I met Catherine Hall at a networking event awhile back, and I remember liking her immediately. She just has this gracefulness to her that is so admirable, and her calm, easygoing personality makes you feel extremely comfortable when conversing with her. In the few times that we met up to chat, I have learned so much from her already. She is a wealth of knowledge not just in the photography world, but also in the business and marketing world. Since her move from New York to the Bay Area seemed so smooth, I asked if she would share some tips on transitioning from one end of the country to the other as a business owner. Thank you Catherine!
Looking back, I think I was a little crazy. Why else would I have naively believed that transitioning my business from New York City to San Francisco would be a piece of cake? Sure, San Francisco had more potential for longevity than New York, and sure, I did miss my family. But my enthusiasm to return to the Bay overshadowed some important points—like the fact that all of my clients were on the East Coast—and I found that my expectations were dramatically different than reality. I hope sharing my transition experience will give those thinking of relocating some food for thought, and everyone else some great business building tips.
1. Expect the transition to be hard.
One of the biggest mistakes I made was assuming that transitioning would be easy. I thought I could just hop on a plane to San Francisco and have plenty of work upon landing. In reality, I had to start over completely. I spent the first year flying back to New York about once a month to maintain my clientele (and income!) while I became established in the Bay Area. I should have controlled my expectations and been prepared for the transition to be a journey, rather than a quick fix.
2. Research, research, research!
If you do nothing else, research the industry in your chosen location before you arrive! Find out who can help you get access to the clients you want. Use your connections as much as possible. Do you have an aunt who’s a florist? A friend from high school who’s now an event planner? I talked to family friends and scoured the Internet and Here Comes the Guide to find wedding coordinators who would have the type of clients I wanted, whose work I admire, and who would be a good fit to work with. I also researched venues that would attract the type of bride I was looking for, and other photographers at my price point.
3. Seek out networking opportunities.
After researching, I began contacting as many people as possible. I wrote letters to the wedding and venue coordinators introducing myself and asking for face-to-face meetings. I explained that while I was new to the area, I was not new to the industry, and needed help becoming established in a new area. I also asked for recommendations of other people to speak with and attended networking events hosted by Bay Area Wedding Network (BAWN) and the International Special Events Society (ISES). Before long, I had a list of vendors willing to help me, brides who were eager to work with me, and some great industry friends. It was also a HUGE help (and fun) having friends in the industry that offered me (and still provide) support, advice, and good company in a new area.
4. Play up your strengths.
Always try to highlight and use your best qualities. Are you a Web 2.0 guru? An expert blogger? Great at social interactions? Better in one-on-one settings? Figure out in what environment you really shine and use that knowledge to your advantage. For example, I’m a social person. I love talking with people and found that attending meetings, lunches, and networking events was a great way for me to strengthen industry relationships and meet new people.
5. Maintain the integrity of yourself, your products, and your service.
Sometimes when entering a new market, people lose sight of who they are and what they truly want. In their quest to fit in and gain clients, they may compromise the quality of their products or their level of service. However, long-term success depends on the way you treat everyone involved (brides, venue representatives, coordinators, etc.) and the product you deliver. I kept my overhead low (vs. cutting prices and sacrificing quality) so I could continue to deliver the quality that clients had come to expect of Catherine Hall Studios. It wasn’t fun keeping overhead low, but it was a sacrifice well worth the struggle.
Catherine will be one of our speakers at Wedding 360 PRO, together with Gene Higa who was named one of the top 10 photographers in the world!
I am really excited to feature our first guest blogger–Neil Adams of Blueprint Studio Collection. Neil is currently the President of ISES (San Francisco Chapter) so he’s definitely ‘in the know’ when it comes to the wedding industry. The company that he represents, Blueprint Studio Collection, is also a leader for furniture rental and I have had the pleasure of working with them on many beautiful weddings. Today, Neil going to give our readers some tips on using furniture items to create special spaces at your wedding. Thank you Neil!
First off, a huge thank you to Jubilee for asking me to contribute to her blog. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Jubilee several times over the years, and she’s top notch in my book! (She didn’t pay me to say that.) The topic she asked me to blog about is creating lounge settings for your wedding, which believe it or not, is becoming even more popular than ever.
