Four years later

Four years ago this week I started a wedding planning business.  If you would’ve told me four years ago today that I’d be sitting in my office in Kelowna about to go into my busiest wedding week of my career with a 20 week pregnant belly and my handsome husband working away on his two businesses right behind me, I don’t know if I would’ve believed you.  At the time I had just graduated from an Events & Conventions Management diploma and was laddering into my Bachelor of Tourism Management.  Not feeling satisfied with work I could get between school semesters and not feeling quite prepared to start a business from my diploma, I got certified as a Wedding Planner & Consultant and a week later decided to start “Events by Nicole Deanne”.  Lucky for me, Royce had three wedding photography clients that summer that let me tag along and run their day-of coordination for free.  I didn’t have any wedding planning experience… at all. So let’s take it back a few years…

I started in hospitality at age 16 working for a cute high-end French restaurant & bakery in Saskatoon called Calories.  It had a vintage door, window seats that were always that little bit too chilly in the prairie winters, creaky wood floors, and a pastry case full of freshly made cakes and sweets.  I started there as an evening expeditor where I was a barista and decorated/plated all the desserts before they went out.  (I still have a scar from hot sugar, a torch, and a creme brule that got the best of my finger on a Friday night.)  The restaurant was always busy but my favourite part was the late evening rush of customers that came in just for hot drinks and dessert.  I took so much pride in styling each dessert and pairing it with their blueberry tea or latte.  Looking back, maybe this was the job was where I fell in love with styling and creating atmospheres.  If I close my eyes I can still remember the sound of muffled talking, the espresso machine running, and chits printing while I drizzled raspberry sauce on the white chocolate cheesecake.  I later moved on to serving and then filled in on private catered dinners throughout the wealthier areas of the city.  My last event I did with them my supervisor I’d been working with for a couple years turned to me and said, “See you just get it.  You understand how catered events work.” That’s always stuck with me, I kind of wish I’d run into him again just to tell him in person that it meant a lot to hear that at age 18 where I was secretly dying inside to be a wedding planner.

I later moved onto another restaurant and then the lounge in the Sheraton.  That was one of my favourite jobs too.  I served the day shift on Saturdays & Sundays where I was getting tipped around 40% every shift.  Since it was a hotel, most of the customers were businessmen and I had a knack for remembering their orders even if they had come in a month prior.  It was kind of a game for me.  It was there that I learned that people really do value good service and are willing to pay for it (or not, you can’t really have an “off day”).  I finished my first year of commerce while working that job and thought my heart might just explode if I didn’t at least try wedding planning so I applied for university in Kamloops (two provinces away) to get a diploma in event management.  I had only worked one wedding with a local planner and it happened to be an East Indian wedding of 400 people where we did an afternoon room flip in 2 hours and a second room flip from 2am-5am.  Needless to say, the hours have never scared me away from planning.  At the very least, I feel like my serving background taught me work-ethic, multitasking, customer service, and the hustle I needed to get started.

Obviously I got accepted into the diploma at Thompson Rivers University, met my now husband in the first four months of school, and decided to never move back.  I’ll be honest with you, the first year.. two years.. three years.. okay it all has been tough.  Every single year.  The first two were the hardest though.  I was a full-time broke student running a business with absolutely no experience and Royce was just as broke as I was.  Two businesses in the same industry under one roof.  We’ve never been on salary, we’ve never had benefits we haven’t personally paid for, we’ve never had loans to get our businesses going, we had nothing.  Like nothing.  I remember the first wedding I did for free I got tipped $100 and I literally thought I had won the jackpot.  I opened the envelope while walking downtown and almost started crying from being so excited to get paid for something I loved so much.  I made $6,000 total in year two, which isn’t a lot but I had to start somewhere and where I was living wasn’t exactly a wedding mecca.  By year three Royce and I were engaged, I had just graduated, he was working full-time in the camera department at Future Shop while running his business and we were still so stressed about money.  We counted pennies every. single. month.  I wish every struggling entrepreneur could see thriving businesses start-up days.  They were brutal.  If I had a quarter for every time I cried about money back then I wouldn’t have had to stress so much about my bank account!

It was that summer that was truly a make or break for us.  After some really serious life planning and dreaming, we knew we were going to have to do something pretty bold if we wanted to make it in the wedding industry.  We quit our second jobs (mine ended as I was campaign assistant for the provincial election) and Royce left Future Shop and we moved to Kelowna in peak season.  I flew to Santa Barbara the day after we moved for a one-on-one planning workshop with wedding planning extraordinaire, Jill LaFleur. We literally slept for 3 hours after unpacking and getting to the airport on time.  I came back completely inspired, pushed some creative boundaries, and somehow pulled off three major features/publications that summer.  By season four I had 19 weddings and one assistant and Royce was busy with ski photography contracts and wedding season.  And now in year 4 (season 5… since my first season technically was the 3 weddings I did for free) have been so fortunate to have received 20 publications to date, grown a team of six staff, hired my first Associate Planner, and am loving my job more than I ever have.  We still stress… a lot, but less about money and more about how to push each other to feel the most fulfilled in the paths we’ve chosen.

