“If you have never lost your mind, you have not followed your heart.”
This statement resonates with me more today, than ever before in my professional career. On the eve of our thirteenth anniversary in the weddings industry, I am reflective of all that has been accomplished, but looking forward to what I have yet to complete in my pursuit of design and its profound effect on my life at 33 years of age. Many of us have designed a life based on our passions, past experiences, aspirations, and circumstances. Yet, I am always left thinking, “what’s next?”. Today, I am contemplating the spirit of free thinking and creative thought, the freedom of expression, and the privileges of entrepreneurism.
Thirteen years ago, at our family’s dining room table, we began chatting about a small business in the weddings industry. We aspired to develop a design firm that would be respected for its design integrity, ethical business practices, client care, and creativity. Our company’s truly humble beginnings and grassroots approach has been a lesson in patience, passion driven dedicstion, financial management, and remaining focused. The entrepreneurial journey has tested my family and I countless times. I have made multiple business errors, experienced illness and exhaustion, and doubted my ambition EVERY year. What continues to bring me back full circle? I have realized that I have something more to share – a somewhat greater purpose. I want to be impactful through my art.
Cheers to many more years of growth, development, and success -no matter where my passion(s) takes me.
After a wonderful season of beautiful weddings, I am now beginning to refocus my business by initiating the implementation of my goals and objectives for the 2015 wedding season. As an event designer, I am constantly in search of the harmony that marries my love for design with the realities of being a business owner. Although I have been designing weddings for almost twelve years now, it is only in recent years that I am beginning to fully grasp the importance of this balance towards the health of my business.
For those of you who follow my blog frequently, I speak about balance often because it is essential in understanding how your business is positioned in the hierarchy of your time. Understanding ‘balance’ has been the catalyst for change in my business, my business practices, client relations, and more personally –my growth and development as an individual. I began working on my business when I was 21 years old. As my business grew, so did my journey into adulthood. I learned from my business the necessary skills to be an effective entrepreneur and increasingly important -how to navigate through life situations and take ownership of your own journey. Two years ago, I made the decision to command my own journey and began a series of ‘evolutions’ in my business and personal life (www.parasevents.ca/lifting-weights).
I am only a few days away from travelling to the beautiful Cayman Islands in the Caribbean for the Engage Luxury Wedding Business Summit (www.engage14.net) produced by Engaging Concepts (www.engagingconcepts.com). It will be my first trip to the Caribbean, so I look forward to the white sand beaches and sparkling turquoise ocean. This year, I will be a ‘triple-baller’ as they say at Engage –something that I am truly proud of as it is representative of my growth and maturity as an event professional and my degree of accountability to my business and myself. I have learned that Engage is an investment in myself, my business, and my ‘livelihood’ as an event entrepreneur.
The Engage experience required a tremendous amount of courage for the serial introvert that I am. Attending Engage put me completely out of my comfort zone. I did not know anyone at the time and I was very intimidated by the idea of being with those that do the same and do it extremely well. I knew that Engage was the experience that I required to move my business and personal development further, but like many, the fear of acceptance clouded my vision. It is often said, “your light shines brightest outside your comfort zone”. Attending Engage was just the experience I required to begin my personal transformation.
Engage has taught me to:
1) Be Real. People want to meet the real you. They want to know about your personal journey. They want to get to know who you are and what makes you different. Engage is a three day celebration of creative event professionals and our industry. Trying to ‘fit-in’ at Engage is not the approach. Instead, foster new friendships, learn from your mentors, and embrace the change of thought that Engage encourages (whilst remaining true to yourself and your values and beliefs).
2) Be Open. There is no other forum like that of the Engage experience. It is a platform for the exchange of ideas, perspectives, and thought processes. Remain open and absorb the information. Take the education you have acquired and apply it to your local region/market. Often, when we are in search of revolution, it takes the strength of an entire industry to make the change. Continue to share your perspectives, embrace collaboration, and be open to change. I am always intrigued by the words of Sean Low. He forces us to accept the changes that many of us resist or are not willing to accept about our businesses.
