Splendid Guests

The Splendid Five with the Founder of Plum Pretty Sugar

The Splendid Five asks the same five questions of a different wedding or creative professional each Friday.

Today we’re meeting Charlotte Hale, who dreamt up and created the ‘getting ready’ category of bridal and bridesmaid fashion apparel when she founded Plum Pretty Sugar in 2009.

Name: Charlotte Hale
Company Name: Plum Pretty Sugar
Wedding Industry Segment: Bridal Fashion
Years in Industry: 9
Location: Southern California
Website: plumprettysugar.com
Instagram: @plumprettysugar

New release available at    BHLDN   .

New release available at BHLDN.

1. How did you get started in the wedding industry?

When I created Plum Pretty Sugar almost a decade ago, in 2009, I originally concepted it as a lifestyle brand that focused on sleepwear, home décor, and eventually apparel. I knew from a previous business I had that robes would be integral to the sleepwear portion of the company. Keeping in mind that bridal ‘getting ready’ didn’t exist – there weren’t any bridesmaid robes, bridesmaids pajamas, bridal robes – I strategically set out to determine product use categories wherein women could potentially wear robes. I dug in and came out with a new idea: brides the morning of their wedding and bridesmaids!

The marketer in me intrinsically knew I could create a new usage while also expanding the wedding festivities into a morning prep period. I believed I could create and maximize opportunities for friendship, family, and bonding that would be well-received by brides. And so started what is now the bridal getting ready category within the wedding industry. 

Photo by    Jon Cu

Photo by Jon Cu

2. How has the industry changed since you started?

The wedding and bridal industry has changed drastically since Plum Pretty Sugar began in 2009. Ten years ago the industry centered around bridal magazines, bridal books, and less than ten blogs. Social media was limited to Facebook which wasn’t used for business at the time and it pre-dated the rise of influencer. 2018 is a different landscape entirely.

The bridal client is also extremely different. She is primarily a millennial and her desires and expectations are disparate to the Gen Xer that proceeded her. She grew up in a socially networked world and seeks and discovers information about all things, including her wedding, differently.

She also consumes it differently. Her wedding is meant very often for the public eye and the connections she’s fostered throughout social media and she therefore seeks products and experiences for reasons we couldn’t have imagined a decade ago. Therein we see both the product and experiential trends that feed this consumption.

It’s been interesting to be a part of it. Often as a CEO I don’t realize it’s changing until we look back. We’re so accustomed to change at Plum Pretty Sugar, it is nearly routine. And that’s what makes it exciting.

3. What was the biggest lesson you learned early on in your business?

There have been so many lessons but the one that still stands out, mainly because I’m still working on it, is managing criticism, dis-believers, trolls, and unkind people in general. When you start a business, and develop a category especially, there are many naysayers who don’t understand and are unable or unwilling to see the vision, or are, frankly, just mean. I’ve learned to surround myself with a team that protects me, which in turn allows me to move the brand vision and the company forward without being halted by ill will. With that comes a knowing of clearly understanding my strengths, my weaknesses, and pushes me to define and right them within the company directive.

The Plum Pretty Sugar office. Photo by    Taylor Cole

The Plum Pretty Sugar office. Photo by Taylor Cole

4. What is the biggest lesson you've learned in the past few years?

I have learned to trust. I’ve learned to allow others in and to let them spread their wings and their voice and really develop their skill set within Plum Pretty Sugar. I’ve learned to look at the business through their lens and in doing so have it has both challenged me and the business to become stronger in perhaps ways I hadn’t initially thought or predicted. I’ve also learned that I as a human, a business owner, a wife, and a mom . . . I can only do so many things. That I do have a maximum regardless of the ongoing lists, ideas, and opportunities in my mind’s eye and on paper. I’ve learned to prioritize and to delegate and to let others soar with them.

Photo by    Jose Villa

Photo by Jose Villa

5. What one piece of advice would you give to another entrepreneur on sticking it out in a competitive industry?

I think all industries these days are competitive. It’s a normal part of doing business. The idea, the thinking, and the stress around “competitive” I don’t believe will get you anywhere. I recommend staying true to your vision – but first having a vision . . . an authentic, non copycat vision – and following it through. Make thoughtful decisions, listen to your gut, don’t get side tracked. Be honest with yourself about what you’re seeking to achieve and what’s working and what’s not. What works for you may be entirely different than someone else. Stay on course. Focus and be kind.

