By Heather Niccoli
When I first heard of Rachel Sandall of Apple Brides, I was fresh out of college, living in Spokane, Washington and desperate to make my way in the magazine world. The economy was terrible, no one was hiring, and everyone seemed in a perpetual funk. I desperately yearned to start my own magazine, but didn’t know where to start or who to talk to. And then I learned about Rachel. Here was a woman who was determined to create something the Northwest desperately needed: an online source for brides to find everything from photographers to florists for their special day. Moreover, here was a woman who was determined to chase her dream- something that demands passion, bravery and relentless effort. I have often thought of Rachel since I started HaveHeart, especially on the days when I worry if I’m doing enough, and if it will all work out! But let’s get back to the woman you need to know more about: Rachel!
Native to Spokane, Washington, Rachel was bit by the media bug after attending the University of Idaho and earned a BA in Public Relations. It was when she got an opportunity to go abroad that she realized her all-time dream. “During my time at the U of I, I spent a semester in Torino, Italy, which I consider to be one of the best periods of my life. It was there that I got a taste of how wonderful it was to not only visit other countries, but actually live in them. It was only after spending several months trying to buy groceries, get haircuts, translate directions and pay my landlord in (very limited) Italian that I started to appreciate that living in a culture different from your own opens your mind in a way that almost nothing else can,” Rachel says. “While I was in Italy, we did a lot of traveling to other parts of Europe; one of those places was Dublin, Ireland. I loved everything about Ireland and I came home and knew that I wanted to live there someday. So after I graduated, I applied for graduate school at Dublin City University.”
While Rachel attended Dublin City, she achieved her Masters and got an amazing job she loved with an Irish wedding website/magazine. It wasn’t long before she met her husband, Mark, and realized that she’d been living in Ireland for 5 years. “I worked at WeddingsOnline.ie, the Irish equivalent of theknot.com,” says Rachel. I had never even considered going into weddings, but after I started working in the industry I fell in love with it.”
Rachel began wondering if they should have a change in pace, and ultimately decided to move stateside. “My husband and I decided to move to Spokane and I knew jobs in journalism would be scarce, if not non-existent. I planned my own wedding in Spokane the year before (from Dublin) and knew there was a real need for a centralized online wedding resource specific to the Inland Northwest. I was confident I could take it on since I was doing something so similar already. So I started blogging from Dublin and then went into it full time when we got to Spokane,” she adds. “I really didn’t want to give up my career in media/writing, I also wanted to find a way to stay in weddings and be my own boss. I felt like I didn’t have anything to lose so I put everything I had into Apple Brides.” I asked what inspired the name, since it’s obviously adorable and awesome. “The name is after the Washington apple,” she says. “In my opinion, the apple is very representative of the land and culture in the Northwest and something that is pretty special to our part of the world.”
Although living in a foreign country requires a whole new set of life skills, this is where her entrepreneurial bravery (and hard work) comes in. “The first couple years I was working from home, I would literally work around the clock, but the last year or so I’ve found that I really need time at the end of the day to unwind and relax, so I try to make myself stop working at 9pm. This helps keeps me refreshed, and actually, makes me more efficient because I know I will get at least some time to myself each day. I feel empowered by the fact that my hard work and dedication has paid off, because there were days I wasn’t so sure it would! One of the best feelings in the world is watching something you built from the ground up grow into what you hoped it would be. But I think what I am most empowered by is that Apple Brides lets me live the lifestyle I want. I have built a business that allows me to be my own boss, work from home, set my own hours, and most importantly, to be at home with my son (and baby on the way), which were top priorities for me when I started Apple Brides.”
Throughout the interview, I wondered to myself if she’d ever witnessed negative body image ideals in the industry, and if she wanted to set herself apart from that. “I love weddings, I love the wedding industry and I love how much inspiration is out there for brides these days. But the downside of the inspiration overload (thank you Pinterest!) is that there is a tendency to dwell too much the superficial aspects of a wedding. It’s important to plan a wedding that you will be happy with, but it’s more important to keep perspective on what a wedding actually is. A wedding is simply the celebration of the lifetime commitment you are making to the person you love most. To me, beauty is about being attractive, which can be external, but is more often than not, far more than that. A beautiful person is someone who people love to be around, who is comfortable in their own skin and who makes others feel comfortable in their own skin too,” she says. I asked her if Apple Brides accepted women and models of all sizes. “Yes of course!” she exclaimed. “I want our site to be truly representative of all brides and grooms in the Northwest.”
Before we finalized the interview, I asked Rachel what inspired her. “Obviously, my religion, my family and friends are my biggest inspirations,” she said. “But outside of those things, my biggest influence would probably be travel. It’s impossible for me to visit somewhere I’ve never been and not come home with some new outlook or idea about the world. I am also very inspired by food, but it’s more of a when-can-I-eat-again, constantly-thinking-about-my-next-meal type of motivation!” I then asked Rachel to share some of her personal advice/insight on lessons she’s learned with our readers, since many of you are entrepreneurs, dreamers and doers. “I think anyone who has their own business will tell you that the lessons just keep coming, but there are a couple key lessons that stick out. The first one is that when it comes to running your own business, you have to be flexible. Even though it’s important to stay true to your core idea, you may have to change your concept as you get to know your market and audience. Businesses that stay afloat are ones that seek out feedback and are open to change. The second lesson is one that I would have said I knew before, but that took on a whole new meaning after I started Apple Brides. It can be summarized best by one of my favorite quotes by Thomas Edison, ‘Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
I’d like to finish this with a quote from another great person: Rachel. When I asked her about achieving her dreams, she had this to say: “I’ve realized that successful people believe in their goal so much that they will put in whatever it takes, for however long it takes, to see their success, but it’s in those unglamorous moments that great entrepreneurs are made.”
Well said, Rachel. Something tells me this quote is going on a lot of women’s vision boards. I know it’s on mine.
Cover image courtesy of Amber Glanville Photography, style edited by HaveHeart Magazine per permission.