My love for event planning first took roots throughout my career before Leigh Events. In the corporate environment, I often participated and lead social committees at varying organizations. It’s here when the spark was first ignited, and then continued to my personal life when friends and family began to ask me to plan their special events. Over time I found the corporate world mundane and left me unfulfilled, I felt more like a robot. Event planning gave me a purpose and I chose to start Leigh Events.
I wanted to find a way to fuse together my passion and education. My passion being event planning, and my education and career in finance and accounting. I am a logical and strategic thinker and used those character traits to help me find the path forward. I knew I was an exceptional business woman, with an extensive business and accounting background, coupled with a degree in finance and my CGA (certified general accountant) certification. I knew that these skills would be very beneficial additions to being a planner. I also felt that there was something missing in the community. Events were done on a much lower scale along with a general disconnect in finding individuals who really understood the community, culture and traditions. I knew I wanted to find a way to fill the missing gap and provide an exceptional service without breaking the bank.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
Trying to get real clients outside of family and friends, and marketing myself. My ambitions and objectives for my brand made me want to figure out not only how I could become part of the industry, but how I could become a leader in the industry. To be the best, you must work your way up the ladder, start from the bottom and climb up. I began to think how I could get affiliated with top magazines and how I could get substantial clients; not in quantity but in quality. I began by reaching out to people whose work I really admired and scheduled consultations to go in and pick their brain about their brand and see if they had any advice that I could take away and figure out how to improve Leigh Events. I aligned myself with individuals who were at the top of their game from stationary companies, to florists. I also came up with a marketing plan that worked for me with my short and long term business goals and I lived and breathed them. It took me about 6 months of hard work and determination to overcome those hurdles.
What books are you currently reading?
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck - Mark Manson
You Are a Badass - Jen Sincero
And your recommendation for entrepreneurs to read?
H3 Leadership: Be Humble. Stay Hungry. Always Hustle.
Be You & Live Civil: Tools for Unlocking Your Potential & Living Your Purpose
Think And Grow Rich
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?
It was difficult to gain the understanding and support of family and friends as to why I walked away from a successful career to follow my passion, into the unknown. I respected them and said nothing, but I did tune them out. I wasn't looking for anyone's approval, I was doing this for myself and what I believed was the right path for me. I was very focused on building my brand and doing what I truly loved. I knew I had a solid business and marketing plan, and I had arranged a contingency in the event things didn’t work out. I wouldn't do anything differently; Leigh Events makes truly happy and even in the most stressful scenarios I am still in my element and love what I do. I am passionate about the event planning world, and I will never ever go back to a corporate job. It was the best decision I ever made and I have no regrets!
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
Hard work and staying focused with consistency. I live and breathe the brand. I didn't say no to any opportunity for several years and took on everything that was aligned to my business. There were times when I was doing magazine shoots back to back, last minute inquiries, social media planning, administrative work and working long hours in the office alone. That consistent hard work and sacrifice was how I could build a company so quickly and become so successful and develop a name for myself.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
The importance of having brand awareness and getting your brand out there strategically. When I first started, I went all in on advertising everywhere and anywhere before I really developed my business plan. I was spending (which meant wasting) a lot of money and I just wasn't getting the bookings or any guaranteed return on investment. What gained me better success was when I started doing trade shows and sponsoring key events. That is when the brand awareness became much more valued. If I had known a bit more about marketing and strategy before I started, that would have been beneficial.
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Be prepared to work, work, work, work, WORK! What you put in, is what you get out! You must be dedicated, you must be prepared to have sleepless nights and sacrifice personal time. For me it is sacrificing time with my family, or missing out on celebrations, because my focus is my brand. Everything good that comes, comes with a sacrifice. If you focus and work hard you will see guaranteed results. I would also suggest making sure you have some money in reserve to get you started. Marketing, websites, business cards, etc. all cost money. You can do all these things conservatively but remember that it is your brand that you are putting out there and when you go the extra mile, spend money in key areas people will notice, and the brand will stand out.