Alexandra Slawek: Ask Me Anything!
Q: Any tips on branding for someone who is just starting out?
A: I would work with a graphic artist to help create a website, a logo and business cards. It is brainstorming. Knowing your ideal client is half the battle because you know what to do to appeal to them. You might also think about having a few sessions with a business coach who would be able to guide you. My daughter is a graphic artist and she really helped me with my branding.
Q: What are some tips on creating a catchy yet professional business name?
A: I don’t really have any tips on choosing your business name except brainstorming and seeing what resonates with you, your brand, and the kind of image you want to portray. When I first opened my business, I chose my name by talking to my husband about what the name would represent. However, after a few years, I found that my name no longer represented who I had become and it was too long (Always Alexandra’s Weddings and Events).
So I decided to change my name. I talked to a lot of friends and family, and I did research online to see what was available. Interestingly enough, my son came up with Boutiq Weddings and immediately it resonated with me. It is a process and most of the people I know in the industry were very conscious of the name they were choosing. Good luck!
Q: Can you describe the most difficult moment of your career? Have you ever felt like giving up?
A: I haven’t really had such bad moments that I wanted to give up, though I have to admit, when I am tired after a long day (14-18 hours) doing an event, I feel like I don’t want to do this anymore. But after I have a good night’s sleep and am feeling refreshed, my passion returned and I carry on. Wedding and event planning is my second career and I absolutely love it.
Q: How do you strike a balance between developing a niche and offering multiple services as part of your business?
A: In my opinion, they are two different things. Developing a niche is about style and the way you work, while services are about the logistics of what your business offers. I offer the same services that many of my competitors offer, but it is the way I create the events that creates my niche.
For example, I love creating vintage weddings and am known for that. That is my niche. So you have to figure out what your style is and that will be your niche. I also want to mention that even though I love doing vintage weddings, I am also very open to other styles, so I do not limit my business and I also continue to learn. It’s very important to keep learning!
Q: How can an online course allow you to put yourself out there? How can you get hired?
A: Try to find a job apprenticing for a venue that hosts weddings and events like a hotel or a golf course. If that doesn’t work, then try to get in with a florist, a decorator or a caterer. The idea is that you get as much experience as you can, get to know the vendors these industry partners deal with, and meanwhile they get to know you.
It may take a while, and you will probably do a lot of grunt work, but it is so worth it. I have been in business since 2010 and I still help out one of my florists when she is super busy. Every time I learn more about arranging flowers and I get to be creative. As a planner, it is very important that you learn about flowers and how to arrange them because they are a large part of event décor.
I also wanted to mention that taking your course online is not different from taking it in the classroom. You still need experience. I took my planning course from QC and I started working at a venue here in Calgary as an event manager. I then started planning weddings for them and eventually I opened my own business.
Q: After graduating, how do you go about pursuing your career as a wedding planner and event decorator? I find that here in the UK there isn’t a market for wedding planners.
A: I am aware that there isn’t a big market for planners in the UK, but you can create one. I would strongly suggest that you get a job apprenticing with a hotel or some sort of venue that hosts weddings and events to get some experience and get known in the industry by vendors. As I mentioned earlier, I have also volunteered with a florist and decorator doing a lot of the grunt work but getting to understand the industry and getting known.
Unfortunately in our world, it is who you know that often gets you work. As a side note, if planning events and weddings is your passion, don’t give up on it—just keep your vision clear in your head and it will become a reality. Good luck!
Q: What is the best way to remit payment between clients and vendors so that no payment is forgotten, or (heaven forbid) the customer defaults on a payment and leaves you responsible?
A: As you probably learned in your wedding and event planning course, you NEVER sign a contract with the vendor for your client. The client always signs with the vendor—this way the planner is never responsible if a problem should arise. That being said, I always have copies of all the contracts and I know when final payment is due. If necessary, I remind my client.
You will also find that most vendors send final payment invoices to the client and CC the planner on the email (if they don’t do this, I usually ask them to). If the client does not have enough money to pay the vendor, then I would talk to the vendor and ask if they could negotiate a payment plan. I would act as an intermediary but I am not responsible.