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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

***

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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Let's Put Our Hands Together for All-Inclusive Venues

PC Le Bam Studio

PC Le Bam Studio

I've been on the hunt for a venue for some clients recently, and I've run into numerous all-inclusive venues with some tempting offers.

All-inclusive venues can be known for taking advantage of clients by requiring that certain services--such as catering and alcohol--be purchased in addition to just the venue, else you pay some meal and corkage fees. They get a bad wrap for being expensive...but as I researched and compared pricing for independent vendors vs. all-inclusive venues, it began to appear that the all-inclusive venue might actually be the better deal...

1) Less Vendors to Keep Track Of

How convenient would it be to make a couple of large payments, rather than a dozen or more small ones to pull your wedding together? Imagine how much fewer emails you'll have to manage, consultations you'll have to attend, and wedding liability issues you'll avoid altogether if your venue is handling the food, the bar, the chairs and tables, your decor... All you'll have to do is bring in a photographer, officiant, DJ, and a few other vendors and you're be set!

2) Less Set-Up and Tear-Down to Manage

When your venue provides everything that involves any kind of set-up or tear-down, it means that they are responsible for doing just that. This means you won't have to rent your venue for the hours it would take to set up and tear down, and you or your coordinator won't have to be there for set-up and tear down. How convenient!

3) Less Staff To Pay

One of the reasons all-inclusive venues are on the pricier side is due to the fact that these venues have a larger staff to pay to be present for the duration of your event than a venue that doesn't offer extra services would. Because of this, you're not just paying for the use of a space, but the hourly wage of a dozen or so staff's time. How much staff would independent vendors also add up to, though? Rentals and catering alone require a group of people, as does floral decor... Additionally, the staff at this venue are trained and experienced to work at that particular location, and will most likely do a better job at solving and preventing common problems, ensuring things run smoothly, etc. 

In the end, how much more would your all-inclusive venue cost? Of course, in some cases, venues are just very pricey; but if you find the ones within your price-range, and compare them to the costs of paying independent vendors, you might be surprised at how little a difference there is in favor of the vendors. 

On a budget? That doesn't rule out all-inclusive venues, guys! Do some exploring, and you might be surprised at the great deals you'll find!

Oh, and my favorite venue site right now? https://www.wedding-spot.com/

You'll thank me later.

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Diary of a Wedding Planner, Part 2

PC Engstrom Photography

PC Engstrom Photography

I'm so excited to kick off 2017 with a new, great, big business step forward! I'm going to launch a wedding product line! I can't give away the details just yeeeeet, but I've been conducting research, bouncing ideas off of my friends and family, and starting to gather items to be used for said products. Now that wedding season is officially over, and engagement season has begun, I have the time to re-brand myself a little bit in anticipation of this product line. Sheesh! Who knew that there was so much that went into making and selling stuff?

In other news, now that my December wedding is officially over (pictures coming as soon as the photographer releases them!) I am free to focus on the six other weddings I am in the midst of planning and coordinating. It's a lot of computer research, paperwork, and emails, which I really enjoy. I love the freedom of not having to pass my communication with clients and vendors by anyone else--such as a boss. It's just me! How crazy awesome it is to be able to call the shots. It saves so much time and keeps things organized, as information goes through less hands this way. 

I am also excited that as I work with more vendors, I am beginning to pull together a cohesive Preferred Vendors List, especially because it means there's a possibility of working with my favorite vendors more than once. I really love strengthening my relationships with great vendors, because it makes working with them during weddings organized, predictable, and enjoyable.

As a wedding planner, I sometimes feel as though other vendors worry I'm just there to tell them how to do their jobs. On the contrary, I don't want to have to do that--I have my own job to get done. Instead, I want to work with vendors who know how to do their jobs better than I even understand. Rather than worry they'll do it wrong, it's my dream (I'm serious, my DREAM!) to work with a group of vendors who can seamlessly work together to pull off a beautiful wedding. 

