Meet the Planners :: Laura AuerFriday, June 13, 2008
Soiree Special Events
Number of Years in Business: 3
How did you get started in wedding planning?
Do you want the short story or the long story? Here's the long one...
I started my love affair with customer service in high school! I was the youngest front desk agent at the Hilton where I grew up and worked there every summer when home from college. I decided that I got a kick out of making people happy but wasn't thrilled about standing behind a desk for 40 hours a week. At that hotel I switched gears and got some banquet serving experience. I essentially waited tables for the parties, weddings, and meetings held at the hotel. My love affair with special events began.
Originally my purpose was to be a hotel catering manager so I found a school that offered a four-year hospitality degree (James Madison University if you're in the market). I picked up a concentration in special events and meeting planning so my coursework revolved around the events industry. While at school my boyfriend proposed and I entered the world of weddings. My, what a marvelous world it was for a newly engaged girl! Being the obsessive-compulsive and detail-oriented person that I am, I did as much research as I could on weddings in DC. I must have visited at least 30 separate wedding venues and met with 10 caterers. I never thought that the spreadsheets and vendor packets would come in handy but I saved them anyway.
Between my junior and senior year at JMU we were expected to find a 'management internship.' I had done that the year prior since the hotel made me a manager on duty at the front desk. Interested in figuring out what I really wanted to do with my life, I decided to try building a company. That first summer I had four weddings booked. All of them were free in exchange for positive reviews on a local wedding message board. Over the next year I put up a website, bought business cards, did as much free marketing as I could, and booked 19 clients. I believe my most expensive fee that year was $250! Three years later we are a team of twelve with 10 planners in DC, one in Charlottesville, VA, and one in Los Angeles. We plan to expand to San Diego and New York soon and work with approximately 50-60 brides every year. It's fun to look back and see how the company has grown!
If you had to start over what one thing would you do differently?
I would have created my company as an incorporation instead of a limited liability company. I'm considering making the switch although it means a lot of time, effort, and dollars. I should've had a better idea of where my company was going. Hindsight is 20/20, isn't it?
What's your favorite item in your emergency kit?
SAFETY PINS! They seem to be the top seller at every wedding. Brides always tend to have their bustles pulled out and those little pins are a lifesaver every time.
What is the best piece of business advice you've ever received?
"Work on your business, not in it." My ultimate goal is to run the company . . . not to plan weddings. It'll be a while until I can get there but it's the real key to any business' success.
What two people (past or present) would you have as guests at a dinner party
Leonardo DaVinci always fascinated me. His mind worked in a unique way and I can't imagine what a conversation over dinner would be like. Hopefully in this fictional fantasy I also magically know how to speak Italian. The other person would have to be my husband. I tell him everything, so that way I wouldn't have to describe everything later on!
What are your three favorite blogs besides thesmartplanner.com?
Oy . . . this is the hardest question of them all! I am addicted to my Google Reader and have 94 subscriptions. No joke. The top three that I read every day are What Junebug Loves!, [b]ecker's blog, and Glamour This!.