groceries to you. We bring your packages to you. Why can’t this come to you?”

Using dresses from Heidi’s build-a-Bride line, which she launched in 2008 and includes a variety of basic silhouettes and accessories, a Bridal Curator helps the bride build her perfect dress in the comfort of her own home. With the build-a-Bride Entrepreneur (or B.A.B.E.) program, women can apply to be a Bridal Curator for a specific territory. Each B.A.B.E. receives a Curator Kit to help her launch her business, as well as in-depth training in Birmingham, Alabama. To make the program more accessible, Heidi offers financing for the purchase of the Curator Kit.

“I wanted to make it affordable so these women could become what they wanted to be and didn’t have to be stuck in a job they didn’t love,” she says.

When Heidi decided to launch the B.A.B.E. program, she reached out to about 100 women to pitch the concept. Alex Yates of Birmingham didn’t hesitate to sign up. “She could have asked me to join her in selling ice and I would have jumped on board,” says Alex, who had Heidi custom-design a dress for her 2014 wedding. “I believe in Heidi as a designer and as an entrepreneur—I did as a Heidi bride and I do now as a Curator. So I knew I would kick myself if I didn’t join this great opportunity on the ground floor.”

Katie Grace Kissel worked for Heidi as an intern from 2009 to 2011 while she was a student at Samford University in Birmingham. This experience made her eager to sign up for the B.A.B.E. program and launch her store in Columbus, Ohio. Heidi’s welcoming attitude and intense work ethic are both qualities Katie Grace tries to emulate as a Bridal Curator. “She works harder than anyone, without sacrificing what is most important,” Katie Grace says. “She is someone who will work till 2 a.m. on a project to finish on time, but you better believe she was also getting her kids home from school that day.”

An Alabama native, Heidi comes from a working-class family and was told by some she could never be a fashion designer because of her humble roots. She ignored the naysayers, took out a $25,000 loan, got support from a local non-profit, and launched her company in 2006 when she was only 26 years old. “I didn’t know what I was doing, but I knew this was what I was meant to do and meant to be,” Heidi says.

Through her brand and business, Heidi hopes she will inspire all who cross her path. “I want them to feel empowered to know that you don’t have to settle,” she says.

When asked about the legacy she hopes to leave behind for her children, Heidi’s eyes fill with tears as she says, “I want my children to know how much their mama loved them and how hard she worked to provide for them. I want them to know what hard work is and to know what compassion is and that we’re really on this planet to love each other and to serve. God will bless us if we do those things.”