What a year, what a year! Never in a million years would I have imagined that I'd experience all the incredible things I have over the past 365 days. No doubt that this past year has been an exciting whirlwind! I feel so lucky that I can even write a post full of amazing milestones for The Graceful Host. At this time last year, I had just finished my first full year of weddings as the official owner of TGH. I was feeling so anxious about the path of this little business. Even though the 2014 calendar was completely booked before the year even started, I really wanted to make sure I was doing this whole “creative small business owner” thing right. Obviously there is no manual on how to run a successful business, but I felt like I didn’t have a firm grasp on how to take my business to the next level. I had an idea and vision for what I wanted The Graceful Host to become – I just didn’t know how on Earth I was actually supposed to do it!
Like many type-A individuals, I started making a plan of action for 2014. It felt so good to map out goals and get ideas out of my head and on to paper – it made them so real! I started brainstorming the easier, more light-hearted points such as the ideal TGH client and my favorite aspects of the job. Then I moved into the more difficult questions, really digging deep asking myself questions like where are the gaps in my service offerings, what are my challenges in this career, and what can I do to make planning an experience that brides walk away from cherishing rather than thanking God that it’s finally over. I’m the type of person that loves to reflect and to receive outside critiques. It probably comes from my music background, but I truly believe that you cannot begin to move forward until you fully understand where you’re coming from. How can I expect to improve my business when I have no idea what I’m doing right or wrong? So, I went straight to the source looking for feedback from my lovely and supportive former brides, as well as to fellow wedding industry vendors and my mighty little team. I can’t recommend this exercise to other business owners who are feeling stuck, are looking to move to the next level, or if you just want to have a better understanding of your business in general.
Armed with feedback and some of my own brainstorming ideas, I got to work! I looked at the 2014 calendar first. I was so grateful to have 22 amazing couples booked for the next year! Then, I realized something. Of all these bookings, 77% was for full service, 14% was partial service, and 9% was month-of coordination. (And of my partial service clients, 75% of these contracts upgraded to full service!) This told me something huge: my value to brides is within full service. Realizing this strength in The Graceful Host and seeing what clients were overwhelming asking for over the last year, lead me to focus and hone in on full service planning and event design, and to drop all other service offerings. These statistics, coupled with the fact that one of my absolute favorite parts of this job was developing a relationship with the couple and their families made the decision pretty easy. I couldn’t put time and energy into things that didn’t fire me up if I was going to take this business to the next level. It was definitely a scary decision, don’t get me wrong, but one that I really think benefits my brides because my time and expertise would be fully devoted to those that need it the most. Another thing I realized is that, I wanted to stay small. When I first started, I used to think that growth meant getting bigger. And for some people, I think that just makes sense. But for me, it doesn’t. One of the things my brides noted that they loved was my attention to detail and my excitement about their big day… and I realized how important it was to me that each one of my couples always feel that way! I would never want to compromise that experience, so I knew it was beneficial for not only myself (since this is a one-woman business, after all!), but also for my couples that I limit the number of weddings I take a year to 10 or fewer.
At this time last year, I was looking at the year ahead of me and I knew I wanted to get The Graceful Host name out as far as it could go! So I targeted a few of my favorite blogs and publications, and made a goal for getting published over the next year. I really am not kidding when I say that if you put it out there into the universe, you’ll get a response…. All you have to do is ask. As I sit here reflecting on the past year, I’m overwhelmed and honored to see all of media exposure The Graceful Host has seen! From real weddings to styled shoots to planning advice, TGH has reached (and surpassed!) our original goal of just one press feature per quarter with a whopping: 9 real weddings featured on national blogs, regional magazines and a coffee table book; 5 styled shoot features; 5 contributions with planning and design tips; and 3 awards received within 2014. It's incredible to look back over this past year and think of all the beautiful couples, talented vendors, and the amazing people I've had the pleasure of connecting with!
Another big milestone for 2014 was adding calligraphy services to The Graceful Host name. I started doing calligraphy in December of 2013, and I am self taught. So if anyone is interested in learning calligraphy, I am proof that you CAN learn and you CAN teach yourself! You really have no idea how encouraging it has been to have so many friends, family members, brides, fellow vendors, strangers - you name it! - ask me where they can purchase some of my calligraphy pieces. I didn't have an answer at the time because I was really just doing it for me. But over the last year I've been working hard to really learn calligraphy in order to be able to offer it as a service. I felt like I couldn't accept a penny from anyone until I actually thought I knew what I was some what doing! It's a tricky craft and I'll admit I do not have all the answers because I'm learning something new every day. But through a lot of reading, studying, practice, question asking, and good ol' fashioned trial and error I've become a lot more confident in my abilities. Thanks to all the support and kind words I've received, I started an Etsy shop, and a whole new Instagram account and a new Twitter account separate from my wedding accounts to share little snip bits of my calligraphy work. I really wish I could thank every single person who's supported me in my calligraphy - it means so much!! And it's been a lot of fun building a little side business that provides me with another creative outlet. I'm so excited to see what 2015 brings in this new calligraphy journey.
I decided to invest in attending a few educational workshops in 2014. With out a doubt, some of the best decisions I’ve ever made was attending workshops because I had the chance to meet experts in the wedding industry who have really challenged me to go further and have helped me identify the gaps in my business. And to my surprise, I had a number of brides tell me that they thought it was great I attended workshops and seminars to improve my business! They were just as excited for me to learn new things that I could take home and apply to their weddings. (The things you learn, right?!) It’s so encouraging to have my brides rooting for me and supporting me in my goals. These experiences have helped me reshape how I approach planning with my couples and I’ve refined a number of processes in order to make wedding planner easier to understand and more fun. I love learning and I'm always looking for ways to make my business better so that I can ultimately better serve my amazing couples.
All and all, 2014 was a year I'll never forget. I'm sad to wave goodbye to such an amazing year, full of memories that I'll treasure. But come January 1, a whole new set of goals will be on deck and 365 days of endless possibilities! Oh my gosh, I am so, so, so excited! We have some really incredible weddings coming up in 2015. I cannot wait to share all the beautiful details and photos from each of these sweet couples big days. I'm excited to fully embrace 2015 with an open mind and heart, and see what all is in store for The Graceful Host. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming along for the ride, and for all your love and support! Cheers to the new year!