3) You are in charge of your own transformation. Over time, I have learned that the degree of effort I exert, often results in an increasingly satisfying outcome towards what I desire. Engage is no exception to this. Knowing fully well that I can be uncomfortable in social situations, I must become my own cheerleader and push forward through my personal insecurities and ensure that I am truly experiencing all the opportunities that exist at Engage. The opportunities to network, to learn, to explore, and to have fun. If you have made a personal commitment to transformation, Engage is a wonderful starting point to encourage and motivate you to your greatest potential.
4) Be fearless. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to someone new -perhaps one of your mentors or someone who you look up to in the industry. Many are open and willing to share and will embrace you with open arms. At Engage, I met others who not only do the same, but also experience the same challenges and triumphs of being an event professional. There is much comfort in knowing that you are not alone. This is our collective common ground. Being an event designer myself, I tend to gravitate towards other designers as we speak a similar ‘language’ and can relate to each other. Think of Engage as three people and not 300, as a family reunion and not a conference, and as a journey not a destination.
Engage has increased my confidence, expanded my knowledge base, broadened my network, and has been the much needed ‘facilitator’ of change I required to revitalize my business. Through Engage, I have met some wonderful people who I continue to stay in touch with and have afforded me some wonderful life experiences. I look forward to #Engage14 and another unforgettable experience in paradise.
Have a wonderful week!
“As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas can often be better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” –Amy Poehler
Collaboration is one of the most important fundamentals of business in today’s networked economy. Embracing collaboration has allowed me to become an effective event professional, business owner, and nurtured my development as an individual. Personally, the idea of collaboration has always been quite natural to me. I grew up in a school system that fostered team work, group projects, and working towards a common goal. I participated regularly in extra-curricular activities as it gave me a sense of belonging to something ‘greater’, but more importantly, it gave me the ‘team’ atmosphere that I thrived within. I have a deeply rooted passion for the creative and collaborative process. The idealists, thought leaders of our world, and the influencers of today’s society rely heavily on the collaborative process to fuel growth and innovation. It happens to be an essential ingredient to the millennial generation.
As an event entrepreneur, my business relies solely on the collaboration of my key event suppliers and the collaborative process. My event productions would not be realized without their unique talents, various skill sets, levels of experience, and degree of professionalism. Leading with ‘vision’ fosters a collaborative approach that considers all perspectives and possibilities that potentially may go unnoticed. Collaboration in the events industry is essential.
In the early stages of my business, I did not fully understand the importance of collaboration. I allowed my insecurities as a designer and business owner to dictate whom I interacted with and my ability to share and remain open. As I matured into adulthood, so did my business. Creating a network of professionals that supported me, believed in me, and encouraged my vision -transformed my business. I built a community of professionals that I trust, respect, and confide in. Collaboration went beyond business -the process created lasting friendships.
Attending industry events and participating in industry organizations strengthened (and broadened) my network. The industry professionals I had the pleasure of meeting shared business and personal values that aligned with my own. They became my sound board for the challenges I was facing as a business owner and gave me the sense of ‘community’ that I longed for. My greatest friendships in the industry began by attending industry conferences. Spending a few days with fellow event professionals allowed me to form close bonds with those that do the same. I had the opportunity to meet my mentors and benefit from their vast experience. Many of these conferences had a trade show component which allowed me to broaden my supplier base and core network. I was able to align with businesses and supply chains that otherwise may have been out of reach.
Collaboration is a key component to running an event business. The top events in the world are collaborative productions. Never has it been more important to embrace collaboration within your company culture than it is today. Forming these partnerships will propel your event business to new heights and reveal your greatest potential.
