Our pals at WedShed invited us to a little Q&A to gather some insight into the business-side of the wedding industry and share with other like-minded wedding folk.
Founder and Director of Etc. Events; Lauren Pool shares her honest advice, experiences and insight into how to tackle life in the wedding industry.
We're sharing this feature from WedShed in hopes that it can inspire other go-getters to overcome their hurdles and band together to really shine in this industry we're oh-so passionate about.
Who Are you?
Lauren. Loz. Lozza. Poolio.
How did you get into your line of work?
I originally studied visual merchandising at RMIT and fell in love with the event styling segment of my studies.
I pursued work experience with some of Melbourne's top companies and decided to create my own brand back home in rural VIC where there was a massive gap in the market for an event planner and stylist who puts their client's own style first… not the colour of a chair sash (eeeek!).
When did you launch your business?
Etc. Events launched in November 2011.
What skills have you taught yourself since launching
and what have you decided is best to outsource?
I've sunk my teeth into learning floristry, and entrepreneurial studies which taught me a lot about how to effectively operate my brand as we continued to grow.
For me personally; I've learnt the more outsourcing we can do, the more effective we are in exceeding client expectations and delivering a seamless experience from enquiry to post-wedding. I used to do absolutely EVERYTHING myself. From the meetings to bookwork, floristry, prop making, card writing. You name it, it was all done by hand from scratch. We now employ a full time florist, stationary suppliers and we are growing our styling team who will assist with client meetings/design concepts and proposals.
I've learnt to outsource my weaknesses and hire people who truly get you and your vision.
This now allows me to take a step back and work ON the business more so than IN it.
What key things did you have in place before you launched your business?
An ABN, logo, Business Name and Facebook page.
I really wish I had of gotten my finances organised and systemised earlier though.
Do you think there are any preconceptions of the wedding industry from people who don't work in the wedding industry?
If yes, how do you think we overcome these?
I was once told straight to my face that apparently I earned $1,000 per hour.
This guy was getting married and came up to me and just stated his case.
I replied with two questions. 1) Why do I work part time at McCafe? 2) Why do I still live with my parents?
He had no rebuttal.
So many people believe with the word 'Wedding' comes an instant markup of price. This seriously bugs me because if only they could see our bills, our wages and our tax bills would they understand how much money we actually make a profit on.
I believe the way to overcome this is to simply educate those around you on the matter.
I've shown my staff the breakdowns of our invoicing for weddings. They can clearly see the amount charged, amount we spend, amount for taxation purposes and our profit margin on each job. I did this because I didn't want them thinking what we charged is what we earned, and our team now have full respect for me and the brand and they can see just what goes into these expenses in a wedding.
I have also written blog content on the matter and continue to write articles on 'The truth about the wedding markup' to try and educate the wider community.
I am also 100% upfront and honest to our clients when they have questions about the fees we charge.
I take the time to explain the inner-mechanics of these details and this soon lowers their insecurities around the subject.
I believe in taking the time to help people understand the behind-the-scenes work that goes in to developing their amazing day.
If people don't know the industry, then how can they possibly know the truth about this topic? So, let's tell them!
What's the biggest obstacle you've faced in your business
and how did you resolve it?
I'm unsure if it's because I was from a small town or not but I copped a hell of a lot of bullying and rumour-spreading about me and my business right when we started kicking goals on a national level. I boil it down to a bit of tall poppy syndrome but I overcame it by staying true to myself.
I, my friends, family and colleagues knew who the real Lauren was and I just let it play out as I knew these businesses were only damaging their name by bullying us over social media.
I did have to take measures to block these people from contacting our social media pages, and then I suppose they grew tired of it all.
I just kept my head down and focussed on my goals and soon enough, we started achieving them!
Don't get me wrong, I cried, drank a few glasses of wine and confided in my mum, but you've got to pick yourself up because only then do you prove to yourself just how strong you truly are.
How do you avoid getting distracted if you're working solo?
