HOW TO MAKE IT IN THE WEDDING INDUSTRY.

IMG_6187edit

Ok so I have no idea if I have really ‘made it’ but 7 years on I am still here, still loving what I do and making money (so its not just a hobby) so that for me means I am happy, content and still passionate about the future…despite the world right now because people will always celebrate love with their friends and family in one way or another and I cannot wait to get right back to working for my couples and creating their days.

(Also have I just totally just got away with the fact that I haven’t written a blog post for a 2.5 years! Life, eh!?)

I remembered I had actually written a post about starting a hire company and it was actually 5 years ago. I feel it’s still a good little read all these years later with some of my initial thoughts on ‘Could I run a wedding hire company from home?’

IMG_6154edit
IMG_6027edit

But I want to share much more here today for those of you who have been reaching out to me about working in the industry and specifically setting up and running a wedding hire/styling company. I stand by everything in my previous post, please don’t quit your day job, it takes several years to build your brand and establish yourself, well at least it did for me and I have seen a lot of local prop hire companies come and go over the years, it is not easy. The hours are of course seasonal, very long and incredibly intense but if you cannot wait to get stuck into something new and also very rewarding with the most brilliant community of people this is a career move for you.

CONNECTIONS AND RELATIONSHIPS

First and foremost you won’t get far in this industry without working really hard to build a network of suppliers that are likeminded and have a similar vision as you. These people will become your friends, cheerleaders and help bring in so many recommendations and grow your business in the best ways through working together.

Work on getting to know local venue owners too and reaching out to them to share what you’ll be offering and how you can help their couples. Personally I will always work locally because its where I have grown my base and brand and don’t feel the need to travel to lots of far away venues.

FINDING YOUR IDEAL CUSTOMER

I have an ideal bride in mind when I write and post images or share advice for. She is my ideal customer and over the years I have worked out who she is, what she loves doing, where she loves to shop, dance and drink and what she wears. This so helps in keeping me focused and everything I do is then for her purpose. (I should have an ideal groom too but I don’t generally work with as many men directly with my communication)

I honestly believe if you work out your ideal customer you’ll become so much more successful as you’ll know which wedding blogs and magazines she’s reading, the venues she’s viewing and the type of product she’d love to hire.

YOU ARE YOUR BRAND

So many people ask about how to grow a range of products you know will hire out well. The biggest advice for this is remember you are your brand, if you really love a piece and could imagine it at your wedding/in your home its a good bet your ideal customer will too (if she’s anything like you, which parts of my ideal bride is a younger, cooler version of me!)

SAYING NO IS OKย 

Everyone says say yes to everything at the start of business, but honestly there is alot to be said for saying no. Anything that isn’t a good fit for you or your brand isn’t worth your time. Research suppliers involved with shoots before agreeing to them and don’t be afraid to not share images that aren’t fitting with where you want your business to be. Getting the right set of images out there at the start with a clear message of what you do will keep you leaps ahead and pushing in the right direction. At the start I fought alot with taking orders that we’re ‘bread and butter’ money orders to realising I needed to think bigger to get the right couples coming through.

BE PRESENT

Being present on social is so, so important at the start. Start networking and just keep showing up. It will feel like people aren’t seeing you but being consistent really is key.

THE PRICE IS RIGHT

Initially I didn’t have the right pricing at all and my time just wasn’t covered properly for deliveries, admin and the fact you don’t get paid out of season. This has all come with time for me but always reflect and adjust, sadly learning from mistakes and realising how many hours were spent on an event can help to grow and move forward.

STAFFING

In the beginning there was just no way I could afford staff but eventually you realise how vital they are. Rather than investing into more range pieces (my range is actually not vast at all, you’ll notice how many of the same pieces are featured in my weddings) I really advise getting admin assistance and more behind the scenes help with prop prep. This year was going to be a big year for me to step back from day-to-day in some ways and have more staff here to help so I am left to push and develop the business more. I am beyond grateful for all my freelance staff and the role they play each week.

OTHER SERVICES

I added sign writing and styling services after just a few years. I knew I had to branch out into more than just prop hire as I only offer small props. Offering big furniture pieces have much bigger return but having a large storage space with rent every month, large vans and paying two men to go to each delivery wasn’t something I wanted to have the responsibility of.ย  I like working at home, all my stock is here and I have no external costs, this works best for me and has hugely helped in me having a full salary from Little Lending and means I can fit in work around my growing family.

DON’T LET DOUBT IN

Over the years doubt will of course set in; if you will make it, make a profit, finally work for a proper wage, be recognised in the industry, but only if you really want to succeed then you will. There will always be people out there who seem to have it all together (trust me behind the scenes they won’t) but all you need to do is keep visualising your end goal.

