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Diary of a Wedding Planner, Part 3

Blue Chip Accounting

Blue Chip Accounting

I believe deeply that we should never stop learning. Learning who we are, learning how to handle life, learning to expand on what we know. It's because of this philosophy that--even though I already have my certification as a wedding planner--I am continuing to take classes. It was last January that I started my wedding and event planning course; how fitting it is that this January I am starting a whole new course... Except, this time, it's accounting.

"Uhm, yuck?" You might say. But I'm honestly very excited, because I think it will be refreshing to take a college class that I feel is immediately relevant to my life (unlike many of the GE college classes I've taken in the past). The class squeezes right into the last few months of the wedding off-season, so I won't have any wedding weekends until after finals, and the class ends right before April, when I'll have to do my taxes. Call me a nerd, but THOSE TAXES ARE GONNA BE DESTROYED once I know how to get everything organized! 

I'm also excited to make friends with other business-bound students. Coffee friends are wayyy awesome. 

Speaking of coffee friends, have I raved yet about this amazing network called The Rising Tide Society? It's this huge group of entrepreneurs, many of which are involved in the wedding industry, who believe in community over competition. This enables us to unite--even when we're in the same line of work--and learn from each other, complain together, rejoice together, work together on projects, and feel less alone, which is important when you're the only member of your work-at-home business like me. It has been such an asset to my growth as a business-owner that I find myself recommending it to every remotely business-y person I come across. Are you a business person? Oh my goodness. Please go Check it out

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As an end of the week update, I'm happy to report that my accounting class is going very well. I enjoy the peers and the professor, and am already thinking about how to write up my businesses financial statements to make life easier on my tax-guy, come April. Everyone warned me going into the class that it would be the most boring mistake I could possible make, however, so far it's been very interesting. I attribute that mainly to its relevance to me now that I'm responsible for this kind of bookkeeping, but hey, interesting is still interesting. 

Business owners, I'd love to hear how you do your taxes! Do you know much about accounting? Let's start a discussion in the comments below!

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Diary of a Wedding Planner, Excerpt 1

PC Shelley DeJager

PC Shelley DeJager

Dear Diary,

Before I started my business I felt that there was a large distinction between small businesses and large businesses. Trying to unpack why this is the case has been a very complex process for me for many reasons, but one of note is that when I was in the single digits of my life, my family started a business creating and selling beeswax candles, lip balm, and other natural products at farmers markets, boutiques, and online. My brothers and I learned from our parents the entire creation process of these products, along with the hustle of packaging and marketing. To me, we were a small business. I understood the importance of turning a profit, because the products we sold had initial costs and took time to put together, but I also knew that we weren't making much money based on the amount we sold each week. We eventually stopped producing and selling these products and closed our business; it was an invaluable experience for me, and I've since gone on to start multiple small businesses myself, but that initial experience gave me the impression that unless a business is huge, it is incapable of turning a sustainable profit. That is, one to live on.

At least, this was my opinion of businesses that sold products. Maybe this explains why I've gravitated forward the service industry instead of the product industry, since it becomes a matter of selling time and effort rather than a product that is the result of time and effort. For whatever reason, people will spend a lot more money paying for time and effort than they will for a product, which--I imagine--is partly because a product is only as valuable to its buyer as its benefits are. To its producers, however, it's price tag pays for the wage of workers, the cost of the product's parts, the costs of marketing and business, and a little extra to make it all worthwhile for the business owner. Two very different perspectives on the item's cost that will only sell sustainably if both seller and buyer consider the same cost to be reasonable. 

Maybe it's not so different as I make it out to be, though. In many ways, being in the business of selling my services, I am the product people are buying. The stakes are higher this way, since unsatisfied customers will be directly unsatisfied with me; however, it connects the value of my clients' money to a person, and it forces them to understand that business is...well, personal. I am a person. The effort that I make has human constraint, and is limited by the fact that--as a person--I have a personal life in addition to my business. 

