In the same way some offspring are born with their mother’s blue eyes or their dad’s smile, Natalie Albright came into this world with business in her blood.
The daughter of bona fide entrepreneurs who moved here from California in 1994 and started a carpet cleaning franchise, Albright managed to keep her penchant for enterprise in check — at least until high school.
At the age of 18, having attended prom and homecoming all four years of high school, the young woman had a whole closet full of gowns and dresses. So, she did what any business-minded person with her genetic leanings might do: she rented them out.
Around the same time, being involved with the DECA program at Grayson High School, she entered a competition in which she had to write a business plan, describing financials, target market and marketing strategies. She and her sister, Michele Davis, chose a dress rental business as their project and went on to win the state competition.
Now 26 years old, her idea for a DECA project has evolved into a successful business, Rsvp Prom & Pageant, with two locations. The most recently opened store in Johns Creek — the other is in Lawrenceville — is about to expand, and after only four months in business.
Specializing in prom, homecoming, Quinceañera and destination wedding dresses, the Johns Creek store — located at 10955 Jones Bridge Road — has eight dressing rooms, seemingly endless rows of hanging gowns and dresses and a sort of runway surrounded by mirrors.
“They get to walk out and show off what they’re wearing,” Albright said, as she led a tour through her store on a recent afternoon.
This is a busy time at the local store, as prom season starts ramping up business in January, ending in mid-May. Sales of prom clothing are big, as well as gowns for Quinceañeras, which is the celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday in Latin culture.
The Johns Creek store, Albright said, has been doing “exceptionally well … that’s why we’re expanding. We didn’t know what the market was going to be like when we first came here a few months back. We knew there was a need here, because everyone at our Lawrenceville location would talk about how they needed something like this on this side of town.”
The Lawrenceville store, which opened in 2008, was the product of the family’s decision to put the carpet cleaning business behind them and fully focus on Rsvp Prom & Pageant.
Albright, founder and director of marketing said that these days the Lawrenceville store is “so successful it’s bursting at the seams.”
Between the two locations, there’s about 20 staff members as well as Albright, her sister, Michele, another sister, Danielle Davis, her parents, Iris and Bruce Davis.
Danielle and Iris manage the Lawrenceville store. Albright said Bruce is “the one who goes back and forth, bringing inventory here, changing the lightbulbs and doing all the maintenance, which is nice. He also built the entire (Loganville store) out,” including the stage, dressing rooms and mirrors.
Added Albright: “I get to spend quality time with my dad when he comes over here to help me out, and he loves it, too.”
She credits her parents, who own the stores, with all the business success.
“I didn’t know this was going to become as big as it did, and honestly if not for the financial backing of my parents, their motivation and being willing to drop what they were doing to pursue this dream, I don’t know if it would have come this far,” Albright said. “They’re the reason all of this is still happening.”
Beyond the two locations, Albright said the online side of the business is also thriving.
The secret to having done so well in this endeavor?
“We focus on customer service,” Albright said. “It comes down to giving them the full attention they expect when they walk into a store like this. Some have never prom-shopped before, so we hold their hands through that process and help them select options that will make them feel good about their selection.”
Customer Charity Rutledge said the level of service has kept her coming back to the store time and time again. She’s bought many dresses for her daughter, Emily Rutledge, 17.
“The girls that work at (Rsvp Prom & Pageant) are helpful and sweet, and they make these girls feel like princesses,” Rutledge said.
That’s the idea, Albright said.
“It’s like they’re the stars, and that’s how we like to treat our customers.”