IMG_6008edit

Would love to know your thoughts on starting out in the industry, if you have experienced lots of stumbling blocks or if you are just loving the ride of growing something new?

Images Darina Stoda (Old office, new office is not ready for images yet!)

Penny x

3 IS THE MAGIC NUMBER.

When you run a business people want to give you advice. All types of people in all types of businesses. So sometimes you end up smiling politely while thinking ‘Eh?’ while being fed their pearls of wisdom or occasionally you’ll end up stashing away some really valuable nuggets of girl boss gold.

One line I’ve heard more than just a few times is ‘You’ll know if you’ve made it when you get to 3 years.‘ So here I am 3 years into Little Lending, have I made it?!
Ok, I don’t really know about ‘made it’ because I’m really not a pro at anything business; spreadsheets may as well be in japansese and the thought of not writing everything in my paper diary fills me with fear…but there are a few achievements I’m going to celebrate as a home business owner this week.

TMUWF-98

CONFIDENCE.
I’ve found it, in my creative abilities and plucked up the courage to add ‘Styling Services’ to our offerings over 18 months ago and haven’t looked back. I feel more alive on wedding day set ups that doing any other aspect of the business. And the fact our couples put their trust in me is well, epic. I also feel I’m now kind of priced right for what I do, too many times on this journey I’ve not made what I should have but I now know I need to charge for the work I do and the creative experience I offer.

DECLINE.
I have learnt to decline offers of collaborations that are not right for me and the LL brand. I feel my brand identity is pretty solid now and have worked out exactly what I like working on and what’s just not right. I feel my couples also know my style too so it’s important to keep true to myself for them too.

RELATIONSHIPS.
I’ve built up some amazing relationships that my business now relies on; with fab talented local suppliers and gorgeous venues across the county and beyond. I feel so blessed to have a support network behind me that I value beyond measure.

TMUWF-16

CUSTOMERS.
I’ve had some incredible Lenders the last 3 years, that still today continue to support and encourage me. And that, feels amazing. These guys are the backbone and I love my super fan Little Lenders. Word of mouth is so powerful and when new couples get in touch because they’ve heard about us or seen us first hand at another wedding I know I’m doing my job right.

NETWORKED.
I’ve put myself out there, really out there. On all the social media I can, whenever I can. There isn’t a team here it’s still just me (a couple of cats and a helpful hubby) but I knew getting my name out there in Norfolk and beyond in the wedding world would help me reach people, and I’ve reached far more people than I could ever have imagined. Hitting 5K followers on Instagram was huge!

Yes, our time management is still all over the place and it’s all pretty chaotic back here when it gets to delivery days and I know I have a lot more graft to go to get this business in line but I’m doing it, every day I am doing it. And I always deliver to my awesome couples and that’s all me and I’m totally in charge.

TMUWF-4

I was asked where I wanted to be 5 years from now with Little Lending and I couldn’t reply at the time. You’re ‘expected’ to reply with huge goals – a big nationally known company that delivers up and down the country; fleets of drivers and staff that run a warehouse full of stock. But you know what, actually I would still like to be enjoying it, being creative, and at the heart of my business being as personal as I possibly can. I still want to create and challenge myself with newness and I really still want to be based at home.
If this sounds like I’m afraid to grow or loose control, it’s not really that, I just like being a little company that connects and works with brilliantly creative couples and other companies. I never want to loose the passion I have right now.

TMUWF-5

Images – Darina Stoda
Venue – Godwick Great Barn
Props and Styling – That’s us
Flowers – Swaffham and Fakenham Florists

Happy 3rd birthday to us, here’s to the next and many more I say.
Penny @ The Little Lending Company X

SKILLS TO PAY THE BILLS.

This year I’ve really got my teeth into learning and developing my skills to be the best girl boss working from home I can possibly be. From digital photography, to styling and more modern calligraphy.
It's been a year learning from other ladies that have set up something of their own and working with them. I believe more than ever that it's about community with these amazing creative women and not about competition.

I'm a little late to the #girlboss movement, but I have ordered myself a little Christmas reading ‘Girl Boss’ by Sophia Amoruso. Girlboss is a hub of inspiration to share stories about what creating an amazing life really means. Being a Girlboss isn’t about being the boss of other people – it’s about being the boss of your own life.
If you’re a creative soul and looking for some motivation and invaluable advice I would head here. Kiki Sunshine has years of knowledge to help your little enterprise grow and her e-book is available for pre-order. Oh hello Santa…

You might have spotted on my Instagram and FB, I’ve had a pretty busy week and I know that lots of our brides will be interested to know more about the workshops I’ve been on to make their wedding day rock.

