Expert Insights with @AliPhillipsMonday, March 24, 2014
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
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.