“We need to realize that our path to transformation is through our mistakes. We’re meant to make mistakes, recognize them, and move on to become unlimited.” -Yehuda Berg
It’s September! The ‘thick’ of wedding season seems to be over and once again the pace seems to be at a more manageable place (or at least that is the sentiment amongst my colleagues, at the moment). So many brand new projects on the go, new weddings in development, and preparations in full swing for 2015. September has always been a month of ‘new beginnings’ for me, personally. I become somewhat reflective at this time of year. I think about what worked this particular wedding season, what I could have improved upon, and how I may continuously keep my level of service high to my clients. September has always been a natural time of year for transition.
A lot has changed for me over the past year. The most significant being the ‘beta’ year within my new business model -a brand new design process, operations model, fee structure, revamped production practices, and the diversification of my business. Over the course of the year, I also established exclusive partnerships with some amazing event companies to increase the breadth of services I could offer to my clients. Becoming a design consultant was perhaps the most profound career decision I made for myself. It was the best way for me to manage my business and my personal life simultaneously.
Given that I have been in a state or transformation and transition since the beginning of the year, I wanted to provide some clarity to all of you with respects to where my business is today and what it will become moving forward.
1). Making the tough decisions. I began to weigh all my options in late 2013. I wasn’t happy with the direction my business was heading and my role within it. I began to contemplate working as a freelance designer, join another design firm, or completely change my career. I was at a point where I was just ‘done’. I wanted out and I felt I could no longer continue in this profession because I simply did not enjoy the ‘operations’ of running a business any longer. The business had become much larger than me and I was feeling very overwhelmed. I soon began a transition towards simplicity. In fact, I made a pledge to honour simplicity. Going ‘back to basics’ allowed my entrepreneurial spirit and passion for design to shine. I lifted the proverbial weights I was carrying as a business owner (www.parasevents.ca/lifting-weights).
2). The Design Process. Becoming a design consultant required me to change my design process and the methods in which I was managing and operating my business. Earlier this year, I began to scale back my company’s operations by eliminating 2500 square feet of warehousing, selling portions of my inventory, and parting with some of my key staff (this was the most difficult for me). I employed a revitalized fee structure by limiting my services to only design coordination and design production. I was no longer going to operate as a full service decorating firm. The result was a new business model based on limiting overheads and a fee structure that compensated me for my skills, education, experience, creativity, time, and overall design aesthetic. It would take years of encouragement from my mentors to make this important change to the business. Paras Events is now positioned as a design consulting firm.
3). Priorities. Two years ago, I was approached with the opportunity to write a book. Excitedly, I began work on the visual content and writing immediately. Over the course of one year however, my business had changed, how I felt about my business had changed, and ultimately, I had changed. I could no longer write about what my publisher had requested. I was not the same person and it came down to my personal and professional integrity. Consequently, I walked away from this opportunity. I hope to return to this exciting project again in the next few years once I become more comfortable in my ‘new role’ and my ‘new skin’. I want to write about my experiences as a designer, share my aesthetic with others, but ultimately leave a lasting impression.
I have always believed that the true test of our character and resilience in any life experience is the way we are able to navigate through it. This does not mean that I do not have my fair share of ‘breakdowns’, emotional instability, and/or business oversights. By no means do I have it all figured out. I am self-aware enough today to distinguish what will continue to be a driving force in my life and what brings me the most happiness. It is a constant exercise in editing your life. I speak tirelessly about balance because it is essential in our profession. Returning to a balanced lifestyle has been the single most transformational experience throughout the entire transition of my business -and my life.
Have a wonderful weekend everyone!
PS – I have a Twitter party coming up in November! Stay tuned to my social channels!
“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” -Seth Godin
It has been quite a while since my last blog entry. Almost two months actually. I can say with much confidence that the proverbial ‘weights’ have been lifted -or at least I am getting closer and closer each week.
