Laura McQuade Enters the Bridal Business with The White Gown

Laura McQuade’s consulting company is just a little more than a year old, but her passion for helping businesses and women succeed goes back decades. Airmedh Consulting, which Laura launched in July 2020, is a strategic consulting firm that provides advisory services and interim leadership within the nonprofit and for-profit sectors.

Laura McQuade

Some people might have waited out the pandemic before launching a new business, but McQuade felt her experience in health care and non-profit organizations was strongly needed during these challenging times. Says McQuade, “When an organization’s staff is spread especially thin and overstressed is the time they need someone from outside to help them keep their vision in the forefront and move the organization forward.” One challenge she felt she could help with is funding, an area that affected most health care organizations during 2020.

McQuade is a poster child for second (and third) careers. In addition to launching her consulting company in the middle of a pandemic, she bought a bridal boutique in New York’s Soho district, her first venture into the world of retail. Whoever said that life starts at 50 was definitely thinking of McQuade.

McQuade and Planned Parenthood

Laura McQuade has been committed to helping women secure their sexual and reproductive health and associated rights for many years. To further that goal, she has played key roles at two Planned Parenthood organizations and at the Center for Reproductive Rights. She served as the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York and as President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains in Overland Park, Kansas.

In her role as the head of the New York organization, McQuade spearheaded the 2019 negotiations that brought five different affiliates under her direction. The deal streamlined operations and made possible economies of scale that we’re available before. Said McQuade of the deal, “The merger will provide better negotiating power when it comes to commercial payers and the ability to partner with larger health systems.”

McQuade has been named to several prestigious, professional lists. She was named to “Crains New York City’s” list of the 100 most powerful women of 2019 and to The New York State 2019 Women Power 100.

Growing up in New Jersey

McQuade grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey. She has an undergraduate degree in political science from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA and a master’s degree in international relations from Yale University. In her first job out of college, McQuade worked for the National Democratic Institute as a field officer and grants officer. In that role, she helped shape policy in Albania and assisted civic organizations across the globe in being awarded grant funds.

McQuade later worked as the Chief Financial and Operating Officer at The Foundation for a Civil Society, where she assisted in the success of two USAID programs in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. In 2008, Laura McQuade moved to the healthcare sector by joining the Center for Reproductive Rights as Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer and Acting CEO.

Today, McQuade lives in New York City with her husband. When she’s not working (which she admits isn’t often), McQuade enjoys shopping (and sometimes selling) at thrift, consignment shops and second-hand stores, looking for one-of-a-kind treasures. She’s a big proponent of up-cycling.

Chapter Two: The White Gown

McQuade’s latest venture is The White Gown, a bridal boutique in the Soho neighborhood of New York City that she purchased earlier this year. She says that she never really thought of bridal when she thought of fashion, but when she saw the store, the idea just resonated. McQuade sees it as a natural extension of her previous work with women’s issues and reproductive health.

Says McQuade, “Throughout my career, I had been drawn to work that revolved around critical and highly emotional moments in people’s lives. There seemed to be a real connection for me in supporting people to make their own decisions about their sexual and reproductive lives and supporting them in choosing how to be the best version of themselves on their wedding days”.

McQuade describes herself as a “lifelong consumer of fashion”. The White Gown is a natural extension of that passion. She prefers quality fashion that will survive for decades and then be passed to the next generation. She’s disturbed by the current trend towards disposable fashion and its potential impact on the environment.

In her due diligence before buying the boutique, McQuade saw the business opportunity of pent-up demand from the large number of weddings that had been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The demand for wedding gowns and accessories was already growing by a rate of about 3% annually before the pandemic. Since engagements have continued at the same pace during the pandemic as before, McQuade sees a good opportunity to jump-start her new venture.

While analyzing if she had the skills necessary to make a success of the bridal boutique, McQuade came to the realization that she already possessed many of the skills she needed to create a profitable retail business. Says McQuade, “I looked closely at the work I had been doing throughout my career and realized that I had been running small, medium, and large businesses for years”.

At that point, while she waited for the sale of the store to close, she immersed herself into all things bridal, learning about the industry, the store and the market.

The White Gown is just getting started, but McQuade already sees herself as a facilitator who can help brides find all the elements of that perfect wedding. Says McQuade, “Like at Planned Parenthood, our goal is to build an individual, bride-centered experience for every person who comes through our doors to ensure that we are doing our part to give them the wedding day of their dreams”. The bridal gowns and accessories she sells are of top quality, ones that can be repurposed after the wedding or stored carefully to pass down to daughters and granddaughters.

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