charlotte a. buschmann award

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Wedding Market Expo

The Charlotte A. Buschmann Excellence in the Industry Award has been awarded at the yearly NEAWP gala since 2009. The past winners of the award are:

Below is a description of the award as written by Amy Mader, the granddaughter of Charlotte and Founder of NEAWP.

Charlotte Alice Elizabeth Catherine Gallagher Buschmann was a pioneer among women entrepreneurs. It was 1948 when she began Charlotte's Hat Shoppe in her home after investing $500 into a supply of Easter hats, just in time for the holiday. Her home business grew to be Charlotte's Bridal Shoppe in 1953 with a modest selection of six bridesmaid's dresses and five wedding gowns. It may not have seemed like much, but it made history. Hers was the first bridal salon ever opened in a woman's own home, a story told across the country. This was at a time when sales people came to your door and your word was your honor. Handshakes make a deal and everyone was coming out of the effects of the depression. She grew her salon to over 700 wedding gowns and 300 bridesmaid's dresses. She believed that full service required the undivided attention of all wedding consultants knowing everything about every client that walked in the salon doors and complimentary alterations. Her staff of 18 serviced three generations of brides and 50% of her employees was employed by her for over 20 years and they knew they had to be on top of your game. Here are some lessons I learned from her:

1. The customer is not always right, but the employees surely better not have screwed up. If you did screw up, admit it right away and she would fight for you till the end. She firmly believed you stand behind your employee in front of a client.

2. Treat your employees well and they will stay with you. If they threaten to leave, call their bluff. She would say "there is a Chevy around every corner" She would be the first one to supplement a staff's income, have my grandfather pick up and drop off employees (she did not drive but one day in her life), or help them in any way they needed to make coming to work worthwhile.

3. She would do anything for a customer to make their day as special as it could be. I watched her behind the scenes giving a wedding gown to a bride who could not afford a dress, ripping up a receipt if it needed to be done to make the customers life a little easier. She truly believed in pay it forward. However if a client threatened her little 5 foot 4" body, she would respond with "Oh honey, go right ahead and go to the business bureau and while you are there tell them I need better business then what you are providing to me. Thank you for shopping at Charlotte's Bridal Shop."

4. Know what your competition is doing at all times. Go to lunch with them and keep an open relationship. You might be able to help each other out some day. In the 1980s the Mississippi river flooded in La Crosse Wisconsin. Some wedding gowns were ruined and she worked with the other three bridal salons in the city and they collectively were able to get dresses to all the brides whose dresses were ruined.

She worked in her business until she was 86 years old and only was retired 2 years prior to her death. If I ever doubted myself or a decision I was making she would say "how will you make it happen?" Only one time I said "I don't know" her response was "if you do not believe you can do it, then don't because you will surely look like an 'A' double s" (she never swore - that was uncouth). If you believe it, you will do it. She was truly an amazing person who believed that the wedding industry was not just a hobby but a profession. You needed to have a passion to believe in yourself and making that bride feel the best she could feel. If you did that, you done good.

In addition to the Charlotte A. Buschmann Award, NEAWP is proud to honor it's members with several other annual awards. Below is the list of past and current award winners.

Student of the Year

Vendor of the Year

Coordinator of the Year

Member of the Year

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