Being a small business owner, I am not branded enough that--like Target, or Krispy Kreme, or Clark Pest Control--when you think about me, you imagine a business made up of effective products, professional phone answering services, or locations characterized by standard logo colors and lit up text above the doors. The reality of my business is that it's just me. I work on my computer. I designed and run my website myself. I take my Instagram pictures, choose the filters, and think of my own captions and hashtags. I answer all of my business phone calls, texts, and emails; I pay for the gasoline that it costs my car to meet with my clients, and I write it off as a business expense on my taxes. I do my work at my desk when I'm home, on my phone when I'm out, or on site with clients, and I do it simultaneously with my private everyday life.

Amidst all of this meshing of business and personal life I have felt that I struggled to keep my personal and professional lives in separate boxes. Sure, I lived in the same place that I worked, but if other brands could keep things clear of any evidence that it was run by imperfect people, why couldn't I? 

And that's the punchline, everybody.

Every business is run by imperfect people.

Nothing about it is actually mechanical--the Trader Joe's that my boyfriend used to work at is always stocked with well-organized, priced, and labeled food during open hours, but delivery trucks--driven by people--come after closing and deliver food for the next day that is unloaded and restocked by people--people who are ready for their shifts to end so they can go home to their personal lives. 

This last Black Friday, everybody shopped, trashed aisles, and stood in long lines for checkout that were controlled by employees who probably would rather be sleeping, but have expenses their jobs need to pay for. The traffic that we faced trying to get places this holiday were filled--from bumper to bumper--with mere people. The Trader Joe's employee behind the car of a business owner, behind the car of someone who just lost his job, behind the car of a woman in labor trying to get to the hospital, behind the bus of dozens with individual stories, grievances, and joys. 

My point is that large businesses and small businesses are separated only by sophisticated marketing techniques dependent on keeping the buying and selling process impersonal, because this keeps the focus on the product and the buyer's need for the product. It plays on human self-centeredness to encourage people to spend money on themselves. It's a brilliantly successful strategy that has tricked buyers into believing that the needs that their purchases are meeting are being met by money, and not people earning this money.

Do you see my point? Big businesses are like plastic to buyers. They're just businesses, as if businesses can run themselves. They maintain professional, impersonal, robotic brands that have tricked us all, and they've given us small businesses the false impression that we must maintain the same plastic branding to get the same official stamp of realness. To feel that we have grown from a "small business" to a "large business" from more than just the brackets on our tax paperwork. 

The difference between general blog posts and personal diary excerpts is that the blog posts have to have a point. This doesn't really, although that doesn't prevent it from having meaning to me. Having been trained in marketing, I understand the branding and marketing process to a far enough extent that I shouldn't have been fooled for so long about this--that the authenticity of a business isn't dictated by my ability to be impersonal while working. It is personal.

Yesterday my client texted me asking if I would help her order a product on Amazon ASAP and I told her I would have to do it after I finished Black Friday shopping. I ended up working on and completing the task between stores on my phone. My client said she totally understood, and I was happy to help her the moment I could--but I felt that the situation forced both of us to acknowledge the nature of my job, and how all over the place it can make my life sometimes.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love my job, and I chose it specifically because I enjoy connecting personally with people that I work for, and I enjoy working during unusual business hours as the behind-the-scenes orchestrator of weddings. My job is perfect for me, and I gladly let it consume the majority of my time. 

What I have realized and decided, however, is that the nature of my job as a business owner requires not that I make my brand another, plastic corporate operation, but that I keep it manageable as a lifestyle. And given that the bulk of my work as a wedding planner includes clear communication, healthy and compassionate relationships, delegation skills, and teamwork, I would argue that keeping things honest and relational is absolutely necessary. 

Is that really so unprofessional and bad? I think that clients WANT to hire a wedding planner that they can connect with. They're going to share with me--over the course of the months, sometimes years, that we work together--personal concerns and aspects of their lives that they will desire and need me to respond with empathy, relatability and humor to. They need responses like, "I love that idea! That sounds like so much fun!", "I understand that feeling, I've felt that at X time in my life too. It's totally normal, don't worry.", and "It's okay that you're fifteen minutes late! I know how stressful life can get." 

