Friday, April 4, 2014

Wedding Flowers Study (plus win an iPad Mini!)

Splendid Insights (the research division of The Splendid Collective) and Anne Chertoff Media are currently conducting a study on the wedding floral component of the bridal industry.

If you are a wedding planner or if you are a wedding coordinator or catering manager for a venue, hotel, resort or catering company, we would love to get your perspective, opinions and insights.

The survey is 10 pages long and will take approximately 15-20 minutes to complete. All responses will remain completely anonymous.

At the end of the survey, you'll have a chance to enter to win an iPad Mini. The winner of the iPad Mini will be announced here on Think Splendid after the study closes.

You can fill out the survey here.


Monday, March 31, 2014

A Conversation with Mark Smith of @Envelopments

Today's guest expert is Mark Smith of Envelopments

Can you share a little bit about the Envelopments story -- how it began and how it's evolved over the years?
Envelopments evolved out Elements. Elements was a card and gift store founded by sisters, Holly and Deborah, back in 1985. They were way ahead of their time in bringing custom printing to stationery products they carried in their store. In 1991, I had just returned from living in Europe and was helping them to rethink their business as the economy was not doing well and retail was in stuck in a cul-de-sac. We leveraged the new desk top publishing technologies of that time to add the services of printing on the beautiful stationery papers they carried. That quickly led to creating custom invitations and announcements for their customers. Essentially we installed a design studio in a retail store…it was a designers playground with all the products on hand to create beautiful wedding invitations, corporate communications, birth announcements and so on. Deborah was not satisfied by the simple two dimensional aspects of what she was designing. As a three dimensional artist, jewelry designer, and lack of knowing any better, she pushed her creativity to new places to satisfy her growing clientele base. That led to the first Envelopments products quickly gathering demand by their customers. Fast forward…we developed a full product line, spun off a new company and eventually closed Elements on its 20 year anniversary to focus entirely on Envelopments.

That’s a big change in business, what did you learn along the way of that journey?
The first challenge was for Deborah and Holly to wrap their heads around the notion of creating a product line for Elements’ competition. When they first realized that creating limited quantities for their customers was not cost effective, Deborah suggested they offer the products to their competition to  increase the quantities manufactured and lower the costs to make it more accessible to consumers. Holly  thought about it further and did the numbers realizing that if they had just 10 accounts like Elements they would have a justifiable new business. The girls are masters of sharing and being very generous in their personal lives and applied that same sense of being to their business. One of the things they learned in retail was the challenging business model of buying product and sitting it on the shelf hoping someone would come in and buy that thing before you had to put it on sale. So, we took that frustration and applied it to a new business model for Envelopments customers by offering the opportunity to buy just what they needed to get the job done, a job that they already had a customer for and most likely a deposit from their customer to get started. We offered to be their production facility, warehouse and ship very fast so they did not have to hold inventory. This, excellent customer service and tips and tricks to be better in business is what has propelled Envelopments to success…oh, a great product line also helps.

You’ve grown into a respectable business, developing a new market segment and setting trends. What are the hurdles you have had to overcome to get where you are today?
First we had to come from out of nowhere to be recognized, respected and trusted that we could keep the promises we were making. Becoming recognized in our industry was initially done by getting recognition from leading publications and even on national television. This helped to get us in the face of consumers asking their local stationery stores for our brand and specifically for our products.

We garnered respect by being asked by others in our industry to actually do their own invites and announcements utilizing our products. In both of these instances we relied heavily on happy customers and word of mouth…this was long before social media. Trust that we could deliver is all about infrastructure. This has been my mantra. Making sure we didn’t grow too fast, that we had the tools in place, the staff to support our vision and the means to finance it all based on the measurable success at each milestone along the way. Oh yeah, and did I mention a great product line helps! Speaking of products, our development of a new market segment of products and services led to another big challenge which was to inform the marketplace about doing custom design and production which was not the norm at the time. Eventually we had imitators, many of them our own customers, also surfaced trying to do what we do…which of course they can’t. And then the economy went sideways which was completely out of our control. But we adjusted, kept on track with our plans and are very excited by what the future holds for Envelopments.

You're a family-owned company and have long-term employees who have become like family. What  are some of the lessons you've learned over the years in building a culture where people like coming to work?
As we say at Envelopments we don’t have an HR department, we have a department of genealogy. Some of our team members have been with us for over 16 years. Many have come from Elements. Others are friends or family members of other employees. Sometimes this can be a challenge as we end up trying to fit the job to the person vs finding an employee for the job. But we love the culture we have created and enjoy watching the friendships evolve, romances start, new babies growing into young adults, and being a part of everyone’s lives. One of the primary aspects of having happy, long term employees is them feeling like they are respected and well looked after, hence our benefits and insurance programs we offer.

