Founder Stephanie Uchima on Breaking Status Quo and Staying True to Yourself

Learn how Stephanie Uchima started her wedding and lifestyle events company and why she believes entrepreneurs must stay true to themselves.

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In the latest installment of Savvy Startups, a series highlighting the personal and professional journeys of some of the most dynamic entrepreneurs, YFS Magazine speaks with Stephanie Uchima founder of Preppy Chic Events, a wedding & lifestyle event company based in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, CA.

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After receiving an MBA in Real Estate Development, in 2009 Stephanie Uchima found herself amidst an economic crash that toppled the real estate market. Like many other graduates, she soon realized that her intended dream job was out of reach. However, Uchima quickly realized her true passion — event planning — was a closer reality than she had ever imagined.

At 27 years-old, with an MBA under her belt, Uchima landed a non-paid internship to gain the experience she needed to pursue her entrepreneurial goals. “I interned for free, at 27 years-old, with an event planner. I decided that if I’m not getting paid and I actually enjoy [event planning], maybe it is something I would want to do,” Uchima recalls.

“I’ve always had an entrepreneurial background and mindset, so while interning I thought, ‘I can do this myself; I don’t know why I’m not just launching a company!’ But part of me [considered], ‘You have an MBA – a real estate development background – what are you doing? Why are you throwing away six figures of salary and tuition to be an event planner?'”

Despite both internal and external family pressures Uchima launched Preppy Chic Events in 2011. Within the first year, the company attained six clients. “I never looked back, and all of a sudden I had a company,” Uchima explains.

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Learn how Stephanie Uchima started her wedding and lifestyle events company and why she believes entrepreneurs must stay true to themselves.

Company: Preppy Chic Events
Founder(s): Stephanie Uchima
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Industry: Event Planning
Startup Year: 2011
Startup Costs $5,000

 

How I Got Started

I started off in engineering and went to business school to get my MBA and Masters degree in Real Estate Development. I also happened to graduate in 2009 when the market crashed.

After graduation I started working in real estate and was really unhappy. I’ve always done event planning on the side. For instance, I was always the go-to social planner and alumni-networking mixer person throughout high school and college. So I started doing event planning for fun. Everyone encouraged me to make a career out of it.

 

Photo Source: Preppy Chic Events Courtesy Photo
Photo Source: Preppy Chic Events Courtesy Photo

In 2009, when I was just getting started, it wasn’t a time when startups were big. The idea of going out there, having a degree, and not working for someone was [unheard of]. I needed to prove to myself that what I was doing was acceptable. Also, I am Asian, so coming from an Asian family my parents always focused on education, “Get good grades. Be a doctor, lawyer, etc.” I took a completely different path.

I started by interning for free, at 27 years-old, with an event planner. I decided that if I’m not getting paid and I actually enjoy it maybe it is something I would want to do. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial background and mindset, so while interning I thought, “I can do this myself; I don’t know why I’m not just launching a company!” But part of me was like, “You have an MBA – a real estate development background – what are you doing? Why are you throwing away six figures of salary and tuition to be an event planner?”

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My family is entrepreneurial. So at least they understood that if I wanted to create my own job; that was okay. To be an entrepreneur was acceptable. But my dad was like, “Why don’t you start a real estate tech company – you have that experience …?” But it wasn’t my passion.

What really gave me the encouragement to go into event planning was one of my best friends (an entrepreneur) who told me, “You need to do what you love, because if you can go to work every day and love what you do it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.” I recall her telling me the first step is just to do “something!”

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