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Not listening to my professors: A success story

Now before I get too far with this, let me just clarify that I can hear the big ole “I told you so” from my mama as I type this. You see, for me to admit that I ever did anything against my teacher’s recommendation, would basically make the high school version of myself shudder at the mere suggestion.

I was as type A as they come-- taking AP classes and extra credit opportunities whenever possible, attending SAT camp over the summer to better equip myself for standardized testing-- I was a big ole nerd yall! When I got to college I lightened up a little, but not by much. But as I was nearing the end of my time at UNCW, there was something that I felt like all of my professors were saying over and over again, which was everyone wants to be an event planner when they graduate, so good luck finding a job.

Now I don’t know about yall, but I have always been oddly motivated by someone telling me that I couldn’t do something. So while I accepted a job working for the college in my hometown after graduation, the idea that I couldn’t get the job I wanted was something that I just couldn’t shake.

Over the next few years, I had friends and family members ask me to assist with aspects of their weddings or special events, and before long, my business had taken on a life of its own. Once I started booking clients that were strangers however, I had another decision to make and that was, how do I interact with new potential clients?

If I went back and listened to my professors from college, they would tell me to start each email with “Dear Sir or Madame” and attend each consultation in a business suit-- let’s all take a minute to laugh.

I spent the first few months sending emails that were way more formal than I would ever typically talk, and then would show up for coffee with my potential clients in no makeup with a big ole “Hey girl!” and would watch them look at me like I had grown a third eye. Needless to say, that tactic didn’t last too long.

The more I worked with my clients that first year, I realized that the weddings I had the most fun doing were ones where I had built genuine relationships, rather than being hyper-focused on how professional I was. So I switched things up. I began sharing more of who I was with both my clients and those following me on social media, and things began to change. I was booking clients that started as strangers and ended as friends.

If there is one thing I learned while being engaged it was that I didn’t need one more person being formal with me. What I needed was someone who was on my side. Someone who I could vent to when my caterer didn’t email me back, or my florist made a bouquet based around what she liked, rather than what I requested. And if that’s what I wanted, I figured that there have to be other brides who want the same thing.

The truth is, there’s no one foolproof method that will make you successful. But at the end of the day, what is working for me is the exact opposite of what my professors recommended years before. That’s not to say that my professors did not give me an excellent education that prepared me for “the real world”. My point is, that one person’s method may work wonders for their business, and totally backfire in another's.

I think the most important thing to take away as a business owner is knowing your ideal client and what they will respond to. While that may be something formulaic and professional, for me it’s about being casual and honest. Whatever your tactic is, just make sure that it is genuine.

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