Lounge furniture has become a fundamental rental element in a majority of today’s wedding receptions. It offers your guests alternative gathering and seating environments throughout the duration of your celebration. Furnishings are normally paired in groupings using a base amount of elements in a wide variety of styles and colors. For example, a basic lounge grouping consists of a sofa, coffee table, lounge chairs and/or ottomans and an area carpet. Seating between six to eight people per cluster, these furnishings will allow your guests to congregate in a less formal environment following a traditional seated meal and/or during dancing. Multiple furniture clusters are an ideal option for receptions with multiple food stations and cocktail style seating.
After you have an idea of how much furniture you’ll need, you’ll want to incorporate your design elements into your lounge environment (this is the really fun part). Some venues give you more of a “blank canvas” than others when it comes to design. It’s your vision that we want to help you execute, and lounge furnishings can certainly be an extension of that. Whether it’s a slick modern lounge, something more traditional, or an outdoor area, your lounge environment should reflect the experience you want to create and that you want your guests to enjoy. You have the choice to make it look the way you want it to look – you don’t have to settle for the venue’s existing furniture – make it special!
If you want to stir things up, you can create a fun bar and/or go with non-traditional dinner seating. Alternatives to linens and chiavari chairs are available, which is not only a way to incorporate different designs into your celebration, but also allow you to be “greener” and more eco-friendly without losing style. For example, banquettes are a way to create different dinner seating for your guests, and tables that don’t require linens can still provide you with a beautiful dining experience. In fact, we did an event with Jubilee, where we incorporated the Bride and Groom’s Monogram onto their cake table. Personalized stamps like that can also be tastefully incorporated into your bars, dining tables, and or lounges.
Incorporating your colors into your lounge designs is easy to do. If you have a certain color that you love – say fuschia, for example – it might be difficult to find a collection of sofas and chairs in that shade. That’s why most people choose white furniture for their lounges, because white absorbs your lighting design color the best. Adding accent pillows that are your wedding colors give the lounges the extra pop that bring your vision together. Bars can also be illuminated in your colors, which will make even more complete your celebration’s design.
Lastly, if you’ve always had a dream of having a special cake table, or bar, escort card display, etc. at your celebration - you can have that. We’ve built all these pieces for couples in the past, and while they’re not items you might find in normal rental inventories – it never hurts to ask, “can we get this?” Jubilee knows where to go to get you the special element that will set your wedding apart from everyone else’s. It’s your day, and everyone wants you to have all the comfort, beauty, fun and enjoyment you deserve. Cheers!
Our next Wedding 360 for engaged couples will take place on January 31, 2010 at the Four Seasons Hotel Silicon Valley. In order to make it even better than our inaugural event this year, much effort is being devoted to the early preparations by our team, including the professors! We have read the student evaluations over and over again, to truly understand what it is they loved most about our event and which areas had room for improvement. We took those evaluations seriously!
Here are some images of our Beauty + Attire team, Armando of Get Your Do Up and Gabby of Gabrielle’s Bridal Atelier, working diligently to prepare for the next event. They brought in one of the models from the Wedding University to test out some styling options, and we did a small photoshoot at the Four Seasons with Janae Shields who is our wonderful event photographer. For the January event, Armando and Gabby will include in their presentation some fabulous styling tips for brides. We recognize that it is not easy to move around gracefully in a wedding dress, with your makeup and hair all made up, so we want to offer you some suggestions on how to do that naturally. That will just be a small part of their presentation, as they have a ton of other great tips to share to make sure every bride looks and act stunningly on their wedding day!
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Welcome to the official blog for Wedding 360! Formerly known as The Wedding University, we have spent the last 6 months working with an amazing branding agency, Elephant, to create a new identity for ourselves. After the smashing success of the inaugural Wedding University, we realized that our passion was in producing fun, elegant events that would educate and inspire brides, grooms, and wedding professionals. The name Wedding 360 expresses the broad scope and well rounded perspective that we want to bring to our educational events. Our website will be ready to launch in just a few weeks! This blog will serve as a continual medium to get educational information to our readers for all wedding-related things. We will be featuring a lot of exceptional guest bloggers who are all experts in their field that are eager to share knowledge with our readers.