This post feels more like a journal to myself than for whoever is reading it (though I do appreciate more than you’ll ever know that you’re here listening).  I have days where I feel like I haven’t grown.  Where I’m stuck in the moments that used to scare me when I first started my business.  The moments where you fear if anyone will ever book you and if people think what you do is of any value.  Or you sit in complete worry of how you could ever compete in a market full of so many talented people.  Putting yourself on the line to run a business is down right intimidating let alone every other stressor that comes along with it.  And then you have these days of absolutely clarity where it’s like God literally shakes you and says “this is exactly where you’re meant to be.  Stop worrying.” Thankfully the moments of clarity overshadow the doubt the majority of the time.  But those doubt days will get ya.

So if this is you reading this today with a dream job in mind, an entrepreneur doubting if you’re the only one on earth struggling, a person wondering if you’ll ever find your path… you will. Dig deep and push a little harder.

This is just a piece of my story and how I got here.  You have one too.  And I know if you start looking back on yours, you’ll find that your dream job has matched up with everything that got you to this moment the entire time.  Maybe those nagging thoughts of yours are just waiting to be fulfilled too.

xonicole

Baby Update

I’m not going to blog about baby stuff often but today marks the first day of my second trimester and I’m feeling pretty excited about it so I thought I’d give a little update!

Due Date: November 28th

Weeks Along: 14!

Weight Gained: 1lb (though I feel like my entire body looks different)

How I’m feeling: Really good.  I’m super tired every Thursday-Friday without fail.  I’m quite certain that baby has decided those are the days it wants to growth spurt.. just in time for wedding weekends…

How the first trimester went: Well… I’m glad it’s over. It was smooth sailing until I hit 6 weeks while in Hawaii and now even the thought of fish and coconut makes my stomach curl.  I had about a million and one food aversions for a solid 5 weeks.  The only thing I could stomach was processed cheese anything… cheese bagels, Kraft dinner, Ritz cheese crackers, you name it.  If it was processed I could stomach it.  Sadly coffee was out for a good 11 weeks, even the smell made me nauseous but that’s over! Hallelujah.

Current cravings: I can’t say I’ve had any.  I was turned off of so many foods for so long that I don’t really want anything in particular. Though sour or zippy foods taste extra good right now.  Cheesy Dill Kernels popcorn and sour keys have been my cheat foods.

Best moment so far: Probably finding out we were pregnant.  We had been trying but given the fact that we both work in the wedding industry, we had a short time frame in mind if it were going to happen this year. If not, we were totally okay with waiting until next Winter/Spring again.  So one morning my impatience for waiting to check took over and Royce said, “just go take it. Then we know.” To which I responded, “It won’t be positive anyhow so I’m just going to get this over with.”  And sure enough, it was a clear “PREGNANT 1-2 WEEKS” that popped up. My hands were literally shaking as I looked at the test, both out of excitement and complete disbelief. I feel like I’d pictured that moment in my head my whole life, not knowing how, or when, or even if, that moment would ever happen since pregnancy is so much more fragile than I ever thought it was.  After about a minute of shock I came out of the bathroom and Royce was grabbing something from the fridge. “Royce…” he didn’t turned around. “Royce…””Yea?” “We’re pregnant.” And then I just started bawling/excited giggling. To which he ran to me hugging me so tightly and practically yelling in my ear, “WHAT?!! No way!! WHAT?!!!!” He must’ve checked the test 5 or 6 times repeating those words over and over.  We’ve had a lot of great moments in the pregnancy since but I don’t think anything could top that day.

What we call the baby: Royce and I have been calling it Baby Bear because we absolutely love bears. And I secretly want a mountain themed nursery that has some sort of “You are our greatest adventure” script on the wall with white tree wall decals and forest themed stuffed animals.  The rest of my family calls the baby, Lentil.  My family was all in Hawaii together when we told them and my phone app told me that our baby was the size of a lentil that week so it’s been Lentil ever since.  Lentil is the size of a peach today.  I think he/she might be a record breaking sized lentil.

