I have always loved working with flowers. Even in high school, I would arrange flowers for my mom and help with flowers at our family church. I also have always loved planning parties - from decorating my own 6-year birthday party with hand-drawn images from The Lion King to planning a 16th birthday bash for my friend (who later became my girlfriend and then my wife), party planning was a part of my life from a young age. So when my 2 friends asked me to plan their wedding at a small church in Glendora, I said yes! Their wedding was so much fun…and so, so challenging. During their wedding, 2 guests asked me to plan their weddings and just like that. It started as a “hobby business” to help me pay for college. In the first several years of business, I coordinated and designed several small weddings up and down the California coast. We mainly focused on budget-friendly weddings. In the middle of all of this, I married my high school sweetheart, Taylor, and got to experience the “other side” of wedding planning. My “hobby business” continued to grow and after 7 years of steady growth, I made one of the scariest decisions I’ve ever made: to quit my desk job and turn my hobby into a career! It was such a difficult decision to make, especially with my wife in school, a 2-year-old daughter, and a 1-year-old foster daughter at home. But, we did it. And I am so thankful we did - now I am humbled to say that our business has grown into a thriving event planning and design company in the competitive Southern California event market. It brings me joy to work for myself and do what I love.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
Three hurdles that were difficult to overcome in the early years of my business were: 1) Time Management, 2) How to price myself and my services, and 3) My vision for my business.
Since my business started as a hobby, it wasn’t my primary focus in the early years. I really struggled finding time to balance my “full time job” and my “hobby job.” I didn’t really overcome this hurdle until I ended up quitting my full time job. I worked lots of late nights, early mornings, and long weekends. The hard work definitely paid off, and now I am thankful to say I work for myself and am able to determine my own schedule.Additionally, in the early years, finding my price point was difficult. I significantly under-charged my clients in the first few years. Every time I raised my prices, I was worried that nobody would ever book my services. Even now, with almost 10 years under my belt, I get nervous every time we increase our prices. However, every time we’ve raised our prices, we’ve attracted more ideal clients and have completely booked out our wedding season. I have learned through the years to value myself and my time, and to charge accordingly. Finally, in the beginning stages of my business, I didn’t have a vision to create a career. I was just having fun and makings some extra money on the side. We used this “hobby income” to pay for details at our own wedding, pay for our honeymoon, pay for travel, and most importantly, pay-off student loans. Because I didn’t have a vision to grow my business any further than a hobby, I didn’t have a strong sense of direction in the beginning. But, when it became clear that I had a deep passion for what I am doing, a vision began to unfold and now I am thankful to have some ambitious (but attainable) goals that we are striving towards.
What books are you currently reading? And your recommendation for entrepreneurs to read?
I am currently reading Brene Brown’s “Dare to Lead.” It is phenomenal. I highly recommend her book, “Daring Greatly,” to any other creative entrepreneur (or any human, for that matter). Her work has changed my life and changed the way I view myself and my business.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits? How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
My family was always very supportive. Honestly, I think I was my own biggest critic. I didn’t believe that I would be able to support my wife and kids working for myself. The fear of not being able to provide enough and the fear of not “being enough” held me back the most. In hindsight, I would have actually listened to the encouragement of my family and close friends and pursued this business more whole-heartedly at an earlier point. But, I also believe that every step of my journey so far has lead me to where we are now, so I am thankful that everything happened the way it did.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
I would say the single most influential factor in my business success is being genuine. While this may sound cliche, the number one feedback I get from my clients and industry partners is that me and my team are kind and treat people with respect. We are “real people.” I always strive to see where somebody else is coming from - whether it’s a disgruntled vendor, a client with questions, or an upset event guest. Now, in that spirit of being genuine, I also need to set boundaries and make intelligent decisions. In demonstrating genuine kindness to everyone we encounter, we have a very high referral rate and also have built incredibly strong business relationships in our industry, both locally, nationally, and abroad.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
I wish I could have known that I could do it. There were definitely some very stressful events in the earlier years where I questioned my business all-together. There were several times I thought I would quit. I am so thankful I didn’t.
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
My advice to any upcoming entrepreneur would be:
1) Be authentic. People book people, not services. Be your genuine self, whether in a sales meeting, a networking event, or while working with a client. It makes a huge difference, because people know when other people are fake.
2) Work Hard. Working for yourself means making sacrifices. If you believe in your business, it sometimes means staying up all night to ensure everything is done in time for your client. I spent so many all-nighters in the early years (and sometimes even need to do those now for particularly large events) because I wanted to create an amazing final product.
3) Build a good team. The girls on my team are incredible. I try to surround myself with people who are authentic, hardworking, and know how to work well under pressure. I rely so much on my team and genuinely appreciate all of their hard work.
4) Self Care is Key. This is something I am learning more about every year, but the importance of “turning off” the social media, emails, and all the “noise” that any business creates is so important. For me, as a husband + daddy, getting that quality time with my family (and time alone) makes me a better business person. When I clear my head and get to focus on what matters, I am more productive, more authentic, a better team leader, and a stronger visionary.