This works for me. I find, to my utter joy, that my clients will extend the same grace to me as well, like when my client yesterday understood that I was Black Friday shopping, and told me to have a great time. The relationships I build with my clients become ones of mutual respect, patience, and honest enjoyment. The client I spoke with yesterday is a wonderful woman getting married next week, and we are both sharing in the excitement of it together. It's not just a job to coordinate her wedding for me, but a personal investment, because I WANT her wedding to be beautiful and perfect. I bought her and her fiance a wedding gift, and I feel sad that in a week we will be done working together trying to find deals on centerpiece flowers and backdrop curtains.

Wedding coordinator to bride, she is my client, and I am professional. But woman to woman...I kind of want to go to coffee with her sometime.

Will I ever? I'm not sure, but it makes me happy knowing I have these kinds of relationships with people that I work with on a regular basis. I know I'm very lucky to have such a pleasant working environment. 

I love my job. I LOVE my job. Here's to staying personal and keeping the hustle real.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

~ MaKenna 

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16 Eerily Beautiful Ideas for Your Halloween Wedding

Are you as in love with the idea of having a Halloween wedding as much as I am? You've stopped by the right place. There are thousands upon thousands of ideas out there on how to decorate for a perfectly spooky affair, I know, but I wanted to compile a few of my favorites here. Care to take a peek?

1) Bobbing For Apples

Pc Pinterest

Pc Pinterest

Bobbing for apples has always been a game associated with fall and Halloween. Why not incorporate it into your wedding to dress up a bare corner? The blacker the water, the better. Cut out the tops of the apples and stick some battery-operated candles in there to make them glow!

2) Trick or Treat Bar 

PC Pinterest

PC Pinterest

A sweet bar with a little Halloween spin, this table decked with candy is sure to be a (trick or) treat!

3) Forest Tree Centerpieces

PC Pinterest

PC Pinterest

Nothing like the idea of a dark, dangerous woods to freak your guests out just enough to keep them intrigued. This is a great option for weddings wanting only the suggestion of a darker Halloween theme.

4) Bat Chandelier

PC Pinterest

PC Pinterest

The phrase "Til Death Do Us Part" is a huge trend for Halloween weddings! (Maybe don't overdo it?) This picture, however, is tasteful with its simple nod to its origin--and come on, check out those painted wine bottles. Yes please? Yes PLEASE!

5) Red as a Theme Color

PC Pinterest

PC Pinterest

Want to get a little gory with your wedding decor? Red will go a LONG way. Just look at this picture. What do you see? Blood stained napkins. That's what you see.

6) Skeleton Hand Napkin-Rings

PC Pinterest

PC Pinterest

Need a hand with your napkins? Here is your literal answer.

7) Coffin Ring Box

PC Etsy, Tellable Design

PC Etsy, Tellable Design

Nothing says "Til Death Do Us Part" like a ring carried around in a coffin. 

8) Dark Bouquets

PC Pinterest

PC Pinterest

Remember that bit about the blood? It applies here.

9) Skull Wedding Cake

PC Weddingomania

PC Weddingomania

If I'm honest, this cake is much more cute than it is frightening. It definitely suggests class, but with a whimsical edge. Your guests are sure to adore it in all of it's spook-tacular glory.

10) Black, White and Red Wedding Cake

PC Cake Geek Magazine

PC Cake Geek Magazine

With Halloween weddings, it's important not to overdo it. Not everything has to be terrifying! A beautiful wedding cake with some darker colors is a good way to keep things balanced while cohesive.

11) A Non-White Wedding Dress

PC Pinterest

PC Pinterest

Just a word--a Halloween wedding DOESN'T mean your dress must also be Halloween themed. At the end of the day, it's still a wedding, and you don't want to forfeit that wedding gown experience if you feel the alternative is too costume-y. You do you, boo. (See what I did there?)

...That being said--THIS. DRESS. 

12) Colored Smoke Bombs

PC Pinterest

PC Pinterest

From your engagement pictures to your reception photo booth, incorporating your wedding colors (especially if they're Halloween-related) into some smoke bomb fun is a great way to add some eerie mystery to the occasion.