Are we going to find out the sex:  No– but I cannot believe how popular this question is! I knew that the first question people ask after you get engaged is, “When’s the date?”  But I didn’t realize the question following a pregnancy announcement is, “Are you going to find out?”  Guys… I feel so new to all of this.  So long story short, no, we’re excited for the surprise.  Royce and I both think it’s a girl but who knows!! 50/50 chance, right?

Stressors/Fears: Before getting pregnant my biggest fear was labour.  Since getting pregnant my biggest stressors and fears have been about keeping the baby alive and healthy.  The list of what you can/can’t eat, how much to eat, how much to gain, how to exercise/how not to exercise, and on and on and on. I never felt so clueless about anything in my life until I got pregnant. I’m sure that clueless feeling continues once the baby comes too… I’m going to live in denial in the meantime.

Praise: I’ve got to praise Royce a little here because he’s been So good. Like amazing.  He must’ve researched for weeks picking out his favourite stroller (he’s super gadgetty so this was actually really fun for him).  I won’t say what we settled on because to be brutally honest I don’t want an opinion on it since we’ve already made up our mind, but we’re excited to order it in fall to say the least! He also made every meal for me for almost 5 weeks when I couldn’t go near the kitchen without dry-heaving.  He packs trail mix in my purse and a water bottle every time I leave the house. He’s taken me maternity clothes shopping three times already and actually helps pick things out.  And he pushed me from my desk most afternoons in my first trimester to force me to nap knowing how exhausted I was.  I married up.

Alright, that’s enough about Lentil for the day.

Below: 1) Day we found out we were pregnant, 2) 7 weeks pregnant in Hawaii, 3) Off to our first ultrasound! 4) Our pregnancy announcement 5) 13 weeks pregnant!
IMG_1553 20150414_Ultrasound Photo-9923

xonicole

I can’t do it all

I learned a very valuable lesson yesterday that I’m sure I’ll forget sometime in the near future and suffer through again in a matter of weeks.  Somewhere between what felt like a thousand emails and a million open computer tabs I learned I can’t do it all.  By the time 6pm came I was having a full out mental breakdown about having to get groceries… groceries guys.  I literally cried about not wanting to have to make one more decision that day.  Tell me I’m not alone with this feeling??

Some days all rational thought goes out the window and I pile my to-do lists so unrealistically high that of course I’m going to feel defeated.  Instead of having three major goals for the day I put 100 and then instead of being happy about the 12/100 that are done I’m mad because of the missing 88.  I’m sure I would’ve been a lot more pumped with myself if I only had three and then saw how much was accomplished.  I need to play better mind games…

So yesterday, I forgot to account for every email that goes out, about 3 come in.  So yesterday I was pumping out emails like a boss until I heard “ding”….”ding”….”ding.” And I was like “okay… that’s not ideal but I’ll get through those new ones too.” And then I heard “ding”….”ding”…”ding.” Followed by, “ding”…”ding”…”ding.” Man alive!! (If any of you work on a mac I assume you know that evil email ding I’m talking about.) And as my stress level rose throughout the day, my sanity went out the window.  Instead of rationalizing that every email doesn’t need an immediate response and that it was just a freakishly email filled day,  I felt like a complete failure.  What should’ve ended with me getting up and going to the gym to clear my head for a bit, ended with that grocery fiasco and a couple bottles of wine with friends.

I don’t think my issue was really the emails, it was the pressure of hiring the new Created Lovely team (something that feels so new to me), studying business books on how to be a boss and strong leader, updating my branding, planning a major styled shoot, and finding a balance in my personal and social life– it all hit me like a ton of bricks.  And then I do this awful thing inside my head where I tell myself, if I can’t handle this then I’ll never be able to handle ________. (Insert anything from having kids or managing a team or something self destructive).  If you’re like this, please don’t do it.  It doesn’t feel so good. So after I had a good cry I realized I was being crazy and that one rough day does not constitute as failure.  Some days you just need to tell yourself, you just can’t do it all.  And you don’t have to.  People don’t expect you to be perfect, they just want to feel like you’re trying and that you care.

So today is a new day.  I started it off not freaking out about my to-do list.  I drank my morning coffee without sending an email first and I’m headed to the gym before I power through today.  Feeling better already!

Oh and if you’re wondering how grocery shopping went… I caved, bought a $5 pizza, stuck er in the oven and called it a night.

xonicole

We’re Hiring!

We are looking for two décor stylists to join the Created Lovely Events team!

We believe in creating weddings that are as beautiful to the heart and mind as they are to the eye. Décor stylists are an amazing asset to our team, ensuring every beautiful detail from set-up to teardown has been thoughtfully placed to create the most memorable experience for our clients.

