Hi friends!

As I sit here getting ready  to fly to Branson, Missouri this weekend for my first out-of-state wedding it dawned on me: today is May 23 – the seven year anniversary of my business!  AND my sweet nephew, Parker Thomas (aka Tortuga), is ONE today!  Both great reasons for a celebration so my gift to YOU is this: my top seven tips for entrepreneurs who are starting or re-starting their wedding planning businesses.

I have learned so much the past seven years about being an entrepreneur in this dynamic and amazing industry.  You know I LURVE to share my tips with you guys and I truly hope these are a blessing to you, wherever you’re at in your own business (or future business).

1. WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Turns out, everything.  When I was starting my business, naming it was one of the most difficult tasks on a long list of difficult tasks.  I made the mistake of not over-thinking this and named my business AMH Weddings and Events (AMH are my initials).  One year later I hated it.  So I rebranded and named my business One & Only Events.  A year later I attended the luxury wedding business summit engage! and was constantly mistaken for the resort, One & Only Palmilla – and hated it.  Rebrand number two began and I made the wise decision to enlist the professional branding expertise of Lara Casey and finally, after a whole year of painful, beautiful work, decided to name my company after its fabulous owner (I kid, I kid), moi.  But I learned a costly lesson: get the name of your business right from the beginning.  Really think about how you want your business to function in the future.  Should you be the face of the business or not?  Make a list of pros and cons and ask others – in and out of the industry – their opinions about your future business name.  If you are the main person providing the service and you plan to keep it that way, I strongly believe you should name your business after yourself.  Martha and Oprah would agree as well.

2. BRAND YOUR BOOTY OFF
I won’t lie to you, branding is a beast.  An absolute BEAST.  But nothing is as valuable to the success of your business (besides you being trained and knowledgeable, of course) as legit branding that represents and showcases who you are and what you do well.  And branding is more than a pretty logo and cool website – although those things are important.  Do your branding work, hire professionals to guide you, and don’t be shocked when you get the bill.  It’s not cheap.  But it is HANDS DOWN one of the best investments you will ever make.  As a side note: make sure that you like the branding company you work with as you will spending a lot of time with them.  Great companies worth looking into are Making Brands Happen and Sweet Pea LLC.

3. STOP LOOKING LEFT AND RIGHT
In case you haven’t realized it yet, comparison is the thief of joy.  I’ll say it again loudly so that it really sinks in: COMPARISON IS THE THIEF OF JOY.  When you are new to business, it is so tempting to look at what everyone else is doing.  All of a sudden you’re comparing yourself to people who have much more experience than you or worse, have been in business just as long as you but are (seemingly) way more successful.  And it all makes you feel like shit.  Complete and absolute shit.  Your self-talk changes from “I can do this!” to “why should I do this when there are other people already doing it better?”.  Every entrepreneur has been there (and if they haven’t I don’t want to be their friend).  Let me tell you something that will make you feel unique and worthy (which you so obviously are): there is no one else IN THE WORLD who has the exact same life experience, perspective, or skill set as you.  This makes you amazing and it makes your ambitions valid.  If Ellen decided not to do a talk show because Oprah already had it down, the world would have missed out on so much laughter.  Insert your own example here, but don’t give up because of comparison.

4. HIRE A COACH
Along with hiring branding experts, one of the best investments I have ever made professionally was hiring a business coach (for those wondering, my own coach was not in the wedding industry at all – I already knew how to be a planner and run that side of my business; she helped me with the back-end of my business).  There is no shame in asking for help.  Zero.  I learned so many valuable strategies and the accountability of having someone I’d check in with helped me grown at a much more accelerated rate than not having that.  We are so close to our business that sometimes we have a difficult time seeing the obvious.  Having the objective opinion and mentorship of a respected business professional is truly priceless.   My own coach is actually the one who recommended that I start coaching other wedding planners.  She recognized my ability to lead and teach and helped me apply those skills in a way that I would have never thought of on my own.  And coaching other wedding planners has become one of my favorite aspects of my business.

5. USE VIDEO, I BEG
Online video is the future.  Think about it like this:  back in the “olden days” if you had a dress shop, you typically had a retail space downtown and used television commercials to promote your awesome store. NOWADAYS, those of us who have internet real estate use video as a way of promotion.  It essentially serves as a commercial for our business but instead of 90 seconds of cheesiness, its a few minutes of not only showcasing our intelligence but also our personalities.  Because we’re selling to millennials, and millennials care about that stuff.  The most common question I get from novice wedding planners about how they can utilize video considering they’re so new and my answer is always the same: vlog your experience.  You are one step (or many steps) ahead of someone out there and they’ll learn from you right where you’re at.  Share your experience as a new wedding planner, what you are learning, a “newbie tip of the week”, something!  Just get used to video now because by 2015, NINETY percent of all online traffic will be driven by video.  You can visit my own YouTube for examples of how I used video, but I encourage you to just start.  Video has led to more opportunities in my business than any other platform.  Use what you have now and make it happen.  (A little more on the importance of video marketing here.)

6. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH DOERS
This might seem obvious, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to surround yourself with positive, successful, driven people who encompass vision and lack negativity as you start and grow your business.  Well, forever actually.  And in all areas of your life.  You may find that as you begin to announce to friends and family that you are going to be a wedding planner and start your own business you get the occasional “ohhhh, okay….well good luck with that” followed by a forced smile over the unmistakable look of doubt.  You need to get used to AND get over that.  There is no room for negative people in my life.  If they don’t believe in me and if they think my dreams are fickle, they are O-U-T.  Toxic people seem to make themselves known when we’re really excited about something we deem to be BIG.  Take a look at who has your ear and make sure these people are positive, healthy, hardworking, dream-filled, intelligent, DOERS instead of a bunch of sour critics.  Remember: You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with (Jim Rohn).  Choose wisely.

7. NEVER STOP LEARNING
This is key.  If you have a desire to learn, you will go far.  No matter how successful you become, continue to learn.  I have been in this industry for seven years and I am often called an ‘expert’.  I am asked to contribute to magazines and I speak all over the country.  After nearly 200 weddings, tons of sacrifice and loads of hard work one may think I can put my feet up and bask in the glory of my accolades and accomplishments while I sip a margarita.  And ‘one’ would be a complete idiot to think that (well, except for the margarita part).  The truth is, I feel even more responsibility to get it right.  Even though I lead my own workshop, I am not above attending other workshops.  I actually LOVE going to different workshops, whether I’m a speaker or simply an attendee.  Every year I attend at least three workshops for the purpose of growth, inspiration and meeting others in this beloved industry of mine.  I also love to read, listen to podcasts, watch videos made by my talented peers, etc.  If you’re completely new to this industry and considering certification, do it.  You will learn so much and start off on the right foot.  If you have owned your business for a while and are not yet certified, do it!  It speaks to your level of professionalism.  (For those of you in business already, I have partnered with The Wedding and Event Institute to offer certification via my workshop REFINE.  This is such a great option for wedding planners who are already running businesses but haven’t yet been certified.  I’ll share more about this soon.)

I hope these tips help you along your journey.  I would love to hear where you’re at and what has been most frustrating for you or most encouraging to you as you figure this whole entrepreneurship thing out. Keep at it!  I am a walking testament of what can happen if you stick with it and stay true to yourself.

A HUGE thank you to all my wonderful clients who have entrusted the details of their special day to me.  Especially those in my first year of business who took a chance on a rookie.  I will forever love and appreciate you all.

SHINE ON,
Alison