I set myself tasks. And unless it's really super important, I don't leave that task unless I've ticked it off. I'm terrible with starting one thing and then leaping over to another. I find a tick-sheet helps you feel like you're being productive and ticking things off.
What's the biggest risk you've taken? Did it pay off?
Two biggest risks I've taken in my career so far would be diving into the entrepreneurial studies with The Entourage without graduating with an official qualification, having to fly to Sydney every two months and fork out a lot of money.
BUT this was by far one of the best things i've ever done as I learnt so much valuable information on how to effectively run and maximise our brand with an incredible support network that I still keep in touch with today.
Another would be recently exhibiting at One Fine Day Melbourne.
We did spend a truck-load and put ALL our cards on the table to get our name out there in Melbourne.
We designed a stand that went completely against what is currently on-trend in order to show our diversity (To be even more daring, I actually wrote a article on these trends a couple of months earlier) and when I realised how much we stood out, I admit I was shaking in my boots. I thought we've either smashed this or completely shot ourselves in the foot.
Coming out of this experience, I can say it has been one of the best risks we've taken. We received so many amazing compliments from other vendors and the Melbourne public and are now growing our team just to keep up with our enquiry demand.
Your most awesome business moment to date?
Oh there's been a few! From hiring my first official team member, to being accepted into One Fine Day, to having famous people follow our work online and now we're about to embark on a new exciting milestone which is relocating our office from rural VIC to Geelong.
I always said when we did this, we'd get a office coffee machine and a golden retriever puppy haha!
So I shall keep you updated in the coming weeks ;)
Can you share your main do's and don't's with running a small business?
Do: Number 1, above all, TRUST YOUR GUT.
Your intuition is a powerful tool and it is vital to listen to it. No matter how good something looks on paper, no matter how much money they're offering you; if your gut says no it's probably right.
Do: Take risks, try new things, be adaptable.
The companies that aren't willing to collaborate and evolve are the ones who sadly fall behind.
Don't: Be too open to over-sharing your ideas.
Build trust before you share your new awesome marketing campaign or your new amazing idea.
Be patient, wait, and then launch it with a bang!
Don't: Say yes to every single opportunity that lands in your lap.
I fell victim to this because I didn't want to regret 'wasting' a good opportunity.
But I've learnt to be smart and selective in which paths you choose to travel down.
This builds exclusivity, ensures you have a sound consistent brand message, and doesn't drain your bank account.
By all means, be open to new opportunities; just don't go crazy and do them all.
You'll only run yourself into the ground.
How do you manage your time effectively?
Task lists. I have to schedule it in. Even 'Me' time. If it's scheduled in the diary and written on our tick list, then it must happen.
What are some of the ways you ensure exceptional service to your brides?
We have thorough attention to detail ingrained in our DNA meaning every team member is trained to meet our expectations on every single element within our customer's buying journey.
From the way they respond to an email, liaise with suppliers, conduct the setup and dismantle and everything in-between.
It is paramount that we nail this every step of the way because this is 'Etc. Events' and what sets us apart from others.
What do you think are the best and worst things about working in this industry?
The best things are honestly meeting some amazing couples and forming fantastic friendships.
I love seeing the look on our client's faces when they see our design concept or enter the styled room.
For me, this is just priceless.
The worst thing would be trying to convey just how much money, time and effort goes into pulling off a successful wedding.
Time and time again we hear first-hand (more so from DIY brides) how shocked they are at the physicality, organisation and sheer pressure that comes with the job.
It certainly isn't a walk in the park, but it is our profession and we love it and we do have to pay our staff and suppliers accordingly so of course this figure does add up. It's simply a factor of the industry.
Do you have a morning ritual?
Coffee and emails.
One day it'll be yoga on the beach!
What are you not really very good at?
Finances. To be brutally honest, it bores me to tears! I hated maths in high school and it just frustrates me.
