Drew Edwards follows American dream to become
Brides Against Breast Cancer CEO
Jul 3, 2017, 2:19pm EDT
Welcome to Atlanta Business Chronicle’s “Meet the C-Suite,” where each week we will feature one of the city’s high-profile c-level executives.
This week meet Drew H. Edwards, CEO and owner of Atlanta-based Brides Against Breast Cancer LLC.
Name: Drew H. Edwards
Company: Brides Against Breast Cancer LLC (BABC)
Title: CEO and Owner
Background: I grew up the youngest of four boys in a low-income household in Central Florida, but really like an only child as my brothers were 15-19 years older and left home when I was two. My parents were products of The Great Depression and my father was a military man fighting in World War II, Vietnam and the Korean War. After divorce at age 8, while my mom and I didn’t have much money, I was infused with a sense of “old school” pride in America and the American dream.
Unfortunately, I attended poorly performing public school. My teachers never encouraged me to succeed or challenge myself. Many of my friends were petty thief street kids, but I had normal friends too. At the age of 15, I attended a Methodist church youth camp that really changed my life for good. For the first time, I felt nurtured and inspired to focus on academics. I was barely accepted to the University of Florida. I arrived on campus at age 17 by myself, my mom’s car couldn’t make the drive, with only $200 in my pocket. Immediately, I found a job and over five years paid for 100 percent of my schooling.
Eventually, I graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering with Marketing Emphasis, including having studied abroad. My initial career was in engineering and technical sales spanning 7 years with IBM (engineering) and Motorola Semiconductor (sales/international). At age 26, I founded my first technology company and was involved with several subsequent entrepreneurial ventures. At age 36, I started my own Strategic Advisory and Investment Banking company named Trustpoint Advisors. Overall, I have worked in many industries. I’m now married and we have our first child due in September.
First job: Associate Engineer for Series 1 Mainframe, IBM
Education: B.S. Electrical Engineering, University of Florida 1988 with International Marketing Minor Emphasis.
How’s business: Business is robust and we are growing quickly, but it is not without challenges. My business partner and BABC COO Rod Mackenzie and I feel we are the new custodians of BABC. Rod has a great passion for social entrepreneurship.
After a year of effort, we bought BABC out of bankruptcy and took it from being a non-profit to a social enterprise company.
Today we are a social enterprise company that sells donated off-the-rack designer wedding dresses up to 80 percent off retail price. BABC sells new, sample and pre-owned designer wedding dresses nationwide through our online store, our “Wedding Dress Experience” shows, and our Atlanta flagship retail store. As a social enterprise company, we give 10 percent – 20 percent of our profits and promotional support to our charity partners, the statewide one Georgia Breast Cancer Coalition Fund (GABCC.org) and our nationwide one Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC.org)
We’re very excited to launch our national Wedding Dress Experience and Bridal Show on Sunday, July 16th at
the Buckhead Intercontinental Hotel. This nationally renowned show has run since 1997. The Atlanta show will feature over 25 vendors while showcasing 800+ designer wedding dresses uniquely available to be tried on and bought at the show. Brides typically save up to 80 percent off retail pricing. While the average new designer wedding dress retails for $1,700, the average price for a BABC certified dress is considerably less at $600. Most dresses are priced $99 to $999 and couture dresses up to approximately $1,999 (original retail can top $8,000).
Equally important as having business success and stability is the outstanding support from our charity
partners. Endless hours have been spent by all stake holders to re-launch this very special organization with an endearing history. We are honored to be custodians of this mission. We also have many new ideas we’ll be implementing over the next year. Stay tuned!
Biggest challenge for your business: Our greatest challenge is to properly architect a social enterprise business model that has integrity and transparency. Since 1997, the BABC organization went bankrupt twice as a non-profit. The business was logistically intensive and had management challenges.
Now, BABC operates as a social enterprise company loosely similar to Toms Shoes, Life is Good, and
beautycounter.com. Our business model needs to be profitable, thriving and financially stable while also allowing us to work closely with charities, share profits, and have a meaningful measureable impact.
Our most significant “tactical” challenge is reaching newly engaged brides within three months of engagement. Most brides buy a dress then. We say we need to “catch the bridal caterpillar” within three months before the bride flies away with a bought wedding dress.
What’s going to change at your company in the next year: We will become a national brand and that has new challenges with operations and messaging, but excitingly, means selling more affordable wedding dresses to middle class America and contributing more to breast cancer causes.
Company goal yet to be achieved: We need to be financially stable or nothing else can happen. After one and half years of effort we are close to achieving profitability. We are inline to be profitable in this year’s 4th Quarter.
Guiding principles for good management: Listen first and try hard to make employees feel, and believe, the management works to support them. Your staff will give you the insight you need to successfully manage a business. I also believe having a couple of good business partners is crucial for success.
Best way to keep competitive edge: Exercising and eating healthy are my two essentials for staying focused and competitive. After my personal health, I like using the 80/20 rule. Spend 80% of our energy focused on core business, 10 percent on new business opportunities and 10 percent cutting bad business already in motion.
Why people like working for you: I think my team appreciates me because I listen. I try to lead by example. I probably over-communicate, but at least everyone knows what I’m thinking!
Most inspiring entrepreneur: Blake Mycoskie of Toms Shoes. Blake’s idea for a social enterprise company is revolutionary. Obviously, we are trying to follow his lead but we’ll be much smaller. My all time most inspiring entrepreneur is Benjamin Franklin. He taught me failure is a necessity for success. He also had a great dry sense of humor.
Best business decision: Deciding to re-launch Brides Against Breast Cancer.
Hardest lesson learned and how you learned it: The need to constantly cultivate good relationships even though they seem fine at the moment. Sometimes our natural drive is towards “shiny and new” relationships, but good long-term relationships are invaluable.
Toughest business decision: Letting employees go when they don’t expect it.
Biggest missed opportunity: I did not accept a position as a partner with a “.com” headhunter agency in
Silicon Valley in 1997. A lot of wealth was created then.
Like best about job: I feel truly part of a “win-win-win” company. The donating and buying brides win, our charity partners win, and we establish a solid economic footing. We all feel like we are a trusted custodian of this social enterprise venture, and we want to share the goodness.
Like least about job: There is nothing easy about leading a start-up, but I believe all our hard work will pay off in the future.
Pet peeve: Dishonesty
First choice for a new career: Health-related
Most influential book:“Thinking, Fast and Slow”, Book by Daniel Kahneman
Favorite cause: Supporting Breast Cancer and truly Cancer overall causes. Its growing and scary and needs support.
Favorite restaurant: La Tavola in Virginia Highlands
Favorite way to spend free time: Traveling