December is almost over! Uh, when did that happen? As this year inches near it's closing, I feel proud of what this business has accomplished in the seven months it's been around, and look forward to what 2017 will bring. Here's to growth in personal knowledge and experience, and to the happiness and success of all my clients' marriages. 

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The Wedding Gown: A Finale

Today is the rehearsal for a wedding happening tomorrow, which is super exciting, but also crazy busy for me. So today, instead of a regular blog post, I am instead going to show you the third and final YouTube video on altering a wedding gown that I used for a photo shoot earlier this year. If you haven't seen the previous videos, you can check them out here and here. Enjoy!

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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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The Work-Life Balance

PC officevibe.com

PC officevibe.com

As a business owner fairly new to the position of "my own boss", I must say that it can be a challenge to stay on top of everything. And...when I say that, I don't necessarily mean on top of the actual wedding planning, because I love that part, and always get that done with plenty of time to spare. What I mean is that it's hard to balance life when I am not given perimeters that would otherwise separate the work from the down-time for me. You know, keeping the peas on my dinner plate from rolling over into my nicely rounded mashed potatoes. I'm talking about that work-life balance! 

For example: when you have school, a job, and a personal life, and all of those things have their own locations, the given requirement to arrive at each location at a different time generally keeps them all separate and organized. Each thing gets its own part of you and your time; each thing has its own box. This makes it easy to be productive in the work place, attentive at school, and relaxed at home.

So what happens when you quit your job and work from home, take online classes--from home--and spend a huge amount of time doing all of these things that require different parts of you in the place that has always been designed for resting?

Simple: each thing fights for supremacy. It begins to determine what you "mostly" are. Are you mostly a student, or mostly a working stiff, or mostly a stay-at-home-whatever? Do you know what I mean?

I am not a college student--in that I am not working toward a degree--but I do take classes from time-to-time so that I am always learning. I would say that I most struggle to separate working from, well, living. There's always something to be done: updating my business Instagram, updating my advertising methods, broadening my network, filming a YouTube video, pinning on Pinterest, consulting with clients, coming up with fun things to blog about, the list goes on. Right alongside that, I have other things to do, such as schedule my hair appointment, or a dental checkup, or a coffee date, or make a run to the grocery store, take my spunky little dog on a walk, clean the kitchen, make lunch, run a load of laundry...

Being in a place where both types of things are possible (home), the tasks eventually begin to bleed together.  I find myself making lunch and then making a business phone call, and then filming a YouTube video following by a consultation, and then scheduling a quick appointment with a friend while I'm in the area. Walking the dog and then blogging and grocery shopping and then working on an Excel Spreadsheet... 

It's a beautiful mess of multitasking and hustlin' along to make life work (pun intended). Totally possible, but the constant switch wears on you after a while. It makes me really respect business owners who have successfully created the distinction between work and private life. 

The work-life balance isn't just a struggle for business owners though. It's also true for people in the midst of planning a huge wedding or event. It's a crazy jungle out there when your work-life balance is further confused by planning getting pushed into your private life! So exciting, but also...disruptive.

I understand the hustle. I think to some degree, we all struggle--from time to time--to keep life balanced. What are some things that you do to separate work from your personal life? I'd love to hear your ideas and experiences in the comments below. 

Keep hustlin'! You got this!

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3 Ways To Stay Organized During The Planning Process + Freebie!

PC pixabay.com

PC pixabay.com

One of the issues I've faced during the planning process of some of my projects is what I call "Unexpected Eleventh Hour Syndrome". This is what happens when you spend all of the months leading up to the Big Day waiting for the last few weeks to do what you didn't realize you could've done ahead of time. It's not purposeful procrastination--just learning the hard way that you could've done something differently to make your life about a thousand times easier. 

