Sue Rosenberger, a 30-plus-year industry veteran and owner of Fantastic Finds, Lansing, Mich., has opened the first domestic True Society bridal store as a franchisee of Essense of Australia’s comprehensive store partner franchise program.

Essense currently operates three True Society stores: in Lenexa and Kansas City, Kan. and a third in Switzerland.

Opened in mid-September, Rosenberger’s True Society branded store is located in Grand Rapids, approximately 70 miles from Fantastic Finds in Lansing, showcases 11 fitting rooms and carries only the full line of Essense brands, including Essense of Australia, Stella York, Martina Liana, Martina Liana Luxe, and bridesmaids label Sorella York.

Both Fantastic Finds and True Society will continue to be operated independently with separate staffs, though the True Society store’s identity and marketing will be directed by the Essense True Society division as part of the franchise requirement.

The True Society franchise program’s goal is to create an international collective of bridal store “partners” and offers two options: conversion of an existing bridal store to a branded True Society and Essense exclusively merchandised store; or the build out and branding of a new True Society store (such as Rosenberger’s).

Both options are supported by True Society/Essense’s extensive marketing and merchandising plans, and require purchasing and selling only Essense-approved collections within a store format that is upscale, contemporary and consistent with the True Society brand.

“True Society is a collective of bridal shops, independently owned by experienced bridal shop owners from across the globe,” explained Martine Harris, Essense’s chief creative officer, “all with the goal of delivering the ultimate wedding dress shopping experience to brides of all shapes and sizes. We like to call it a collective, because it’s not a typical franchise. It’s not cookie-cutter and it’s not a big-box store. Each True Society bridal shop looks and feels different because we want the store to embrace their local community and culture. “

“Also,” she added, “we are all about empowering our store owners to have incredible businesses supported by a larger infrastructure. Our goal is to provide our expertise and support where store owners need it the most so they can focus on doing what they love and do best - and that’s running a successful bridal shop.”

Unlike many other franchise organizations, there is currently no initial franchise fee to become a True Society store. The only upfront costs for a store owner would be dependent on how extensive the conversion or build out is needed. Ongoing fees include a royalty fee of 3% and a marketing fee of 3.5%

“As I looked toward the future,” Rosenberger explained, “I wanted to do something different that allowed me the freedom to grow while knowing I had a large network of support to do some of the heavy lifting. True Society allows me to do that while still running Fantastic Finds.”

As one of Essense’s first customers 15 years ago, “I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” she added.

“I trust the products, people and expertise – they have been true partners throughout my career and I am excited to take that partnership to the next level as the first True Society store franchisee in the U.S.”