For many, the ‘weights’ of life are the daily stresses, responsibilities, and circumstances that we carry with us. Some weights heavier than others -and unfortunately some so debilitating that they completely weight us down. I asked myself two years ago, what had to change in my life? How was I going to bring the ‘fun’ back? Where did the happiness that life once handed to me, go? I got so caught up in the ‘future’, that the journey became insignificant to me, but worse, I was not taking the time to enjoy the present…and just LIVE.
In the events industry (and as entrepreneurs), it is hard to not look to the future. We all have goals and daily/weekly/yearly objectives with our businesses and personal lives. For many of us, it is difficult to forecast years ahead because sometimes the events are not coming in or don’t come in soon enough to employ any forecasting model satisfactorily. We are forced to look to the future constantly to protect the life and health of our business (and in some cases, our livelihood). We happen to also be in a business where we are expected to manage people and their expectations. As an event professional, I carry my own weights, but sometimes we are put into positions where we are also forced to carry the weights of our clients.
Many of you (especially my close industry friends) have witnessed my transition over the last two years. There have been many days and nights when I was ready to give up. I was feeling so overwhelmed that I began to hate my business. I resented that my business took me away from spending time with my family and friends, going on vacations, or just simple things like going to see a movie. At the same time, however, my love for design and ‘pretty’ remained unwavering. Something had to change and it took two years of trial and error to get there.
I tried changing my business model, scaling back the number of events my firm handles, diversifying my business, and streamlining my operations. Nothing seemed to be working. At the core, something didn’t seem right. The above seemed like ‘band-aid’ solutions. The weights just got heavier and heavier -year after year- and it seemed like there was no way out.
I switched focus away from my business and began to focus more on myself. For ten years, everything revolved around the business and its growth. It seemed like there was no time for personal indulgence. How could I run a successful business when I myself was so unstable?
This is how I coached myself through it (and continue to do so):
1) Attend empowering conferences, summits, and motivational events. Listening to the success stories of others, their journey’s, and the challenges and triumphs they have faced motivates me beyond anything else. One of the best things I did for myself was attend the Engage Luxury Wedding Business Summit. I was around other professionals who understood me, embraced me as their own, and became my sound-board for the frustration I was feeling. There is much comfort in knowing that you are not alone.
2) Schedule weekly activities that I enjoy and are not work related. I love to bike, go to Zumba, and watch movies. By scheduling ‘me’ time, I no longer resented being in front of the computer working late hours. There was much contentment in knowing that I come first and the business comes second –and that the business would still continue to thrive. It became an exercise in efficiency and refining my operations and processes.
3) Establish my accountability partners. Simon T. Bailey asked me to choose my accountability partner. Today, I have over four accountability partners who keep me motivated and in turn I do the same for them. We empower each other to make the changes we want for ourselves in life. My accountability partners are committed to me and my success (just like I am for them). I see this as a form of giving and self development with limitless positive affect.
4) Understand my limits. Probably the most important of all, understanding your limits (and being sensitive to them) is key in managing the balance you want to create in life. For me, this involved creating a weekly schedule for myself that balanced work and life, insisting that work is not discussed at home, and ensuring I scheduled at least one important activity per week to give me something to look forward to all the time. These ‘highlights’ of the week kept me motivated.
5) Exercise and eat right. There is something very empowering about completing an exercise routine, having a great week of healthy eating, or going for a hike. For me, it has been a grounding experience and has brought forth a renewed sense of positivity and calm in my life. An ever-evolving lifestyle change that is focused on me and not my business.
6) Spread the love. Helping others be their best, volunteering my time towards positive initiatives, and always taking a moment to appreciate the one’s I love allow my soul to shine. Writing about my experiences, sharing my love for design, and constantly reminding myself of the power of gratitude are my ways of spreading the love.
Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing some more personal stories on all the changes that have occurred in my life and my business. I have stepped back from certain career opportunities, opened myself up to new directions, and most importantly have employed a lifestyle change that has me beaming these days
I look forward to sharing with all of you, so please stay connected to my social channels for blog updates.
Wishing you an amazing weekend!