Some people call me an OG of wedding business marketing, but deep down I'm just another person wearing PJ bottoms on Zoom. I swear a lot, I share my struggles, and I don't pretend to be better than anyone else.
Do you ever wish you could take a peek behind the scenes of a successful wedding business and see how they’re doing things? Wouldn’t it be helpful to get the lowdown on what’s working for them and what isn’t? That’s what this episode is all about!
Come take a look behind the scenes of Simply Celebrations & Events with wedding and event planner Nancy Skipton. She breaks down how she got started and got her first clients, how she has shaped her business to suit her life instead of letting it run her life, and some really interesting changes she’s made over the years.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a wedding planner or another type of wedding professional, you’ll come away from this episode with some ideas you can implement in your own business.
Nancy started her wedding planning company, Simply Celebrations & Events, in October 2006. Her business is framed around personal celebrations, mostly weddings, and other celebration events. She is also involved in the planning of a large annual multicultural festival as the executive director of the Kent International Festival.
Her ideal clients tend to know what they want but need a little guidance and they’re opinionated. Nancy loves working with opinionated couples who want their wedding to reflect who they are and aren’t afraid to say no.
In a previous career in natural foods, Nancy managed promotions for 40 natural food brands, coordinated sales meetings, and planned exhibitor booths for over ten years before starting her company. She had strong skills in event planning and project management that carried over to the wedding industry.
She was able to create her wedding business to provide her with a way to use these skills and still be at home where she could spend time with her kids. I love the way Nancy built her business around the flexibility she needed and wanted in her personal life.
Nancy got her very first client from a wedding show she exhibited at and that gave her the confidence she needed to work on attracting more clients. She was paid for her very first wedding and got a glowing testimonial.
She continued exhibiting at that wedding show and other wedding shows outside of Seattle, Washington, and was able to book her first several clients that way.
In the first few years, Nancy didn’t have a lot of clients and most came from those wedding shows. In her area outside Seattle, there is a lot of competition in the wedding planning business and many of those planners were much younger.
Nancy joined her local chapter of the Association Of Bridal Consultants which was great for networking but didn’t get her many referrals so she continued participating in wedding shows. She started getting referrals from past clients and started to build her presence on Facebook and Pinterest.
She paid for someone to do her SEO but that didn’t work well for her. Instead of attracting clients, it attracted people who wanted to work for her.
Nancy is doing paid advertising on a national platform even though it didn’t work well for her in the past. After COVID, it has been working really well for her and she’s more booked than ever. It just goes to show that what used to not work, may work for you later. You just have to test different options to see what will work for you now.
I’m a big proponent of quitting what isn’t working but when COVID happen, the world shifted. This can also happen when you change your ideal client or your messaging. What didn’t work 5 or 10 years ago may actually work really well for you now.
Marketing is a constant experiment and sometimes those experiments work super well and sometimes they just blow up in your face. That’s normal!
Nancy had paid a company to do SEO for her several years ago and they didn’t do a good job with targeting. Nancy also had an experience with a web designer who created a website that was a disaster. She has decided she wants to have more control over those things so she likes to be very involved in those areas of her business now.
A lot of us get burned, especially early on, because we don’t know enough about what we need to hire the right people for the job. You have to have an understanding of what you need before outsourcing these sorts of things. You can absolutely delegate but you can’t entirely abdicate.
The most important thing is learning from experiences like this. We all have them!
One of Nancy’s biggest fears is that she’ll be bored and so far that has not been an issue. When it comes to managing her time, Nancy has to have everything on her calendar. She’s great at creating her 90 Day Plans inside of The Wedding Business Collective but executing them is a whole different story.
She has to get everything out and into her calendar so she can step back from being the CEO and function as the worker bee and execute her plan. Having all of the steps to reach her 90 Day Goals on her calendar ensures those tasks get done.
I’m a big fan of separating CEO time and worker bee time because you just can’t be both people at once. It becomes messy, overwhelming, and stressful when you blur those roles. Nancy does this as well and it helps her make the most of the time she has to work on her business.
Nancy plans her time off very far in advance. She and her husband take at least 2 vacations per year and those are blocked off in her calendar before anything. She books weddings around her vacations instead of trying to cram in taking time off around her bookings. If you don’t book your time off first, it’s not going to happen. Let’s be honest.
This also means she has a happier marriage and gets to spend more time with her family. She didn’t previously have boundaries and let people book time with her whenever they wanted. Now she has boundaries around her time so she can control when and how much she is working. This is something Nancy has learned from Wedding Business CEO Summit and Book More Weddings Summit.