Another aspect is having a great place to come to everyday. When we realized it was time to grow into a larger facility we took pride in turning our new building into a beautiful work environment for everyone even though we don’t have customers come to our facility. It was designed for them. Our employees have a beautiful lunchroom that opens to a patio surrounded by a bamboo garden. They have ergonomic desks that raise and lower to what suits the employee throughout the day. I also believe that since we designed it as an open environment everyone feels more connected and part of every aspect of  the business vs being alone behind a door or in a cubicle. And then there are our beautiful products which our team loves, they believe in what we offer is great and how they service our customers is stellar. We get feedback all the time thanking them and patting them on the back for what they do for our customers. This really makes for a proud, happy employee.


MARK SMITH is one of the original co-founders and President of Envelopments. Before starting Envelopments, Mark’s varied past has included being the lead designer for COMDEX, the computer tradeshow that launched the personal computer industry; film and television production for Germany; product design and marketing communication design for a variety of markets. Recently Mark spoke at SAP’s 2013 Sapphire Conference and was featured in a variety of videos which can be seen at envelopments.com/SAP.
Think Splendid will be offering insights and perspectives from Splendid Guests for the months of February and March while I am working in Africa

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Expert Insights with Andrea Liss of @HannahHandmade

Name: Andrea Liss
Company Name: Hannah Handmade
Years in the Design Industry: 28
Year Business was Founded: 1991
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Website: hannah-handmade.com
Twitter: @HannahHandmade
Instagram: @andrealiss

How did you get started in the wedding industry? 
I began my career in the fashion industry as an art director at Carson Pirie Scott where I designed catalogs for women, children and the home. I was later working as a creative director at the Chicago Sun-Times when I felt the entrepreneurial pull. I opened my own design business in 1991 and started out creating handmade greeting cards that were sold in fine retailers and museum stores including Neiman Marcus, the Field Museum of Chicago and the Smithsonian Institution. One thing led to another, and before I knew it I was designing invitations for Fortune 500s, major non-profit arts institutions and celebrities. I did my first wedding for friends of my sister who were getting married at a private ranch in Aspen, Colorado and never looked back.

How has the industry changed since you started? 
The level of artistry and sense of style at even the most basic level has been elevated. The range of advanced high-tech and high touch tools available to the do-it-yourself crafter has also grown dramatically. What was esoteric design speak is now common knowledge, and the ability to source materials and do business with people across the globe has never been easier.

What was the biggest lesson you learned early on in your business? 
Relationships matter and are the key to success. There is no better compliment than to have a first-time client come back again and again with you as their go-to person for the product or service you provide.  The only way to make that happen is to pay attention to the details and get it right. Your regular clients are your tribe and the foundation of your success.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the past few years? 
Excellence is not an accident and experience counts. It’s easy to get it right when things go well and as planned. A true professional can handle the unexpected with grace and calm.

What one piece of advice would you give to another entrepreneur on sticking it out in a competitive industry? 
Having your own business is not for the faint of heart. It takes tenacity and vision and will challenge you to become more than you are. Keep learning and growing. Follow your heart and keep it grounded with your head. Refine your skills and pay attention to your internal compass. While there will always be competitors and people who focus on themselves and their ambitions, the real way to succeed is to collaborate. We’re all in this together for the service of our clients.

Expert Insights is a series of conversations with wedding and event professionals who have been in the industry for ten years or longer. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Expert Insights with @AliPhillips

Name: Ali Phillips
Company Name: Engaging Events by Ali, Inc and Elevage Events, Inc.
Years in the Industry: 11 years
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Website: engagingeventsbyali.com and elevageevents.com
Twitter: @aliphillips
Instagram: @aliphillips

How did you get started in the wedding industry?
I met a wedding planner at a women’s networking luncheon when we were seated next to each other. We started talking and she mentioned that with my business background and logistics background that event planning would be great for me. At that point I was working in trucking/logistics and laughed when thinking about a move from trucking to wedding planning. I worked some weddings with her over the Summer and was hooked. She mentored me as I started my wedding business over eleven years ago this year!

How has the industry changed since you started?
When I started, a nice website was a great way to “hang your shingle” so to speak for your business. Then blogging became one of the most important aspects for your marketing efforts (and it still is). I was the first wedding planner to blog in Chicago, which helped a lot with my SEO. Now marketing includes so many more tools like Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter and now Instagram and Vine. These are all touch points to potential clients and partners and should be part of your marketing efforts. Also, the amount of wedding planners is a lot larger than when I first started, so there are many more people to compete with now. You have to stay smart and on top of new technology and marketing efforts.

Clients also now expect a faster reply than when I first started, which you can also see from Liene’s report. You have to be ready for this and be able to reply to leads and requests as quickly as possible or set parameters for how long items or proposals may take you to do. I had a mother of the bride call me and I was not able to get back to her until the next day. When she called me back she informed me she had hired someone on that same day she called me. Now, more than ever, “you snooze you lose” applies to business.

Also, “live beyond the end of your driveway,” as Liene often says. I have found that by seeing the world and loving travel I have been able to create new partnerships around the globe and grow my destination wedding business. Always be thinking of new ways to grow your business. Be it in your own town or around the world, there are always new ways to add to your current services. Staying open minded to that is important.

