Opening a Wedding Planning Studio

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The decision to open a public storefront office or studio space is one that many wedding planners go back and forth over. Determining whether or not it is an appropriate solution or goal for your specific business model is an important part of planning for the future of your company.

My friend Lisa Konecny from E-Events in Orlando recently opened a new studio and I asked her to share a little bit about the pros and cons behind that decision:

Please share a little about your new studio:
My new “home” is a very simple 412 square foot (talk about getting creative with design!) studio in a sweet little building in the heart of Winter Park, Florida. I’m on the second floor with a nice little balcony, have access to a common-area courtyard which will be lovely for outdoor meetings when it’s not quite so hot. Every other business in the building is accounting or mortgage companies and realtors. I think they are getting a kick out of me being there. And, of course, now everyone wants a soiree!

wedding planner office
{This was right after I negotiated having the wood laminate floors put down instead of the “standard office carpet" they proposed in the lease. Standard? That’s not how I roll!! See - negotiate, negotiate, and negotiate!}

Is this your first space?
Yes and no. I had another office space prior to this one, but was renting from a photographer and was not the lease holder. This is my first “big girl” space!

Have you always wanted a brick and mortar space of your own to meet clients?
Honestly? Yes. Still dreaming and working for bigger and better, though!

office for wedding planner
{French doors leading out to balcony}

Was it a part of your plan from the beginning? 
Most definitely. Dream big, people! (Or at least 412 square feet worth!)

Where did you meet clients or potential clients at before? 
My home. I work extremely hard at keeping my personal and professional life as separate as possible. My children were constantly being asked to be as quiet as possible, my husband summoned to the back room to work (he has a home office) and the dogs could potentially sit there and share with their legs crossed waiting for me to be done with my consultations or meetings. I felt like they were making all of the compromises. Then, I tried the Starbucks thing and, quite frankly, I think I suffered from sensory overload (coffee grinders, caffeine addicts and other business meetings being conducted simultaneously: oh my!). Many of my wedding planner friends go to the prospective client’s home and it works extremely well for them.

What are some of the advantages of having your own office space or some of the "pros" you weighed while making this decision?
I love the advantage of having prospective clients, existing clients and their families and business partners come into a space that I have designed specifically for them to feel warm and welcome and that is completely representative of me and what I have to offer. I also enjoy having space that is dedicated to the business where I can be my most productive with little distraction from my “real life”.

What are some of the disadvantages to having your own space or some of the "cons" you weighed while making this decision?
In a word: OVERHEAD!

Do you feel it has helped your perceived value? Why or why not? 
I absolutely feel there is a perceived value. I feel it lends credibility to what I do and what I propose to do for clients. I get constant feedback from them that they, too, feel focused and an increased sense of confidence while visiting the office. I guess the perception is that if I am going to keep on shelling out the cash for the space, I’d better “bring it”! Talk about accountability!

I have also regarded my office space to be the best advertising I’ve ever invested in. I have consequently dropped some advertising I felt was not yielding its return, and continue to feel that the office space has been exceeding those expectations.

What other advice would offer to wedding planners considering owning or leasing their own office space?
There are so many things to consider before making this “leap of financial faith”.  Do your homework and see what the total cost will be out of pocket to assume such a responsibility and definitely weigh the pros and cons.  It’s not just about the monthly rent. There is insurance, utilities, taxes, additional assessments, Internet access, etc.  It’s not for everyone and it may not be right now.  After the homework, simple goals can be fun: “How many weddings will it take to cover the space for the year”?

I did so much research and brought my negotiating skills to the table in the end. Don’t be afraid to propose that you will be an asset to any rental space. Reading the excellent posts on The Smart Planner can also further prepare you for “the business of being in business.”

Also, ask around! If seriously interested, share space with someone and share the overall expense. Use an online shared calendar to avoid any scheduling conflicts or designate specific days and times where each of you have reserved to work.

Here is a taste of what the studio looks like now:

wedding planner in orlando

And here is a slideshow from Abby Liga of Liga Photography of their Glitz. Glamour. Reveal. grand opening soiree the other evening with more photos of the freshly styled studio:

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