Work-life balance is always an ongoing balancing act but it’s so necessary if you want to have a life and a business.
COVID really changed things to where 90% of consultations are online which has been great for saving time on travel. She charges more now and points out that we tend to undervalue the worth of what we’re providing. Don’t be afraid to raise your prices!
Another thing that has changed is how Nancy deals with scope creep. Scope creep is when a client asks her to do something beyond the package they’ve booked. When you don’t have boundaries around that, it’s easy to feel like you have to do all these additional things without being paid for them but really, most clients expect you to charge for those extra things and don’t mind.
Nancy is better managing client expectations with her onboarding package so everyone is on the same page about what can be expected. After all, most disappointment comes from a misalignment of expectations. That onboarding package allows her to more easily communicate what is and isn’t included in the client’s package.
Sometimes we shy away from communicating expectations but clients really do love when they know what to expect and when. It reduces anxiety and makes them feel taken care of. The worst feeling in any client experience is not knowing what to expect and when.
Nancy is continuing to work on her client experience so she continues to exceed expectations. That’s a very important part of her brand.
When she first started, one of Nancy’s biggest challenges was balancing all of the aspects of a business. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done and only a small part of it is the work you’re hired to do.
Nancy shares that not being willing to admit that she’s not good at something and asking for help held her back in the beginning. You don’t have to do everything yourself, you just have to understand it enough to outsource it.
Nancy struggled to figure out who her ideal client was, especially in the early stages of her business. Over the first several years, she started to see patterns emerge among her favorite clients and that started to form her ideal client. That really helped her focus on what she should be doing with her marketing.
As Nancy said, learning never ends when you run a business. There will always be something new to learn or something changing that you need to learn about and keeping that mindset has been really helpful for her.
Giving up control and delegating has been a challenge for Nancy and it’s one she’s still working through. That’s a very common struggle and you should know that feeling is normal! Learning to trust someone else and train them can be difficult but it’s one of those hurdles we have to get past as entrepreneurs.
Nancy wishes she knew how to wear all of those hats because it can be a shock when you start your business to work on weddings and find yourself having to work on marketing, sales, bookkeeping, and everything in between.
She has learned how to be the CEO of the business as well as the employee and divide those tasks. It’s helped her grow as a person and feel stronger as a woman. But had she known how many hats there were to wear, she may have done more education before she started.
I love that Nancy shares that she learns more from her mistakes than her successes because I feel the same way! Being able to have grace with yourself to make mistakes and work on improving is powerful. We will all make mistakes, we just need to learn from them. That’s how we avoid making the same mistakes over and over again.
Does it sting to make a mistake? Sure. But if you shift your mindset to look for what you can learn it makes it so much easier.
Nancy is working on improving her client experience and her delegating more. She wants to book the same number of weddings as last year but not more because she wants time to spend with her husband and her kids. One of her big goals is to work with enough clients to serve them really well but to also serve her life and not totally take over it.
Nancy also has a strong focus on education and she has learned a ton from The Wedding Business Collective and the summits.
She’s improving her operations by changing to a new payment tool (Maroo) that will improve her profitability and streamline the entire process of getting paid. That way she doesn’t have to send out individual reminders when someone misses a payment.
She’s focused on working on her 90 day plan that we create each quarter in The Wedding Business Collective. It keeps her focused and makes sure she is prioritizing her life outside of her business. Nancy’s goal isn’t to work super hard non-stop, it’s to serve her clients and allow her business to support her life.
Nancy Skipton started her company, Simply Celebrations & Events, in October of 2006. She has experience in wedding planning, project management, and the organization of other events.
She had worked for two gourmet caterers and with a local linen rental company before opening my business. In 2009, Nancy become part of the planning for the Kent International Festival, an annual multicultural festival, which has grown to an attendance of thousands. Since 2019, she has been the festival executive director since they formed a 501c3 non-profit organization.
In a previous career in natural foods, Nancy managed promotions for 40 natural food brands, coordinated sales meetings, and planned exhibitor booths for over ten years before starting her company.
She grew up in eastern Massachusetts and moved to beautiful Washington State in 1990. She has two grown married children, a grandson, and a wonderful husband. She is so grateful for my business, family, and life!
Episode 237: 4 Members Of The Wedding Business Collective Share Their Journey To Embracing Their CEO Role
Episode 215: How To Use Quarterly Planning To Squash Overwhelm
Episode 231: Behind The Wedding Business with Carolyn Kulb of Bloom Poet
Episode 235: Behind The Wedding Business with Neal McFarlane of DJ XTC Entertainment Services
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