The Splendid Five asks the same five questions of a different wedding or creative professional each Friday.
Today, we’re meeting Belle Manjong, an attorney-turned-wedding professional. Belle offers wedding planning and floral design services and also owns a retail bridal boutique in downtown Charleston, West Virginia.
Name: Belle Manjong
Company Name: Boutique by B.Belle Events
Wedding Industry Segment: Bridal Fashion Retail / Wedding Planning + Floral
Years in Industry: 13
Location: Charleston, West Virginia
1. How did you get started in the wedding industry?
I began in the industry as an event planner. As an associate at a large corporate law firm that stressed community service and engagement, I sat on a number of boards of non-profit organizations. I found myself gravitating toward fundraising events, particularly the formal galas. With the assistance of committee members, the first gala chaired was the most successful in the fifty plus years of the organization and very well received. In fact, I has hired for my first wedding event at that gala. After years of moonlighting, I left the legal profession to in order to fully commit myself to event planning which I found far more fulfilling. Seven years ago, we added a floral department and five years ago, added an experiential bridal boutique.
2. How has the industry changed since you started?
The industry has far may more options. As far as innovations, it is constantly changing with new, fresher, more exciting ideas and production. However, the saturation of the market and lack of need of accreditation of any sort means the prevalence of fly-by-night operations is even greater. I feel that with each passing year, there are new layers and ideas brides and grooms can incorporate into their special day: from invitations; wedding gowns, suits and tuxes; to food options; design and decor. There is always a new, interesting twist that can be brought to the table.
3. What was the biggest lesson you learned early on in your business?
You are only as good as your most recent event. This is not an industry in which one rests on their laurels — the envelope is constantly being pushed and one can always do better. Ideas are plentiful, mastery and execution make all the difference. It’s an industry of love and people: if one does it only because they think its fun and can make lots of money without recognition of the human element, the humanity, one will surely fail or be miserable working in the industry.
4. What is the biggest lesson you've learned in the past few years?
Only your clients truly matter — do great work, remain humble, and constantly push to do and better for your client — and if they are happy you will always be able to do what you love. People genuinely want to be helpful and they do so with referrals and become your ambassador. Also, being yourself and infusing yourself is everything — avoid copying — take great ideas and make them your own with your own twist.
5. What one piece of advice would you give to another entrepreneur on sticking it out in a competitive industry?
Success is slow and steady. You determine your personal success, and if you base it on the content of your bank account, you may never fully succeed in the conventional way that success is defined. For me, I have learned that what is most important is about being significant. Was I a significant force to my clients, to someone? Did I help someone realize a dream or vision in a way that they will always treasure it?
Also, look over your shoulder, not to compete, but to better yourself. You are your most valuable asset, no one can be you or have your ideas.