Magic Maker: Unveiling Dreams and Dresses with Bridal Babes CEO Ashley Young

By McBride Sisters – August 16, 2023

Magic Maker: Unveiling Dreams and Dresses with Bridal Babes CEO Ashley Young

Hey Ashley!!

Thank you for inviting us into your studio.

You’ve changed the game with your inclusive bridal designs and style for some time now, and we’re excited for the opportunity to share your story and magic with anyone who might not know you yet.

First off, will you please tell us a bit about your background, what were you doing before Bridal Babes came to fruition?

Prior to starting Bridal Babes, I was a Marketing Manager for various campaigns in the Federal Government most notably youth tobacco prevention work at the Food and Drug Administration. I’ve worked across Public Relations, Advertising, and Marketing since my initial introduction at Universal McCann in 2009. Fun fact, Cara Sabin was one of my clients on Neutrogena back in the day. She’s now the CEO of Shea Moisture.

While I was working at the FDA, I also worked part-time for a multicultural wedding blog Aisle Perfect as their Sales Manager. At the time, it was just because I was obsessed with weddings! I had no idea that foundation and those connections would come back around when we launched Bridal Babes!

Can you tell us about the inspiration behind starting Bridal Babes? What motivated you?

When I was planning my wedding in 2016, I remember thinking “It shouldn’t be this difficult to find bridesmaid dresses that will make my best friends look and feel amazing by my side". My bridesmaids were mostly curvy women and there was nothing on the market that was beautiful, flattering, and size inclusive.

I remember searching high and low across the internet to find something that wasn’t frumpy and unflattering. I finally found dresses that included plus sizes and achieved my vision for my bridesmaids but of course - they were not from a traditional bridesmaid dress store.

After that experience, my husband and co-founder, Charles and I got to work building Bridal Babes – the first size inclusive bride-to-be and bridesmaid gown line. Bridal Babes was created as a solution to a common wedding planning problem - the lack of fashion-forward, curve-hugging bridesmaid dresses for women of all shades, shapes, and sizes.  

Bridal Babes is not just revolutionizing how people shop for wedding attire, but we are committed to making a space for diversity in the multi-billion dollar wedding industry by showcasing models and clients of all shades, shapes, and sizes. It is so important that women can see themselves in our gowns and our models may or may not resonate with every client (although we hope they do!).  

For that reason, we also showcase our gorgeous clients who represent the brand and become ambassadors for us to their friends, family, and community.

How has your personal background and experiences influenced your journey?

Growing up I loved classic shows like “Say Yes To The Dress” and “Platinum Weddings”. I guess weddings and reality TV have always been my thing. But, I never noticed the lack of representation and how that impacts your viewing and perception. None of these shows seemed tangible to me because I rarely saw people who looked like me.

When I started working with Aisle Perfect, a multicultural wedding blog, my eyes were opened to this beautiful world of weddings that were completely under the radar. Lavish Nigerian weddings, tradition-rich Indian ceremonies, and so much more!

I knew there was an huge untapped market that was overlooked by the traditional bridal industry. This insight was key in the development of Bridal Babes.

How do you and your husband, Charles, set boundaries between your work and personal life when you're constantly together conducting business and tending to your relationship?

It has been a really fun (but intense!) process working together - especially when we were building the brand with two under two out of our basement during the Pandemic! We have since moved into a larger warehouse space which allows us to focus on our core areas. 

This separation of tasks is important as we each work on very different parts of the business. We meet every other day to discuss any urgent or overlapping business areas.

We try our best to not bring work home, but during our busy seasons, it’s a little more difficult. The most important “meeting” is our date night. We plan a date night every other weekend whether it’s a Netflix night or out to a hot, new restaurant in DC. This allows us to re-connect and we keep all conversation very light and fun. We also meet weekly to discuss personal and business schedules, tasks and goals. This keeps us connected and focused on our overall goals!

What was the experience like pitching your business on Shark Tank and what was the impact overall?

Pitching on Shark Tank was phenomenal. It still feels surreal. When we started the brand, people would always ask “When are we going to see you on Shark Tank”? I would always laugh it off because I heard the application process was nearly impossible.

I applied on a whim one day and received a call about 2 weeks later to start auditioning. After all of the auditions and due diligence, pitching on Shark Tank was a breeze!

We actually didn’t know Emma Grede, the Co-founder of Good American and Founding Partner of Skims, would be the Guest Shark during our pitch until a few weeks before. Once we knew she’d be on, the stakes were so much higher. We knew we had to have her on our Cap Table.

Having Emma as an investor, has been so valuable. She’s very hands-on and really wants our business to succeed. She has provided a wealth of resources including inviting us the Fifteen Percent Pledge Annual Gala earlier this year. The Shark Tank platform has been an amazing springboard for our success!

What is your creative process and how do you continue to find inspiration?

I am truly a creative at heart. So, I try to keep 1-2 days free of meetings so I can brainstorm, go outside, visit museums and hotels to keep my mind open for inspiration. Traveling also helps me broaden my mind and soak in new cultures, colors, textures and more.

As your business grows, what are your future plans and aspirations for the company?

In the short-term, we hope to expand to a retail showroom in the DC area, where clients can try on dresses and order directly from our store to ship to their homes. We want to expand past weddings and become the top special occasion store in the US, Canada, and the Caribbean.

What is the most rewarding part of your journey since starting Bridal Babes? Have there been any experiences in particular that stand out?

The most rewarding part of my journey is being able to set my schedule and spend time with my family. This was always the goal for me with entrepreneurship. You certainly don’t have more time, but you get to have more flexibility with your time.

What have been your proudest accomplishments to date? 

Biggest challenges?

My proudest accomplishment has been our community of over 200K aspiring brides, lovers of weddings, brides, and bridesmaids. 

They have not only become our advocates and ambassadors, but many have become friends of the brand - supporting us on our launches, celebrating our wins, visiting our design studio to give live feedback and scheduling brunch dates to check in. 


What advice would you give to aspiring women of color starting their journey in entrepreneurship?

I have two important pieces of advice. 

Celebrate all your wins! Big or small they are all important and you have to take a moment to savor the
fact that you accomplished another goal.

Don’t get too high on the highs or too low on the lows. Business, especially entrepreneurship, is a
rollercoaster. There are always going to be setbacks so the ability to stay even keeled is a crucial skill.

Do you have any favorite Black Girl Magic Wines?

I love the Sparkling Wine – it is at almost every personal and professional celebration! I also enjoy the Red Blend for some of our at-home date nights.

I didn’t mention this earlier but my husband is basically a Chef! The Red Blend pairs well with many of his dishes.

What does “Black Girl Magic” mean to you?

Black Girl Magic is our innate sense of style, confidence, and poise. When we design our gowns, we design with us in mind. We are the blueprint. 

We just do everything so effortlessly, it’s like it’s magic! 


Click here to purchase our collaborative Bridal Babes Bundle available on our website!