Friday, April 15, 2011

Hello? Is Anybody out there?


Yes, yes, I'm here. I know it's been a while since I posted last- around 6 months actually. And I feel like I owe it to the small handful of readers I had, but mostly to the many potential clients that email me each week and the wonderful vendors I've had the opportunity to work with, to explain my absence.

About 4 years ago I started on a journey I never planned. Fresh out of university and managing the restaurant that I had worked at throughout my schooling, I was gearing up to make a career in finance and put my degree to some use. I had all intentions to follow in my father's foot steps and work in portfolio management, but there was always something holding me back. My apprehension stemmed from the fact that as an inherently creative person, part of me couldn't imagine being business, all the time. I got married to the love of my life and had an incredible time planning my own wedding. It was at both a fabulous and stressful experience as I'm sure many brides can attest. It was the best day of my life, but I was happy that it was over. No part of me longed to plan a wedding again. Ever.

I did, however, fall in love with the details. It was all about the details. After using Word and Powerpoint (really, Jen, really?) to design my own monogram for my wedding, I got a little itch to see what else I could create. Thankfully I moved on from Microsoft Office to more sophisticated design programs, and put my self taught bag of tricks to use. I used my (now embarrassingly novice) skills to create graphics, labels and signs for one of my first events, a fan-tab-u-lous Barbie bridal shower. I loved creating the details of that party, from the handmade crystal beaded wine charm favours, to the favour packaging, to the drink labels and the Barbie cake. I was in a creative euphoria. So when everyone around me urged me to put my passion to some use, I started to consider a change in career path.

I started by going back to school- if I was truly going to pursue this as a career, I wanted to make sure that a) this is something I would want to do and b) that I would know what I was doing once/if I started. I designed my own very amateur looking website (again, embarrassed by my past self here), and spent a good chunk of time creating my business plan. Points for business plan, minus points for not really finishing it. My biggest problem with my BP is that I really couldn't narrow down my market, couldn't decide exactly what I wanted my business to be. My heart was with the smaller events- the baby showers, bridal showers, birthday parties of the world. But the business side of me knew that if I wanted my business to stay afloat, I would have to venture into the wonderful world of weddings. Weddings are where the money is. Weddings are where people have the budgets to hire a planner/decorator. If I wanted the luxury to create incredible parties, I needed to have the consistency and remuneration that weddings would afford me.

So weddings is where I went. With next to no advertising and a lot of word of mouth, the brides found me. As a newbie in the industry, I priced myself accordingly, and therefore the budget-conscious brides of the Lower Mainland came to me in droves. That first year was hard; a lot of work for very little pay, but I knew it would get better, and this was only part of the process. I gained experience, and brides got (what I believe to be) a steal of a deal on a passionate, hard working and creative event planner.

The next year I more than doubled my rates. I figured I was worth it, and with the time I was putting in, I needed it. I thought maybe the number of clients I booked might decrease, but the quality of them and the budgets they brought with them would lead me to a happier place. I was given the opportunity to plan a few smaller events, but for the most part, I was weddings, weddings all the time. I continued to book more clients, continued to work harder than I had ever worked, and continued to hone my design skills.

I had mostly great clients, ones that made me love what I did with a passion. I also had some headaches, the kind that made me question what the heck I was doing and why on earth I put up with what I did. Regardless, at the end of the day, planning and coordinating weddings took me away from what got me into the business in the first place. I barely had the time to work on my graphic design skills, and showers and parties were getting more and more infrequent as I had to turn many away because of the volume of weddings I was planning. I was overworked. Under appreciated. Unhappy. Yada yada yada. Whine whine whine.

Once I got over my pity party, I came to the realization that all of the amazing vendors I worked with on a daily basis had one thing in common- they were truly passionate; truly head over heels in love with what they did. Did they love weddings all the time? No. But they loved their role. Whether it was the DJ's passion for music, the photographers passion for composition, or the pastry chef's passion for baking and cake design, they all had something that got them through the tough times. And that is what I was missing. What I loved most: the small and cozy gathering of friends and family to celebrate the momentous occasions in life, such as bridal showers, baby showers, birthdays; designing the little details that pulled everything together; creating and designing, not planning.

So here I am, on this beautiful and sunny April morning (completely ironically and not planned this also happens to be the day my business license expires), ready to hang my wedding planning hat. It's been a long time in the making, but I felt the need to share it with the world. A very heartfelt thank you to the friends, family, clients and vendors who supported me and cheered me on along the way. I couldn't have done it without you.

Where does this take me now? I've recently started a career in an entirely different industry, and so far it's a welcome change. It affords me the time and freedom to start carving out a pathway to pursue my creative urges on a part time basis. I hope to finally enrol myself in a graphic design course, and continue to hone my skills to create pretty printable materials. It won't be anytime soon, but keep an eye out for Hello Bella invitations, printable parties, labels and much more.

As they say, when one door closes, another opens.

Ciao!

8 comments:

  1. Spring has sprung and I hope you find that new growth in your life. You are certainly on the right path to finding it! Thank you for sharing your business, and your thoughts and your ideas along the way. Your passion for life and finding what you love inspires me, and I am sure others also, to find what they love to do in life. Cheers~
    Good Luck in your New Adventures!

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  2. Oh, how I love you Miss Hello Bella Jenn :)

    I couldn't agree more with your blog post. It's almost like reading my very own thoughts.

    I think you're absolutely fabulous at everything you do which is why time and time again I refer people to you. I'm so lucky that I was able to have you as a part of my wedding and to have now become great friends with you. I know that you'll be successful in any venture that you pursue.

    Now.....If you're thinking what I'm thinking let's make some babies so we can put together FABULOUS birthday parties, Easter egg hunts, Valentines parties, and on and on and on.....

    Love Kristin

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  3. Hi Jennifer,

    I've been following your blog and have browsed through your website on a number of occasions over the last year. Would you be up to a quick interview about your past business? I'm researching and considering getting into wedding planning and I'd love to find out what worked and what your challenges were.
    You can email me at jillian8@shaw.ca or give me a call at 778-322-4058
    I look forward to hearing from you =0)

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  4. Hi Jillian,

    Send me an email with any interview questions you may have. Email is jen@hellobella.com.

    Thanks for the comments!

    Jen

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