Don't do that. Unexpected Eleventh Hour Syndrome (UEHS) is a terrible curse to be avoided when at all possible. To help you out, I've listed some things that I personally do to avoid last minute crazes, and I'm also giving you access to a free downloadable to help you keep track of the To-Do's leading up to the Big Day.

PC thesuburbanmom.com

PC thesuburbanmom.com

1) Devote an entire calendar to your event. 

This allows you to connect your To-Do's to a visual time-line that puts itself in the context of real time. The freebie mentioned in the headline is an Excel Spreadsheet I made for this exact purpose! It includes an edit-friendly calendar starting from September 2016, lasting through December 2017, with a large area available for notes to be made pertaining to due dates, specific tasks, and vendors. (Check the end of the post for more details.)

PC thehuffingtonpost.com

PC thehuffingtonpost.com

2) Plan backwards.

What needs to be done the day of the event? What about the day before? Treat this like a pyramid--the day-of tasks are the very top, resting on a foundation of the tasks done the day before. Those things rely on things done the week before, and the month before, etc. This will force you to understand what things must be done in a specific order, and why. From there, you can figure out when you can most efficiently complete certain tasks.

PC vertex42.com

PC vertex42.com

3) Stay ahead of schedule.

If you're down to 6 months before your event, you should be working on those things as well as the things you'll need to do during the next month. Keep in mind that this requires you to understand the productivity rates and accuracy of you and the people responsible for completing the tasks on your lists. So if you or another person responsible tend to put things off or work slowly, compensate by working ahead. This will enable you to avoid the much dreaded Unexpected Eleventh Hour Syndrome!

Want this freebie? All you need to do is fill out my Contact page and ask me to send it to you! You'll find a downloadable version in your inbox shortly!

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Battling the Budget Part 2: Inexpensive Alternatives

Nothing ruins wedding vibes like price-tags that say "no." In the same way, price-tags that scream "YES!" can really make a difference in the planning process, which is why I love my job. I have kind of an obsession with finding good prices and using creativity to come up with lovely alternatives to things such as standard wedding fare. (Don't believe me? I once developed a month-long meal-plan for myself that priced out everything with recipes, shopping lists, and all organic ingredients for three square meals a day with a budget of $100.) 

In the previous blog-post, I pinpointed the five common large expenses that nearly all weddings struggle to escape. In this blogpost, I'm going to return to those same five things and and share my ideas on how to avoid the price-tag with some creativity and extra thought. Ready to learn how to keep your wallet from emptying?

PC Venuesafari.com

PC Venuesafari.com

1. Ways to Save Money on Your Venue(s)

a) Just rent out ONE venue. Think about it: renting one area at a ceremony location costs, say $1,000. Later on, you decide you want to rent a second area at that same location for the reception as well. However, instead of that second area also costing $1,000, it costs $500, because you've already rented another part of the venue. So you're at $1,500. Now, let's suppose you rented a second location instead of an extension of the first location. Is that second location going to cost just $500? Probably not, because many venues have a minimum rental requirement, or they simply charge a higher minimum for rental of any area at their venue. So it's likely that the second venue will also cost around $1,000. So now you're at $2,000, instead of the $1,500, for the SAME purpose! Renting two different venues is also a lot more trouble, because sometimes you have to take into account the transportation of your guests, which might also come out of your pocket. 

b) Get hitched on a weekday. Most weddings are on Saturdays or Sundays because it's most convenient for guests to attend. However, because of their popularity, venues generally hike up the prices of venues on weekends, a lot like how airfares are three to four times the price on holiday weekends. They do it because they can. On weekdays, however, very few venues get weddings booked, so their prices generally go down. If your guests can get off work a few hours early, consider having your wedding on a weekday, such as Monday, to save some bank.

c) Have your wedding at a private venue, such as a friend's property or large house. This can save you thousands of dollars, and often does not compromise the quality of the location. It really does pay to know certain people!

