Well, here we are. And being here 3 years after the business started in our opinion is quite an accomplishment in the economic climate which we have all be subjected to over the last few years. So…
Image credit – farryfun.com
When I first thought about starting the business which was around 6 months before launch at end of September 2008 whilst you do get some positives from some people there is inevitably a lot of negativity surrounding the idea of starting a new venture, from scratch, when things are not so rosy in the world. However, I do am of the firm opinion that sometimes you just need to go for it! Now, I am not suggesting that people should do what I did and give up a regular and guaranteed income and throw all your eggs into one basket and take a huge risk – risk taking is not for everyone and I was in a fortunate position to retain a certain income from my previous career at the same time – but sometimes in life you do have to put your faith in yourself and go for it.
Its critical in any business that you take a long time to research and research again. There is no point in starting a business which no one is interested in if no one is going to buy from you – whether that’s a product or a service. You also have to spend a lot of time working out who your competitors are, who your ideal client is and how they are going to find you or how you are going to find them.
Don’t be keen to borrow or spend out too much money in the early days – people will be very keen however to take it from you! You will be inundated with calls from people wanting you to advertise with them and have listings with them for all kinds of directories and you need to think carefully about the audience you may reach with any kind of advertising and where your hard earned cash is going to be spent because in the early days your cash will be hard earned and there is not likely to be much of it in at least the first three years so be prepared for that!
Accept that you will make mistakes – we are only human. I made quite a few large ones in the early days I am not ashamed to admit – but make sure you only make it once – learn from it, don’t do it again and move on.
Always continue to educate yourself and learn. Running your own small businesses means that you are expected to be “jack of all trades” and expert in all areas from sales and marketing to client care, social media, accounting and oh actually “doing” the work that your business was designed for on top of all of that! You wont necessarily be able to pay to have the professionals on the job. Consider a trade exchange if you can with other businesses in a similar position to you. Look at what’s on offer free of charge. I have found the services of Business Link to be invaluable in the early days and although they are sadly no longer to be what they are now after November of this year they will still offer a limited service and there are other forms of education and free training available in all areas of running your business so look out for free networking events, courses and webinars and absorb it all.
Find a professional organisation connected with your business and think carefully about the advantages for you and your business for joining that organisation. I carried out some training and then gained membership with the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners (UKAWP) which has proved extremely important to join forces with like minded planners and has allowed regular training and networking with others in the business plus support in the event that you need to bounce ideas around with others in a similar position to you or bring others on board to help you on larger events.
Surround yourself with people you like to be with – go networking. Meet people. Get out there and get your business and yourself noticed and get people talking about you. Its definitely who you know not what you know so make friends and associates. I have been part of quite a few networking organisations from the outset and have found that some great contacts can be made. I retain a membership of two groups of Women In Business Network (WIBN) which are great networking groups to me a member of.
Melanie with the team at The Italian Villa at Compton Acres/ Beales Gourmet after hosting a corporate open day for them
Be careful with other competitors who may lead you up the garden path posing as a potential client / customer – you will get used to this in any new business and in no time they will stand out a mile off!
Most importantly of all though keep your head and be prepared to work long hours – probably more than you did before? It won’t feel the same though because you will be doing it for yourself!
So just what have we been up to over the last 3 years. Well – its been a fairly busy time! We have been lucky enough to work on an average of 12 weddings a year together with corporate events and I split the business just over a year ago between Bellissimo Weddings and Simply Events which concentrates purely on private and corporate event planning. We have worked on corporate open days, charity fundraising events, corporate staff parties, summer BBQs, birthday celebrations, anniversaries, organising trade and wedding shows, charity sporting events. I have also been asked to take part in various public speaking event both as an event planner and incorporating my other career as a lawyer which is always fun to do. Then came the TV project. Last year I filmed a 12 part series on wedding planning as a the presenter and its due to be screened later this year – that was great fun and watch out for the result! We have helped others on their events such as the charity Cupcake Camp Bournemouth we were asked to take part in this year. We have worked on a charity event for a charity rally, black tie dinners and balls, night club launches and the list goes on! It wasn’t envisaged when the business started that all different avenues would develop from an initial idea which was to provide the highest possible levels of service to people looking for someone to plan amazing weddings and events for them – so its interesting how things pan out!
We have been lucky enough to have been nominated and then reached the finals in the 2011 Langtry Manor Women in Business Awards and now we have been nominated for a Wedding Industry 2012 award for best wedding planner. How exciting to have your work recognised.
That leads me on to saying a huge thanks to a lot of people is due at this point who have helped to get the businesses to this point of success in time. There is a long way to go and the business is changing all the time and new avenues are coming our way and new angles to the business are seemingly always around the corner which makes the business exciting.
Team Bellissimo in early 2011 – Melanie with Frances and Kathryn on board for a show
Frances spent a year working with us on a placement from Bournemouth University Events Management degree and is now back at University completing her final year. Frances was a huge help to the business during her year and I know that she learned a great deal and a big thanks goes to her.
Good friends Stephanie and Debbie have helped out a lot in the early days supporting events and Stephanie donating her time and energy for public speaking engagements for us together with her huge knowledge on American events including baby and bridal showers.
Frances and Melanie in the early part of Fran’s placement
Image credit -clayphotography.co.uk
We have also been delighted to have Kathryn on board for larger weddings and more recently Natasha has joined the team to help out on event promotion and shows. We have huge support from our tried and trusted suppliers and venues who recommend us who put their faith in us to recommend us to their brides / clients for event planning services and long may this continue. We strive for perfection and hope to continue to deliver for as long as the business continues.
Melanie with good friends Stephanie and Debbie who have been a huge help and support in the first few years of business
My hubby Sean usually gets the brunt of everything that I can’t do, lift, fit in, manage – calls late at night during a long wedding to help load something or pick something up. Helping out standing on the door at shows or managing people. and I have say I couldn’t have done it without him in these first three years. Always a huge support in everything I do and always willing to help out with our events.
Sean and Melanie whilst working hard at a show
And to the future we go – with a lot of excitement on the horizon. New projects and contacts are under way and we are working on one really exciting project for next year – so watch this space and if you ever hear anyone tell you that they don’t just want a wedding but an amazing wedding – then be sure to tell them about Bellissimo and Simply Events – and as we say “don’t get married or have an event without us”…