Ed and Wanda Nime Inspire Fashion Design Students and Groom Them to Assume Their Thriving Bridal Business
Contact: Brandi Lewis
By: Laura Cook Kroeger
Photos provided by Ed and Wanda Nime
For over five years, Splendid Bridal has been more than one of the most successful bridal shops in the nation. It’s also served as a training ground for University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Aarchitecture, Art, and Planning fashion design students to get the experience of a lifetime from one of the brightest and innovative entrepreneurial coaches in the region.
Throughout his tenure as owner of Splendid Bridal, Ed Nime hired 20 co-op students, taught a DAAP class on Fashion Design Entrepreneurship, encouraged his DAAP employees to create and sell their handmade bridal creations and even launched an annual scholarship to enable a motivated high school student to enter the DAAP fashion design program each year.
It was his faith in the students he mentored that enabled them to travel on their own to the prestigious Chicago Market to purchase the in vogue accessories for the store. He provided a budget and instilled a deep seated confidence in their abilities.
So knowing this, it’s no surprise that Ed sold Splendid Bridal in January 2018 to his store assistant manager, Rene Schmitz Diederich, a 2014 DAAP Fashion Design graduate. He also graciously assisted with the financing to make her dream come true. Maria Broerman Gryniewski, also from the class of 2014, continues as store manager and basks in the encouragement Ed gave her to create her own line of bridal gowns—Splendid Couture.
Ed is not a DAAP graduate. Nor is he a UC alum. But he is a curious, driven and passionate businessman who wants nothing more than to bring out the best in everyone he encounters. As soon as he assumed ownership of the shop, his first priority was to meet DAAP Professor of Fashion Design Margie Voelker-Ferrier. “She continues to be my inspiration,” he gushes. Interestingly, she echoes the same sentiment about him. They quickly discovered that great minds do think alike when they shared their philosophies and journeys with one other.
One day Ed Nime informed his wife, Wanda, that he was about to quit his job and become an entrepreneur. She was a stay at home mom with three young children but not surprised. After all, Ed had gone from NASA engineer, back to school to earn an MBA, and worked for a prominent accounting firm. Then he began investing in real estate and launching various companies including one in Kharkiv Ukraine. Ed had a knack for helping struggling businesses and making them thrive. When he purchased a building on the corner of Reading Road and Benson Street in the Reading area of Cincinnati, he had a slight inkling that the block could become the largest bridal district in North America and his 100-year-old building would essentially be the gateway to the distinctive bridal destination. His passion centered on mentoring and lending money to the entrepreneurs who visited The Small Business Center, on the second floor of the building. “I discovered the love of coaching others,” he recalls. “Some who dropped in for advice were in the bridal business. One older woman I remember was a baker. She had harbored for years a desire to open her own bakery. We talked. She returned with an eight-page business plan and we made it happen.
Ed financially assisted the original owners of Splendid Bridal then took it over a year later. Ed and Wanda, a retired school counselor, didn’t intend to enter the bridal business. But Ed’s never been much of a planner. “Things just happen to me. People come into my life. Opportunities appear. We were one of a dozen bridal shops on that street. We turned it from a challenge into a wildly successful business, a lot of it due to our partnership with DAAP.”
Meanwhile, DAAP Professor of Fashion Design Margie Voelker-Ferrier, followed her own circuitous path. Upon graduating from UC in 1971 with a BS in fashion design, she spent four glorious years in Paris working as a fashion illustrator. Margie is also an accomplished artist. Her passion for drawing the best out of others (and on canvas) drew her back to UC where she taught for 40 years, somehow finding the time to earn a MA in arts administration. She led the DAAP fashion design program for decades, injecting a business mentality she believed was essential for her students to thrive beyond the classroom. She was right.
“One of the first things I asked Margie was for co-ops with a ‘passion for fashion,’ I would hire attitude and teach skills,” Ed recalls. “Margie shared many of the same business ideas I had. The co-op students had to have a curiosity not only about their career, but how they would make their dreams successful. They had to ask the right questions and come in each day thinking about what they could do differently to distinguish us from the competition.”