PC theweddingspecialists.net

PC theweddingspecialists.net

2. Ways to Save Money on Catering

a) Plan your wedding around a lighter meal, such as brunch or lunch. Serving coffee, fruit salad, muffins, and deviled eggs for a light brunch is much more cost-effective than almost any dinner will be. Even a lunch of fruit, veggies, and tea sandwiches is cheaper than the dinner plates that most caterers will offer for evening meals. Including a brunch or lunch will change a wedding schedule around entirely though, and will only work if your vision includes a day wedding. 

b) Have a Potluck Wedding. This is more styled toward country weddings, or small church weddings where this kind of meal is common. It can certainly save a lot of money, though. 

c) Have the family provide the meal. This is similar to a potluck wedding, but it puts the provisional responsibility on the bride and groom's family members instead of on the guests. It is best suited for more intimate weddings, and is very convenient for weddings located at a house. 

PC romanticdecorationnow.blogspot.com

PC romanticdecorationnow.blogspot.com

3. Ways to Save Money on Guest Seating and Details

a) Move those chairs! When you have a ceremony as well as a sit-down dinner, you need twice the amount of chairs--unless you MOVE the ceremony chairs during the cocktail hour to the banquet hall! This can cut your chair bill IN HALF, and won't be noticed if your guests are distracted during cocktail hour.

b) If it is appropriate, consider paper napkins and plates, and plastic cutlery. Especially if your meal is potluck style, this won't be surprising or distasteful, and will save money the caterer or venue would otherwise charge for dish usage. It also eliminates the possibility of paying for damaged dishes, which is almost guaranteed to happen at least a couple of times at a wedding.  

c) Consider DIY wedding favors, such as cute baggies of Jordan almonds, prettily-packaged flower seeds with a reference to "growing love", tiny jars of homemade seasoned salt, infused olive oil, jam, or honey, servings of wedding cake, boxed truffles or bonbons, miniature s'mores kits, or homemade bath salts. Pinterest has about a million ideas!

PC britishschoolalex.org

PC britishschoolalex.org

4. Ways to Save on Your Wedding Gown

a) Make your own wedding gown (if you know how to sew), or hire a friend or relative who knows how to sew. This gives you complete control over how you want it to look, but is a very time-consuming process. My mom did this, and saved plenty of money on the labor and alteration costs that she instead did herself. Fabric will be your largest cost--and it WILL cost something. But only a couple hundred dollars, as opposed to the thousand or so you'd pay otherwise.

b) Alter your wedding gown to fit you and your tastes. Whether it's your mother's gown or one you found at a thrift-shop, altering a gown allows you to keep the parts of it you love and jazz up the areas you're not so excited about. It's a money-saving, much less overwhelming process than creating a whole dress out of nothing but fabric yardage can be. 

c) Find a used wedding gown. Online stores such as www.preownedweddingdresses.com have dresses in all sizes, styles, and price-ranges that have been cherished by brides already, yet are still in tiptop condition. They are marked down considerably, and are a very lovely option that won't compromise your tastes at all. 

PC portlandweddinglounge.com

PC portlandweddinglounge.com

5. Ways to Save Money on Entertainment

a) Replace a DJ with an iTunes playlist. You can make this yourself, hook it up to a speaker and have your wedding party members tweak it from time to time during the night. Have someone from the wedding party MC the evening instead of hiring a DJ to do this for you. 

b) Ask a friend who DJ's on the side to DJ as your wedding gift, or offer to pay him a fee. Be tactful about this, as you don't want to insult your friend or his side-business. If his business is too big, this might not be a good option. However, if he is a close friend and is invited to the wedding anyway, he may volunteer to DJ, or offer it as a wedding gift anyway. If you do pay an amature to do it, it is very likely that he won't charge commercial prices. 

 

No matter what your wedding budget is, at least a few of these fifteen suggestions can be applied to your wedding to free up money that can be put toward the most important details so that you get the day you've already imagined.

Have a money-saving tip of your own? Post a comment below!

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