A typical wedding day shift is from 9am-1pm and 11:00pm-1:00am. You are expected to attend every wedding set-up and teardown and will work closely with the rest of the Created Lovely team.  There will be a total of 15 weddings you will be required to work that include some week day weddings. While the day will be filled with excitement and a whole lot of pretty, don’t underestimate the work that goes in to creating beautiful spaces. Décor set-up and teardown requires extended periods of time on your feet (often outdoors in summer heat), working under pressure, and exceptional attention to detail.

Just as every couple is unique, so is every wedding. We strongly believe in treating each wedding with the care and attention our clients to deserve—a day that’s truly created lovely.

Duties and Responsibilities: 

Each wedding week you will be attending a one hour Created Lovely Events team overview meeting to review the wedding day schedule and all décor details

Décor set-up & styling from approximately 9am-1pm. Set-up may include:

  • Hanging lighting (excluding tent chandeliers)
  • Moving and unloading décor, signage, and chairs
  • Setting and styling tables in their entirety as per the design
  • Assisting floral designer with unloading and styling floral arrangements
  • Finalizing every last décor detail to perfection

Décor teardown from approximately 11:00pm-1:00am. Teardown may include:

  • Packaging all décor items including lights, stationary, candles, flowers, and any remaining styled items
  • Bagging and stacking all rented chairs
  • Bagging linens
  • Organizing décor items for rental and client pick-up
    Note: estimated décor teardown time is subjective to work ethic and wedding size

Qualifications:

  • You are organized, structured, and goal oriented
  • You work well under pressure
  • You enjoy going above and beyond for clients
  • You are very personable and enjoy working with a team
  • You are a quick learner and enjoy problem solving
  • Previous experience in the weddings or event industry is an asset
  • A certificate, diploma, or degree in the Events & Conventions or Tourism Management field is an asset

Requirements:

  • Must be interested in aesthetics
  • Must be available to work weekends and some week day weddings
  • Must have access to a computer, email, and cellular phone
  • Must be familiar with DropBox
  • Must have reliable transportation ranging from Penticton to Vernon

Compensation:

Set daily rate of $112-$126/day ($16-$18/hr) based on experience

To apply please e-mail all of the following to Nicole at info@createdlovely.ca:

  • Resume
  • 3-5 minute video submitted with DropBox link on what creating a lovely life means to you (iPhone video is totally fine!)
  • Two to three references
  • Weekend Availability (May-October)

Closing Date: Tuesday, March 31, 2015

 

We thank all candidates for their interest but only shortlisted candidates will be contacted for interviews. No telephone calls please. We look forward to hearing from you!

CL_Hire

An Email Says it All

“Hello, My name is _____. I’m the owner of ________. Insert 3 sentences about business. Attach website and price guide. *Mention nothing about the business you want to refer you.* Followed by, I would love if you referred me. Looking forward to hearing from you. Signed, another business wanting a referral.”

Enticed? Me either.

VS.

“Hello! I hope your day is off to a great start. I came across your website a few months back and have been following your work ever since. I love your style because of __________ and feel that we would be a really great fit for our clientele. Let me introduce myself, I am ________ and I own ________. At ________ (list business) we believe in _______ (list values) and work hard to provide _______ (list key services & passions). I would love to take you for tea or coffee and get to know you and see if we would be a good fit for future weddings together. Signed, hopeful referral.”

I want you to sit and think about the tone of each of those emails. How do you feel they differ? Who would you choose to go for coffee with?

First impressions come in all forms, and in this industry a lot of them start via email. Here’s my do’s & don’ts on putting out your best email first impression:

Do:

Boost their ego. The best way to start off your email is mentioning something you like or appreciate about the person you’re contacting.

Don’t:

Only talk about yourself. The quickest way for your respondent to feel used is to only hear you talk about yourself. You shouldn’t do that in person so don’t do it via email.

Do:

Separate yourself by talking about what makes your business different. Acknowledge your passions and specialities so your respondent can get a feel for if you’re the right fit.

Don’t:

Mass email. You know what sucks about hearing about a new business? Finding out you contacted every other vendor under the sun too. If you appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one.

Do:

Have an action at the end of the email.  What is the final purpose of the email?  Legitimize your intentions by asking to meet up and build a relationship with the vendor.

Don’t:

Let them buy your coffee/tea/drink.  I try to follow the rule that if you’re asking for the meeting, you’re the one paying.  Avoid the awkward payment dance at the till by saying “I’d love to take you for coffee” in your email where your payment implication is very clear.  Or send a quick text or call before they’ve arrived asking them what they’d like to order.  You’ll set a strong tone before they’ve even arrived.

There you have it!  Happy Emailing 🙂

xonicole