the entrepreneur series

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Episode 20:

How Pantora's Founder Andrea Pitter Promoted Herself Out of the ‘Day to Day’ and Became Her Business’ Chief Visionary

Andrea Pitter, Designer and Founder of Pantora Inc. joins us this week to share more about her entrepreneurial journey. Andrea is a force and inspiration in an industry that often lacks inclusivity and representation for the independent Black design entrepreneur. She launched Pantora Bridal in 2009 and opened a flagship store in Brooklyn a few years later. As she expands her brand to include additional brick and mortar stores, her commitment to representing the unrepresented in mainstream bridal is continuing to take center stage.

 

Andrea is the most recent winner of Making the Cut, was on the cover of the Spring 2021 issue of the Knot, and has launched a ready-to-wear collection that is available in the Amazon Fashion Store.

 

As an alum of the WorkSmart Program, Andrea is able to share the biggest lessons she’s learned along the way. Listen for an honest conversation between two founders/entrepreneurs, the challenges they face in business, and advice they would give to aspiring entrepreneurs. 

The early days of Pantora Bridal

Andrea has long considered herself an entrepreneur, starting in her college days at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She launched Pantora Bridal in 2009 as the solo designer and founder. Since then she’s grown it significantly, opening up two flagship stores in Brooklyn and Los Angeles. 

 

Once her business started gaining steam, her first hire was a seamstress. After doing everything for herself, she needed someone to help her sew. Her first full-time hire, Kristen, took over the admin duties, so that Andrea could solely focus on design and building the business. 

Expanding into retail

In 2013, Pantora launched its first flagship store. Equipped with just a $4000 business loan, Andrea built out the store almost entirely through self-financing. “We operated under what I call ‘broke minimalism,” she says. The store was decorated simply with two chairs and a coffee table (plus a chandelier in the bathroom for a luxurious feel!)

Joining the WorkSmart program

It’s been two years since Andrea participated in the WorkSmart program. Before applying to the program, the only way she was able to grow was by teaching herself. But it came to a point where she needed to be around like-minded individuals, she says. “You have to be in a space where you can receive information. I think WorkSmart kind of fell in my lap at the same time.”

 

Andrea talks about the importance of being in the right space to learn. She needed to be able to take a step back from the daily business so that she could receive the new information she needed to grow. The biggest lesson of the program for Andrea was the transition and mindset change. 

Learning to pivot

So much of the first year was just winging it, Andrea says. “I couldn’t say that I was super business-savvy but I definitely was determined and laser focused.” Andrea learned how to track every dollar that was being spent, tracking in money in and money out. 

 

The strategy came later. With bridal gowns being the obvious bread and butter, Pantora has tested out other products over time. “Every time I tried to start something not in bridal, it didn’t go the way I wanted it to go,” she says. “If it was directly correlated to the business, it would do well.”

 

Many of the WorkSmarters want to eventually hire themselves out of their jobs as “Chief Everything Officers.” Shortly after the program, Andrea was able to take a step back from the day to day operating tasks. It wasn’t sustainable. It’s also not necessary, she says. Instead she can now focus on the tasks she’s exceptionally good at: design, customer experience, strategy and more. 

Reaching new heights

Andrea’s business is picking up steam across the country and beyond. You can now find Pantora’s dresses in Kleinfeld—the largest bridal store in the country. 

 

Andrea is the most recent winner of Making the Cut, was on the cover of the Spring 2021 issue of the Knot, and has launched a ready-to-wear collection that is available in the Amazon Fashion Store. After winning the prime prize, she’s receiving a $1 million investment from Amazon into her brand, along with a one year mentorship with Amazon’s fashion team and more. 

 

 

To learn more about the WorkSmart Advising Program, head to worksmartprogram.com or apply at worksmartapplication.com

 

 

Remember: work smarter, not harder.

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