The Splendid Five with a Wedding Boutique Owner in West Virginia

The Splendid Five asks the same five questions of a different wedding or creative professional each Friday.

Photo by    Keith Cephus

Photo by Keith Cephus

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
Website: bbelleevents.com
Instagram: @boutiquebybelle

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.  

Promo film for The Boutique by B.Belle Events by Filmanatixclick here to view film if reading via RSS or email subscription

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.

Keyshia Ka’oir’s    bridal party in    Christopher Paunil    gowns from The Boutique by B.Belle Events.

Keyshia Ka’oir’s bridal party in Christopher Paunil gowns from The Boutique by B.Belle Events.

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. 

The Splendid Five with a Luxury Wedding Planner in Thailand

The Splendid Five asks the same five questions of a different wedding or creative professional each Friday.

This week we’re meeting Nipunika Singh (left, pictured with Kripa Singh), founder of Élan Events by Nipunika, a luxury wedding planning and design firm based in Thailand and specializing in destination weddings.

Name: Nipunika Singh
Company Name: Élan Events by Nipunika
Wedding Industry Segment: Wedding Planning and Design
Years in Industry: 10
Location: Bangkok, Thailand
Website: elanebn.com
Instagram: @elan_ebn

The destination wedding of actress    Amrita Puri    and Imrun Sethi.

The destination wedding of actress Amrita Puri and Imrun Sethi.

1. How did you get started in the wedding industry?

What started as a leisurely hobby turned into a full business! Always being an aesthete, I had a knack for dressing and decorating spaces. Friends and acquaintances were quick to notice this and many asked me to help stylize their family weddings. Soon after, clients began reaching out to me. When I realized how much I enjoyed designing decor it evolved into a full time profession and just like that, Élan Events was founded. 

At a wedding in Phuket, this custom mandap was covered with hundreds of tiny mirrors to reflect the sparkle of the sun and water.

At a wedding in Phuket, this custom mandap was covered with hundreds of tiny mirrors to reflect the sparkle of the sun and water.

2. How has the industry changed since you started?

Expectations have increased as everyone's visions have widened. With social media, many wedding blogs, and Pinterest, everyone has access to more. This means all our clients request more variety and want to explore many options before settling for their wedding design. All our brides are also more particular about selecting something different for themselves in an interest stand apart. 

Bollywood singer    Mika Singh    entertaining wedding guests during cocktails.

Bollywood singer Mika Singh entertaining wedding guests during cocktails.

3. What was the biggest lesson you learned early on in your business?

As a creative person, you instinctively want to give your imagination free reign. It becomes easy to get carried away when working on designs and you want to conveniently overlook that everyone always has a budget. 

As important as it is to be able to cater to what your clients want and more, it's also very important to be realistic with them and not overcommit or else you'll end up promising one thing and delivering another. I learnt this the hard way, but over the years I've become very clear and conscious of what we promise our couples so that each one can eventually say "we got so much more than we even expected." 

Sehar and Husnell’s destination wedding in Bangkok, filmed by Doodle Studioclick here to view the film if reading via RSS or email subscription

4. What is the biggest lesson you've learned in the past few years?

Sometimes your bride will have a completely different vision to yours. At first this would make me want to change theirs or go and meditate but now I've learnt that nothing is more important than giving your bride what she wants for her day. It's about guiding her and finding a way to marry her vision with your style. 

The minimalistic mandap design allowed the natural beauty of the island’s beaches to shine.

The minimalistic mandap design allowed the natural beauty of the island’s beaches to shine.

5. What one piece of advice would you give to another entrepreneur on sticking it out in a competitive industry?

There is a fine line between being accommodating and being pushed over. Planning and designing a wedding is a very personalized process involving many emotions and as important as it is to be sensitive towards your couples and their families, it is also important that they treat you with the same respect and level of trust. 

Don't compromise on your integrity, don't slash your prices to compete with others, and don't make promises you can't keep. 

Stay inspired, stay focused, stay positive!