So in March of 2011, I decided to put myself out there … I bought a domain name for a blog because I considered, “Maybe I’ll start blogging about some of the weddings and ideas I have…” It somehow caught on. I gained a lot of followers and it gave me the confidence to say, “I’m just going to do it!”
I ended up posting on Facebook, “Announcing Preppy Chic Events!” After that, friends [shared referrals] and that’s how I got my first six clients within a month – via social media. Social media was what really got my name out there. I am computer and tech savvy, so I used [social media] as my free marketing. Today, I pay for a couple of different sites to market my business, but other than that Preppy Chic Events gained momentum through word of mouth.
I never looked back, and all of a sudden I had a company.
A lot of it was a very personal struggle, in terms of “Am I disappointing my family …?” “Am I disappointing myself because I have these degrees – I’m throwing away my education? I should be doing finance or banking or something that is more in line with my educational [attainment].”
It was a really big struggle … to meet people who would ask me, “What do you do?” and I would reply “I own an event planning company.” They would say, “Didn’t you go to USC and get your MBA?”
Pivots, Expansion and Branding
[pullquote align=”right”]”I didn’t really know where I was going from the beginning. I’ve made a lot of pivots … I had this idea of what I was going to do, but it is completely different now.”[/pullquote]I didn’t really know where I was going from the beginning. I’ve made a lot of pivots. I realized I can’t just do weddings. Also, I didn’t ever think I’d have a co-founder or do destination weddings. I had this idea of what I was going to do, but it is completely different now.
For example, I’m opening up a partnership company in Maui to do high-end destination weddings. So my niche is evolving into luxury destination weddings – and that’s not where I started. I also never thought I’d be doing golf tournaments or become a blogger.
Now, looking back, I kind of regret the name I chose for my company because it’s such a niche name, but changing a business name when you’re already two years in is kind of difficult.
Best Success Story
As a joke, “100 percent of the couples [our clients] are still married!” So that’s a success. But, what was most surprising to me was that I was profitable within one year. Also the people I’ve met and the friends I have made – that has been a part of my personal success.
Biggest Startup Challenge
Figuring out pricing and niche was difficult. There are so many wedding planners out there, so differentiating myself and establishing a price point was the most difficult thing for me to do.
I found that my business background and network were my distinguishing factors.
I didn’t launch my company website until 2012 until my branding was what I wanted it to be; I started the blog in 2011. Most people just put something out there just to get “out there,” but I wanted everything to be cohesive so I spent a lot of money on hiring a web designer, developer and a branding consultant.
I decided that even though I was just getting started, I would attend one of the luxury wedding conferences (a very prestigious event). I was on the waiting list, and after pitching my story I was invited to attend. It was a big cost. But because of that, I met some of the best of the best who mentored me and shared great advice. That is how I figured out how to differentiate myself in the industry.
#1 Tip for Entrepreneurs
Know when to say “No!” Stay true to yourself. Know your value. Know your pricing. Understand your product. For example, I knew what I was bringing to the table and what was different from other [companies], so if [client’s] weren’t willing to pay [the price for my services], they probably weren’t the client’s I wanted.
I know my aesthetic, so if it doesn’t fit with my portfolio, I won’t accept it. I’m not going to accept something just to meet a bottom line; I accept [a client] because it’s a good fit. [I’ve learned how important it is to know your] core competencies and values and stick with them.
Connect with Stephanie on Twitter.
This interview has been edited and condensed. Interview conducted by writer, Katherine Burks.
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