I headed back to London for another fab day with Quill London for round 2 of their modern calligraphy course, pushing on with flourishes and composition. I love writing, there’s something so relaxing about creating a beautiful design of words and for me I love getting to work on my chalkboards for all your wedding days. If you’re thinking of getting to grips with a calligraphy pen to do a little wedding stationery of your own this course is amazing. The incredible Lamplighter London have a book lout later in the year on the art of Modern calligraphy and I for one am stupidly excited about it’s release.

skills

skills1

Then on Monday night I was over at Swaffham Florists learning how to make a Christmas wreath. I blooming loved it! The fab floral sisters are going to be running more workshops right here in Norfolk, from learning how to make a hand tied bouquet to table centre pieces and get this, flower crown parties. I’m mean O.M.G.

skills 2

skills 3

skills 4

If you’re going to try your hand at some workshops in the new year to make you’re wedding even more personal I’d love to hear all about it…
Penny @ The Little Lending Co. X

COULD I RUN A WEDDING HIRE COMPANY FROM HOME?

Little Lending Office by Darena Stoda

I’ve been deliberating over wether to write this post or not. It’s definatley my most honest post yet and will mean me talking about some of the less positive sides to running LL.

So many of my Lenders tell me you’d love to do what I do, so I thought I’d let you in on what’s involved back here at LL HQ** and yes there is blood, sweat and occasionally a few tears. And I’m going to be totally honest when I say it’s really not the money that is motivating me to create my Little Lending Vision and to keep doing, most of the time, what I’ve been doing, unpaid. I’ve even been called up by total strangers the other side of the country asking me if the business is lucrative and should they quit their day job! The answer is no. I still work 2 freelance jobs too, so this is why sometimes there is a little wait on your replies because it’s a big juggling act this side of the computer screen. You’ll need to be prepared to hold down your job for a while yet while you build your enterprise. (this is of course if you’ve not got loads of disposable cash sitting under the bed!)

**Of which these office snaps are of, please note my office rarely looks like this!

Little Lending Office by Darena Stoda

Little Lending Office by Darena Stoda

Little Lending Office by Darena Stoda

If you’re completely and utterly determined to succeed you will. No guts, no glory. But I don’t want this post to frighten you off, I want to encourage my lenders to set up if it’s all you can think and dream about doing and if you’ll pour love and passion into it as much as you did the big day then you totally need to set up. I never thought getting married would mean becoming a girl boss, yes I have huge bags under my eyes but my gosh, am I having a brilliant time…

IMG_6192edit

A FEW THINGS I WISH I’D HAVE KNOWN WHEN SETTING UP.

Some of these points may sounds totally obvious, but here are a few things that would have helped me to know before setting up a hire company.

A large, dry, free (or super cheap) storage space. Not in your actual home, it will begin to drive you crazy, trust me! Even though mine spills out from under the sofas, I still have a garage and little show shed to keep most of the hire outside. I’m lucky enough to have a large kitchen to wash and re-pack items after the weekend.

Do you have a large car, or access to a van? I set out driving hire round in a mini, what was I thinking!? My van is now my car which can be a pain when I need need more than 2 seats! You need to be a fairly confident driver too, I’ve still not mastered having no back window when reversing!

90% of your time is uncreative. It’s not all shoots, styling and looking round pretty venues you know… The majority of my time is spent behind the wheel, packing orders, writing emails and invoices late into the night or blogging and updating the site on days off.

There are a few initial costs to get up and running and do register asap that you’re trading; public liability insurance, electrical PAT testing costs, get yourself an accountant too they’re totally worth every penny, domain name and branding materials…The best thing I did at the start was to get myself booked onto a local wedding fair, it gave me the deadline I needed to be ready to share LL with the world. (Keep an eye on our FB page for dates we’ll be at local wedding fairs this Autumn)

Don’t hire out anything too precious or personal, from your own wedding day, that you’d be gutted about loosing! Sadly, your stock will be lost or returned damaged, its just part and parcel.

When you first set up please don’t worry about ‘competition.’ There may be other hire companies doing something similar in your area but strive to create a brand that is all about you and your creativity. Creativity can never be imitated. Introduce yourself, you’ll most likely end up working together and sending couples to one another.

It will become everything you think about. It takes over your life, weekends and summers fly by because you’ll be delivering and collecting and tapping out lots of quotes. If you’re prepared for it to be your everything then go for it all guns blazing. My family are the backbone of this company, they’re behind me washing and ironing, helping with picks ups, hunting in charity shops to replace missing items (this becomes a weekly occurrence!) I couldn’t do it without them, it will literally change yours and their lives. Talk it through.

IMG_6187edit

IMG_6261edit

Photos by DSPhotography

Have you been thinking about setting up a wedding hire company? We’d love to hear your plans and see your wares!
Penny @ The Little Lending Co. X