Part II of II
(Editor’s note: This is the second of two stories on young entrepreneurs. These couples with kids thrive on managing a dizzying swirl of multiple businesses. First you’ll hear his perspective, then hers.)
Both accomplished swing dancers, David and Cirkl Janowski met on the dance floor nearly 20 years ago. They still teach swing at their Ellington Hall studio in Santa Rosa, but their dance card has expanded to include Wine Country Bride, a bustling retail wedding dress and tuxedo shop in Santa Rosa. The dress shop links to other business components including a biannual Wedding Expo that recently took place on Jan. 17 and a DJ company, Premier Productions, which is run by other partners.
Then there’s the dance of having two young sons ages 1 and 3. In that dance, the music never stops no matter how tuckered out the partners become, and most steps must be improvised on the spot.
The four main businesses combined with caring for kids might flatten most folks, but not the Janowskis. They thrive on pressure, deadlines, sheer intensity. She admits cheerfully to being a workaholic – one who genuinely loves helping brides and grooms make romantic weddings they won’t forget.
“This is our real business,” said David Janowski in the lobby of Santa Rosa-based Wine Country Bride, which they purchased about four years ago. They already owned the Wedding Expo, which has run 21 times and draws some 700 brides to Wells Fargo Center for the Arts for a five-hour shopping trip with about 150 vendors, most from Sonoma and Marin counties. “It’s insane,” he said of the crowds.
“Cirkl runs the shop and I produce the show,” he said. In the dress shop, she lines up tasks for him. With ample general contractor skills, he designed the physical space and managed construction.
He shows me a 14,000-square-foot dress showroom where brides-to-be choose from thousands of dresses in a color rainbow. Wine Country Bride expects gross sales of $1.5 million this year, but has yet to show a profit. “Being a retail store, it’s definitely not easy, but not everything we do is for profit,” he said. “The profit we don’t make at the dress shop – as a whole, it does really well,” with gross revenue of all their businesses in the range of $2 million to $2.5 million.
Part of the cost of the dress shop is time needed to serve each bride, who usually tries on numerous dresses before deciding on one. “The time intensity,” he said, requires expensive staffing, and paid-for dress inventory.“Our goal is not to make it a loss-leader,” he said. “Our goal is to make money. We’re in business, especially now with kids.”
Rarely do their two toddler boys visit the wedding dress shop – maybe a few minutes a week. “They never roam,” he said. From a previous marriage, Cirkl Janowski, 43, has a son aged 22 and living in Oakland. Mr. Janowski, 41, adopted her first son. “We have been teaching dance from the day we met,” said Mr. Janowski. Within a week of their meeting nearly 18 years ago, they worked together instructing a class, initially as volunteers.
“From the beginning, we learned how to work together at a level most couples don’t get to. Teaching dance, you have to work on your ego constantly.”