I didn't jump right into it or pull a Jerry Maguire (as tempting as that was at the time!). The road I took was a longer, less exciting one. I get e-mails (daily) from aspiring wedding planners asking to intern, shadow, or assist me in some way. Others ask how I did it and what advice I can give to them as they start their own business.
So I wanted to take this opportunity to share my story. It's how I got to where I am, and though it's not a perfect path, it's an honest one. Let's rewind back to 2006.
I knew I wanted to be a wedding planner. I felt it in my core. But I had just moved to a new state, and had few friends in my new town, let alone business connections. I was starting at the very bottom of the totem pole, and I was okay with that.
I wasn't in the position to just hang a sign outside my door and open up shop; I had student loans to pay, a car to pay off, and not much experience planning weddings. So I did the next best thing: I joined the ABC and started shadowing a wedding planner (for free) to gain more experience. I busted my butt to prove myself to her, which led to earning a flat fee when I assisted her at weddings. I met DJs, photographers, site managers, and florists along the way. I slowly started to build a network of wedding professionals and gained invaluable experience. People started to remember my name. I felt like I was finally getting somewhere.
In the meantime, assisting at weddings wasn't exactly paying the bills. If I was going to have a career in wedding planning, I had to be financially stable. I had to not only pay off my debts, but have enough savings to hold me above water in the worst case scenario. I did the math, calculated the money I'd need in the next five years to get by, save, pay the bills, start my company, and buy a house, and if my calculations served me correctly, I needed a six-figure salary, before taxes. YIKES. This wasn't going to happen if I was self-employed. At least not in my first few years. So I decided to go into Pharmaceutical Sales. Only I had a minor problem: I had absolutely no experience in Pharmaceutical Sales. My degree was in Marketing, and from a fashion school, to boot.
So I applied anyway.
And applied again. To pharmaceutical company after pharmaceutical company.
And guess what?
It took a year.
A year of applying to one pharmaceutical company a day, every weekday, until I got a call for an interview. Yah, it took an hour or two every night, and there were some nights when I just wanted to throw in the towel. I cried. More than once. But I pushed myself to keep going, and my then-boyfriend (now husband) supported me every step of the way. 'Not getting a pharma job' wasn't ever an option in my mind. I had applied to over 200 companies before I got a call for an interview. And when that interview came, I gave it everything I had. Every last ounce of effort and heart. I researched the company's drugs, its competitors, did side-by-side comparisons of said drugs and how I would sell against them, and prepared this information in binders for the panel of interviewers. I had my husband drive me to the interview because I was a nervous wreck in heels and a new suit. I had one shot to make it happen. And it happened.
I got the job. I loved the job, and the job loved me back. Not only did I prove to myself and others that I could sell, but I went on to earn a trip to the Riviera Maya with the company's top ten producers nationwide, and was named a Field Sales Trainer for new hires at the company.
I share this information not to brag, but to point out that anyone truly can do any job they want. If you want to start a business, you already have all the tools you need to do it. If you want to be a wedding planner, you can be a wedding planner. You just need to want it badly enough.
So having a solid foot on the ground with my pharmaceutical sales career, and a working knowledge of the wedding industry from assisting my mentor on the weekends, the time came for me to part ways with the wedding planner who had taught me so much. It was time to open my own business. I would work both jobs, pharma during the day and wedding planning at night, until I was ready to plan weddings full time.
And it all comes full-circle; the sheer joy I felt when booking my first wedding client-- all on my own-- was one of the happiest moments of my life. I'll never forget how it made me feel. I started to book more clients, and more, until I had eight full-service wedding clients and a full-time pharma job. Adam hardly ever saw me, because I came home from my pharma job only to sit down to the computer to crank out e-mails and plan weddings. I ate dinners at my desk and crawled into bed long after Adam was asleep.
I was working 12-16 hours most days, and there were some days-- right before weddings-- when I will admit to pulling 20-hour days and working all-nighters. This went on for a few years, and just the thought of the stress I carried on my shoulders then completely stresses me out now. But the time did come; the time to leave that incredible pharma job to pursue the only career I'd ever love... weddings.
I'll never forget the day; December 14th, 2011. It was the day I gave my notice at my pharmaceutical job, explaining that I was going to plan weddings full-time. My boss was surprised, saddened (okay, probably a little angry), but supportive. My co-workers couldn't believe it, and texts spread like wildfire among our sales reps nationwide as they heard that I was leaving. But I was doing the right thing.
On December 15th, 2011, I was officially a full-time wedding planner. It took a lot of work, even more faith, an unconditionally supportive man (who was, by this time, my husband), and five years time.
So my advice to those who e-mail me-- asking how I successfully opened up shop and how I just up and left my day job to follow my dreams-- is always this:
Follow your dreams, however wild they may seem. It will take time, and it may take more patience than you ever knew you had. But I can promise you that it's worth it.