“Passion, creativity and perseverance.” That’s how the founder of Carousel Weddings describes an entrepreneur. After leaving the corporate world to start up her company, Zainab Alsalih put her banking background (along with a healthy dose of excitement for her business) to work: “I manage with commercial and financial diligence, and the combination of the two is vital.” To run an enterprise successfully, Alsalih is a big believer in “loving what you do, who do you it for, why you do it, and then surrounding yourself with people who share your passion.” As a wedding planning company catering to different nationalities and cultures, she insists on not having a “go-to template”, but instead personalizes each concept to a couple’s taste and of course, certain nuptial traditions. An eye for detail is a must-have trait for the event industry, and she tries to balance that with being “very hands-on, without micro-managing.” What would Alsalih say is the region’s biggest entrepreneurial challenge? “Finding opportunities that are truly cross-cultural.”
What prompted you to launch a wedding planning business?
I have always loved making people happy. There’s something deeply gratifying about bringing people joy and sharing it with them. I knew whatever I did, it needed to give me the opportunity to make people happy, and the opportunity to make a positive impact on people’s lives. With time, I began to better understand and appreciate my strengths: an artistic flair, a gift for communicating, and an almost obsessive attention to detail.
What setbacks have you experienced?
When Carousel first started, wedding planning was a very new concept in this part of the world where typically the family took care of all the wedding details. Convincing the couple and their family to surrender control and sit back and relax was very challenging. While our clients always have total trust in us, they still feel that they need to do more, so we are constantly having to reassure them that all is in order and going as planned. In addition, planning a wedding is a very personal and emotional experience, so we have to be able to deal with emotional ups and downs.
What’s a current popular trend in weddings?
What’s old is new again. A lot of people are going back to tradition. I think people are now looking to have a timeless wedding instead of a wedding that is filled with fads that may not look good in a few years. They do not want to have a “What was I thinking moment?” We want to help our couples have truly stylish weddings, and not necessarily trendy or fashionable ones.
What advice do you have for women who want to start up their own venture?
Do it with passion or not at all! This is one of my favorite quotes, which I think applies to any business you wish to start. You must be passionate about what you do. Only then can you do it well. Wedding planning has a certain charm to it, and people think it would be a “fun” job, but the truth is, it is very, very hard work, and there is a tremendous amount of responsibility on your shoulders. If you are not meticulous, hardworking, and deeply passionate about it, you will not do well.
In your opinion, how much “risk-taking” personality characteristic is involved in being an entrepreneur?
A great deal. The risk isn’t merely a financial one, rather, it’s the risk of failing. The fear of that risk can often be a powerful motivator, and is sometimes needed to push yourself through the hard times.
What is your source of personal motivation?
In a world with so much sadness, I am motivated by making people happy – and sharing their happiness.
What is your daily routine like?
A typical day for me is spent at the studio designing and planning the weddings on hand, researching new products, materials, trends, and ideas and liaising with various vendors and suppliers. I do a lot of running around sourcing materials and elements for my brides. On many days, you will find me with brides on site visits, dress, hair and makeup rehearsals or food tastings. I spend a lot of time with our floral designers, designing and selecting centerpieces and floral displays for our weddings. However, my favorite time of the day is presenting concepts and setting up mock tables for new brides and seeing the twinkle in their eyes when they begin to see the first glimpses of their vision turning to reality.
What device or apps do you often use?
I used to be totally addicted to my BlackBerry, but have migrated to the iPhone– and now my iPhone 6 and I are simply inseparable. It’s terrible, I know.