CYstarters Spotlight: Dani Rothman

By Lindsey Murray | ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship

CYstarters Spotlight: A 14-part series highlighting student entrepreneurs pursuing their business ventures as part of the CYstarters 2024 summer cohort. Through this program, students have the unique opportunity to prioritize the development of their own startup or business idea. Each individual receives $6,500 and access to resources such as mentorship, networking opportunities, and educational sessions on entrepreneurship and business startup.

Dani Rothman: Tailoring the Future of Bridal Wear

As Dani Rothman nears the end of her time at Iowa State University, she’s not just dreaming of the future—she’s meticulously crafting it.

Dani is a senior in her final semester of Apparel Design at Iowa State University and has post-graduation plans to reshape the bridal industry with her innovative business, Bustle Row Bridal. Bustle Row Bridal isn’t your typical bridal boutique. Dani’s designs are size and gender-inclusive, splashed with color, and modular in style, making them versatile enough to be worn long after the wedding day.

A Patchwork Journey to Entrepreneurship

Dani created this garment as her final project in her AMD 329 class at Iowa State. She created the petticoat, jacket, skirt, and designed the printed pattern on the skirt herself.

“I taught myself to sew with YouTube and a pattern,” Dani recalls. Her first sewing project was a bolero jacket that she made to wear for her sister’s wedding. It wasn’t perfect, but it sparked a love for creating garments. “Sewing is a skill that is really easy to learn but hard to master. I only became confident in my work after I started doing it professionally because I had to sew better. The more you do it, the better you get.”

Dani’s path to creating Bustle Row Bridal was formed through diverse experiences in retail and merchandising, often within small, family-owned businesses. Her mother, who made a living through art fairs, provided Dani with an early blueprint for entrepreneurship. Watching her mother hustle taught her resilience and creativity in business.

After a stint in a factory that focused on RV upholstery, Dani honed her sewing skills under pressure—vinyl doesn’t forgive mistakes. “When you’re sewing vinyl, you have to get it right the first time because it punches holes in the fabric. So you get really good at doing it right and doing it quickly.” This training made her transition into the bridal industry easier and set her up for success as she worked to gain experience in sewing wedding gowns.

Despite her understanding of entrepreneurship from a young age, Dani hadn’t always envisioned herself as a business owner. “I really started sewing because I couldn’t find clothes that I wanted or that fit well, and now I can see that within the bridal industry, that is almost an industry-wide problem. It became clear that starting my own business was the only way to create real change in the bridal industry,” she says. Dani sees a world beyond the standard bridal norms. “People want to move away from the status quo, but brides have been told that is the only option.”

A Mix-and-Match Solution

Bustle Row Bridal is Dani’s answer to the industry’s limitations. She plans to offer brides individual pieces—like jackets, skirts, and pants—that can be mixed and matched, then repurposed for other occasions. Her designs are colorful, versatile, and sustainable. Her goal is to create pieces that can be worn more than once. Pieces that won’t be packed away after the wedding day but that can be worn again, similar to a men’s formal suit.

This vision extends beyond just garments. Dani is passionate about creating a supportive, equitable working environment for seamstresses.

After witnessing poor working conditions and mistreatment in the industry, she’s determined to provide a better alternative.

Choosing the name Bustle Row Bridal was a careful process. Dani wanted something meaningful yet impactful. Bustle is a term for the network of hooks and ties that help secure the train into the back of a wedding dress. ‘Row’ comes from ‘Savile Row,’ a street in central London known for its bespoke tailoring, which signifies quality. Both Bustle and Row are synonyms for commotion, agitation, or “a shaking up of things”, which is exactly what Dani hopes to do in the bridal industry.

Like any entrepreneur, Dani has faced her share of challenges. Imposter syndrome is a constant companion, but she pushes through with determination and the support of her close-knit circle. “As long as you believe in your vision and have your core support group, that’s really all you need,” she said.

Through the CYstarters program, Dani has found a collaborative spirit among her fellow cohort members. “Leading up to this, everything felt like a competition. Like I had to fight to pursue this business. But CYstarters is a place of support and collaboration.” She values the exchange of ideas and the sense of community among her peers.

By the end of the program, Dani aims to have everything in place to start offering alterations as soon as she graduates. She’s also developing a website and social media presence despite her personal aversion to social media.

Dani is currently working on an upcycled denim skirt. The skirt is made up of the useable parts of 8 pairs of jeans that have been worn past usefulness.

Beyond pursuing her business, Dani’s ultimate goal is to see sewing make a comeback. “It’s a great skill, super useful, and makes your clothes last longer,” she says. “It’s one of the best things you can do to reduce clothing waste.”

For aspiring entrepreneurs, Dani has one key piece of advice: Stubbornness is your friend. Being able to stand firm in your beliefs and purpose is invaluable in Dani’s eyes. With Bustle Row Bridal, Dani Rothman is not just creating beautiful bridal wear—she’s weaving a new narrative into the bridal industry.