Margie, now a professor emerita, possessed the same internal wiring as Ed. “My job was always to inspire young people. I wanted them to know that there’s not just one way to do something; there’s usually at least five ways. Use your gifts and seize every opportunity. There’s no reason why you can’t be at the top of your field creatively and also excel on the business side.”
Ed made immediate improvements. He enlisted the aid of his daughter Nikki who possesses a Ph.D. in media art and digital technology. She’d talk with DAAP students weekly from her office in Singapore about achieving a solid social media presence. Each co-op developed specific goals to achieve weekly. The store rose from 311 Facebook Likes to 6,100. The students learned all the intricacies of Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter. They captured information on potential customers who walked into the store or attended a bridal show and were mentored in digital marketing strategies.
“Once a DAAP student was on board, they were frequently asked, ‘What would you do differently if this business were yours?’ Together we made other quick improvements. Every bride who said ‘Yes to the Dress’ received a rose. Everyone was to treat each bride as if they were family, to be empathetic, patient, and happy for them. They were encouraged to be proactive and creative. I used bonuses instead of commissions. They received an evaluation after 30 and 60 days and were rewarded accordingly with raises. They could also earn bonuses for things like a five star rating on social media or completing a sale. I also wanted to create a culture of fun where everyone couldn’t wait to get to work each day. Our motto remains: ‘The Experience You Deserve’ that goes for the brides-to-be as much as for the DAAP students.”
Margie immediately recognized Ed’s creative thinking about business and a different kind of employee culture. She asked him to serve as an adjunct instructor, helping to teach the initial DAAP Fashion Design Entrepreneurship Course. Interestingly, Maria and Rene were students in that inaugural course. They were hooked by his confidence, passion and vision.
Little did they know just how far Ed would go to assist DAAP students. He purchased a DAAP booth adjacent to Splendid Bridal at the annual Bridal Expos so the students could sell their hand-made veils, tiara’s and other bridal accessories and see them on the runway fashion show. Margie sat with them, beaming with pride for her students. The students kept 90% of the proceeds. Ed received the other 10%, donating it all to the annual DAAP Fashion Design Program scholarship now called the Ed and Wanda Nime Scholarship.
Ed also knew that part of the fashion design curriculum is to design clothing lines. One bright student developed a unique flower girl dress. Soon after it was displayed in the shop, they received six orders. Last year Splendid Bridal donated 315 dresses to the DAAP fashion program so that students could take them apart and create new designs.
While the students contributed creative ideas for events to bring more traffic into the store, especially during the week, nothing was more successful than transforming the second floor into the Splendid Loft, filled with designer floor samples at amazingly low prices. On the website, shoppers could view gowns, the original price and the sale price. It continues to be highly successful.
On January 25, 2018 when he turned the keys over to Renee, Ed gathered the entire staff. “As you know, success to me is not measured financially. Rather, it is making a difference in other’s lives through service and mentoring,” he told them.
At the time, five DAAP fashion design students, plus three DAAP graduates including Renee, Maria, and Riley were in his employment. All employees received a rose for each year of service and the 144-page making a difference book, The Dash. Then he read The Entrepreneur’s Credo written in 1776 by Thomas Paine that he handed out in each of his Entrepreneurship classes. It perfectly sums up the wisdom, vision and generosity Ed Nime has unselfishly contributed to the DAAP Fashion Design program.
“I do not choose to be a common man,
It is my right to be uncommon ... if I can,
I seek opportunity ... not security.
I do not wish to be a kept citizen.
Humbled and dulled by having the
State look after me.
I want to take the calculated risk;
To dream and to build.
To fail and to succeed.
I refuse to barter incentive for a dole;
I prefer the challenges of life
To the guaranteed existence;
The thrill of fulfillment
To the stale calm of Utopia.
I will not trade freedom for beneficence
Nor my dignity for a handout
I will never cower before any master
Nor bend to any threat.
It is my heritage to stand erect.
Proud and unafraid;
To think and act for myself,
To enjoy the benefit of my creations
And to face the world boldly and say:
This, with God's help, I have done
All this is what it means
To be an Entrepreneur.”