13) Pumpkin Drink Bowl

PC Pinterest

PC Pinterest

These are great for the drink table or even as table centerpieces. Get creative! Pumpkins are cheap and simple decorations that can go a really long way.

14) Spiderweb Invitations

PC Pinterest

PC Pinterest

Don't keep the Halloween fun limited to just October. Send out those bone-shivering invites any time of the year! Your guests will love it.

15) Skull and Poison Themed Centerpieces

PC Pinterest

PC Pinterest

Get fun and edgy with those centerpieces. Your guests will be staring at them all throughout the meal, so keep the festive mood going!

16) Halloween-Themed Tableware

PC Pinterest

PC Pinterest

Yeah, yeah, I know what I said about how trendy and unoriginal the phrase is, but come on. It's gonna get incorporated in there somehow! If your guests are being served a sit down meal, they won't notice this detail until their plates are empty!

Have a Halloween Wedding idea to share? I'd love to hear it in the comments below!

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Point Reyes Styled Shoot

For months I've been prepping this styled shoot, and feel that in the three hours it took to photograph, everything fell into place--and then was over. I guess I'm one to get sentimental over huge projects like this, because already I'm looking at the pictures wishing I could do it over again. 

I started working on this about two months ago, and while my vendors contributed immensely to the project, many of the props used were things I hunted for, purchased, or made from scratch myself. For this reason, I am doubly sentimental, thinking back on how I purchased the dress and completely re-designed it, made the square dummy cakes on the cake table, spent hours shopping for rings, mirrors, and other props, and meticulously planned different shots I wanted taken. All of these things are not part of my regular job-description as a planner, but when no one is actually getting married who can take care of these things...no one else is going to get them done! I ended up incredibly happy with the photos and very proud of myself and everyone involved for the hard work that was poured into this.

Without further ado, here are my favorite photos from the shoot!

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Vendors Involved

Photography: Caleb Rippetoe, www.thesedecisivemoments.com

Flowers: Andrelina Siveira, www.fremontflowershoppe.com

Cupcakes: Emmie Luong, www.uhadmeatcake.com

Chalkboards: Rebecca Charlton, www.chalkwhimsy.com

Photo shoot coordinator, wedding gown designer, (square) cake designer: MaKenna Stevens, www.perfectlyplannedmoments.com

Models: Julia Nichols and Joseph Weibe

Location, Point Reyes, California

 

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Starting Your Own Business 101

PC coinatmradar.com

PC coinatmradar.com

This isn't what you might expect. Most articles on the subject of starting a business are about how you first need to get your business license, that you immediately need to take out a loan, or that you probably can't do it at all because...what do you know?

This article is different. I am only 20 years old, and I have recently taken the leap into business ownership as a wedding and event planner. I don't even have a college degree; I haven't taken out any loans or involved any investors. Clearly, I'm not here to say what dozens of other articles showing up on your google results have already said. 

In my opinion, starting a business is more than coming up with a clever name, putting up a website and waiting for customers to knock down your door. It's also much more than investing tens of thousands of dollars in professional advertising and patenting your idea. Starting a business is an emotional experience--one that I feel is vastly overlooked by most of the other articles on business out there. For your business to succeed, I believe it is necessary for you to do the following five things.

1. Believe in your idea.

Confession time: when I was first toying with the idea of starting my own business, I was plagued with doubt. It was not myself, but my boyfriend, who originally built me up and made me believe in my idea. For a long time, I'd been making career choices that made financial sense, but didn't make me happy. I kept saying things like, "Well, I probably should keep my job at xyz..." but my boyfriend stopped me and asked (repeatedly), "What do you WANT to do?" ...Not what makes the most financial sense. Not what everyone expects. Not necessarily what is safe. 

It's a very good question, one worth repeating. What do you want to do?

Here's another good question, one that I literally found after I googled "Should I keep my job or start my own business?", which--in the end--convinced me to take the plunge. In ten years, what will you regret more: not starting your business, or starting it? 

I, for one, would regret not starting it...because I would be left to wonder what would have happened. Maybe I would've been successful. Maybe I would've become a much better person. It made me realize that the worst that could happen was failure, and even failure isn't so bad.