What was the biggest lesson you learned early on in your business?
Go with your gut! I can’t stress this enough and I learned it the hard way. You just need to realize that not all clients or business are meant for you. It is okay to say no to business situations or clients that you feel don’t match your mission and vision for your own business. I think we all get scared to turn away business and sometimes you have to just have to listen to your gut instinct. If it “kind of does not feel right” then it probably is not.

What was the biggest lesson you've learned in the past few years?
Surround yourself with the people, vendors, clients and creative partners who make you feel alive and push and challenge you to be better. I once told Liene that you have to surround yourself with greatness to be great and I believe it wholeheartedly.

I also feel that you have to stay open minded and always be learning and growing. Even if you have been in the business a long time and feel like you “made it” you still need to remember that things are always changing and you have to keep an open mind about learning new things. I have learned a lot from people that are new to the business or younger than me but have different ideas and talents that I can learn from. I always like to keep my mind, eyes and ears open for learning.

Be charitable and volunteer! Find a charity or an organization you connect with and volunteer. Whether it is one day a month or three times a month, it is great to give back and help those organizations and charities that always need help from others.

What one piece of advice would you give to another entrepreneur on sticking it out in a competitive industry?
Be yourself and trust that! I know that is such a cliché but it really does mean a lot in business and a competitive industry. There is a wedding planner out there for everyone and a perfect client out there for you. Just be who you are, stand for what you want to stand for and it will all fall into place (well, with a lot of hard work that is).

Photo by Sarah Alair
Expert Insights is a series of conversations with wedding and event professionals who have been in the industry for ten years or longer. 
Think Splendid will be offering insights and perspectives from Splendid Guests for the months of February and March while I am working in Africa

Friday, March 21, 2014

How to Deal With Bad PR by Juli Smith

Today's guest expert is Julianne Smith.

In the wedding industry people like to talk about how to get media attention or how to get your business featured. We like to talk about how pretty and lovely things are because most times things are pretty and lovely. But, there is a flipside. What happens when PR goes bad? What happens when you put your business out there and it doesn’t go as planned?

There Will Be Haters
The first rule is to know that things will go wrong. When you put yourself out there, there are bound to be “haters.” This can mean negative comments on a blog post, bad reviews from a client that you went above and beyond for, articles in a magazine that weren’t what you would have written. The list goes on. The fact that there will be negativity is not a reason avoid interviews or be scared of reporters. The benefits far outweigh downsides. However, just knowing that negative things will happen is comforting.

Make Lemonade Out of Lemons
In the wedding business, few things are so terrible that you can’t recover from them. If something goes wrong, the first instinct should be to try to change your focus. Find the positive and spin it to your advantage. Is there any possible way that you can benefit from this? Is it truly that bad? How can you use this to make your business better or bigger or more well known in some way? I'm a firm believer that all press is good press. Every mention or comment is just more attention, which ultimately will grow your business, if handled appropriately.

The Last Word
When something negative is said about your business, don’t let it go. And, don't let your opponent have the last word. Never, never, never (Did I say never?) let a negative word go without a response in some fashion or form from you. No one will stick up for your business but you. Always find a way to fight back and set the record straight. It doesn’t have to be a tit for tat public battle. You can and should be creative with your responses. Make sure that your voice or side of the story is the last one the potential customer hears.

Admit Fault and Apologize
If you messed up, own it. If someone who works for you messed up, take responsibility. Apologize fully and make it right. Avoiding or denying a mistake will only make it worse and be detrimental to your business in the long run. In certain industries admitting fault is more nuanced and delicate, but in the wedding industry, admitting fault can set you free. It is hard to argue with someone who says, “I’m sorry.” Customers accept imperfection as long as you apologize and make it right. We are all human.

It Won’t Go Away
What doesn’t work is avoiding it and hoping that it will all just go away. If something goes wrong, come up with a plan to counter it and stick to the plan. Don’t just assume that time will heal the wounds. Even worse, don’t think that we are in the wedding industry and this won’t matter to a new set of clients coming in next year. With the Internet, comments and negativity live on. It is best to deal with them.

Pick Yourself Up and Move On
One bad story does not define your company. Mistakes happen. There will be more haters. Learn from it, fix it, move on and don't do it again. There are plenty of other mistakes to make!


JULIANNE SMITH worked in public relations for over ten years as a political communications strategist. She was a presidential appointee for then-President George W. Bush and the spokeswoman for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). She also served on the White House’s traveling advance team for then-Vice President Cheney. Prior to that, she worked on Capitol Hill for five years serving as the communications director for U.S. Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA-40) where she was responsible for all outreach to the media and the day-to-day interactions with the media. Juli now owns The Garter Girl, the world's leading source for stylish wedding garters, and has been featured on the Today Show, WeTV, Daily Candy and Lifetime, among others. She is also the founder of United With Love. You can follow her on Twitter at Garter Girl and United With Love.

Think Splendid will be offering insights and perspectives from Splendid Guests for the months of February and March while I am working in Africa