Of course, this is such a fundamental part of a business, so I've enlisted a business advisor who is also our accountant and she is absolutely incredible. She's set us up online over various financial platforms, assists us is making big decisions and has helped me understand my numbers.
I now get excited when it's time to review our data and stats because it allows us to make so many fantastic decisions that will grow and drive our brand even further.
How important is social media?
Social media is essential in today's day and age. Everyone is guilty of a Google or a Facebook stalk if they're wanting to suss-out a brand before they buy. Having an online presence is beneficial to your brand's exposure and allows you to communicate your message to your ideal clientele.
Etiquette: Definitely credit your source and your contributors on the work you're advertising online.
Not only will your collaborators love you for it; it forms the basis to make new friends in the business, picks up in Google search ranks and links you to other brands that your ideal client may be searching for.
How do you develop and maintain your motivation?
By knowing my goals and working on achieving them.
I love motivating my team also, so this instantly gives me a boost too.
When you can pave the way for your team to become the best versions of themselves; well thats truly magical.
What have you spent $100 or less on lately
that's made a significant impact on your life and/or work?
Definitely our Xero membership. $50 a month and it makes our quoting, invoicing, payroll and so much more a million times easier and more enjoyable.
Are there any insecurities in yourself or your business
that you're working on overcoming?
Charging what we're worth. That has been a challenge for me from day-dot. But I believe when you are truly in sync with your vision, mission and values, this echoes through absolutely everything you do and say and excites the people you deal with.
I am very much a team player and I 100% credit my whole team on our work.
A lot of people only credit me, which I don't like. I've never been one to step into the spotlight and 'woo' a crowd.
I prefer to blend in but I'm slowly learning when I'm given a compliment, to politely say thank you and accept it rather than shy away.
Are there any apps or programs you'd recommend to other small businesses?
Instagram has been a huge success for us.
We're now also on Xero which has so far been amazing!
Most influential book - and why?
Money & Mindfulness by Lisa Messenger. Remember how I said I wasn't good at finances? Well, this book spoke in a language I could understand. A great guide to build up the guts to turn a fear of finances into a beacon of opportunities.
My Year in Shining Life by Leonie Dawson. This is a workbook. It looks a little like a kid's colouring book but trust me, it is a powerful tool.
This allowed me to get everything out of my head and on to paper. From where I personally visioned myself to be this year, and all the goals big and small I wanted to achieve. It gives enormous clarity over the important things to you and this is what you need to hone in on through your brand language. Amazing.
Any ideas on the horizon?
Yes, to launch Edition #2 of our mini magazine The Etc. Effect.
I have so many ideas for this and so many interviews and collaborations in mind.
I'd love to take it to a bigger level.
What's one thing you'd tell your younger self?
Don't take it to heart.
There are great days and there are not-so-great days in business, and in my earlier days I would take a 'no' personally.
Now I just say, Cool what's next for us!
For further info on these fabulous interviewers; Check out WedShed here.
An ode to the magnificent people who have helped me, supported me and believed in me right from the very beginning.
Without you all, Etc. Events simply wouldn't be where it is today and I am beyond grateful for encouragement and friendship throughout the years. To our suppliers, Vendors, Team, Family, Friends, Partners, Clients and Communities; I truly truly thank each and every one of you.
Mum, Grandma, Kate, Matt, Hayley, Charli and Steve, Ema, Brodee, Donna, Louise and The Little Alice Team, Jemma and James, Judith and Peter, Marg, Belinda, The Van Berkel's Team, Fliss and Richard, The Riversleigh Team, Jess S, Karinda, Candy, Emma F, Sheree, Jo, Jason and Vicki, Nikita, Sue B, Jodie, Carol, Bobbie, Stace, Gabby, The Entourage Team, Kerrie, Bobby, Gina, Tanya, Loretta, Jamie, Eli, Jordan, Ali, All our Suppliers and many more of you.
You all believed in my vision when many wouldn't take me seriously.
Big Love to you all, Lauren xx