My biggest hurdle has been to convince other people that starting a business at the unripened age of 20 is a sane idea. I've managed so far by reasoning that--sure, I'm really young--but I'm also the most financially stable that I will be for the next decade. Think about it--I still live at home, and nearly all of my expenses are paid. In five years, I might be more experienced, but I also will be living on my own with a handful of bills that need paying. Is it really smart to start a business then either? A better question--is it ever circumstantially ideal to quit your job and start from the bottom with nothing but an idea? 

The truth is that there will always be people who think I don't know enough to start my own business. And the odds are against me that it will ever appear to 100% of people watching that it is financially-wise to invest money into starting up my own gig. No matter which way the dice rolls, it will most-likely always take a lot of time and effort to get a business off the ground. No matter how many years older I get. You see? The hurdles don't go away, so why wait any longer?

With this in mind, as a start-up business owner, it is imperative that you become your own cheer-leader, and believe that you can do it. Believe that you are valuable asset to the economy and smart enough to start your own business. Believe in your idea! After all, every great idea we have today started out as...just an idea. And yes, for every single one, there was somebody who thought it was rubbish. 

2. Get a support group.

Being your biggest fan is the first step, but the second is to surround yourself with other fans. It is frightening true how similar to the people around us we eventually become, and if you're constantly around people who think your business is stupid, you're not going to feel empowered to keep going when the newness hype wanes and your website gets no visits for a month straight. Networking with like-minded individuals is essential to your mindset, which sometimes means networking with fellow competitors. Friendly ones will understand perfectly the struggle you're experiencing, and may be able to share advice, research, and much-needed encouraging words. Remember that hater's gonna hate, but you don't have to listen to them. 

3. Be fierce. 

Starting your own business takes guts and determination. Quitting your job is hard. Explaining to everyone who asks why is sometimes harder--it sure has been for me. This is just the first hurdle you'll be dealt, however. You must be brave enough to invest your money and time into making your business real. Research what you need, travel to necessary offices for that paperwork, network with everyone you know. Everyone. Dedicate yourself to working at your business everyday, even when you feel like it's stagnant. Don't be afraid to advocate for yourself, your idea, your services, and everything that your business offers. Even when dealing with a personal confrontation, take it in stride--he won't be the last business confrontation you're likely to deal with.

4. Be creative.

Don't depend on others to make a huge part of your business take shape. Be willing to work hard and use any resources you can (hello Google) to figure stuff out. Take advantage of all the social platforms we have available through the media. Advertising doesn't have to cost thousands of dollars. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Reddit, Tumblr... They're all free. And they're all easy enough for YOU to use to market yourself and your idea. Consider building your own website, writing your own ads, creating your own logo, investing in the tools necessary to build your own product, etc. You might discover some new talents in the process of saving yourself a load of money. Use the internet to teach you everything you need to know, because it's ALL out there. You don't need a business degree to start your own business, because everything a business degree will teach you is out there somewhere on the internet; the only difference is that a business degree has gathered all the information for you, and gives you a diploma once you learn it all. Not convinced? Consider buying books, even old editions of college textbooks on Amazon, Half-Priced Books, or other sites for sometimes pennies. Don't get played by the businesses that make their money off of convenience. Be resourceful. Do the work and save your wallet. 

5. Be patient. 

Building a network takes time and continuous effort. It's important that--in the process of starting your business--you continue to cultivate it even when things get slow, look bleak, don't get any attention, or even face ridicule. It's okay; just wait. This doesn't happen overnight, most of the time. In the meantime, keep busy. Set new goals, keep on researching new ways to market yourself, improve your product or service, and make sure that the whole process is shaping you into a well-developed, fully-rounded person. Focus on your process, not just the results. For inspiration, learn about other great thinkers who developed ideas and experienced failure along the way. Did that stop them? Where are they now? Can you see yourself grouped amongst those people?

You should. We need more people like them in the world. 

As emotional as the business-ownership terrain can get at times, when all is said and done, you've started a business, so you're pretty cool. Speaking of cool, let's network! If you're just starting out with your business, send me a message, or connect with me on LinkedIn! If you're local, maybe we can swap business cards.

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