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Events Planner It takes very little to start up but can bring in big bucks. If you have an eye for detail and love parties, weddings and other events, consider this.

By Elizabeth Wilson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Events Planner

Startup Costs: Less than $2,000
Home Based: Can be operated from home
Part Time: Can be operated part-time
Franchises Available? No
Online Operation? No

Business Overview
What: Work with the happy couple on an hourly basis; lend advice on a few issues, or plan and orchestrate the entire event, from deciding how many guests to invite to helping choose a site and someone to officiate on the big day.
Advantages: Start part-time without making a big investment; it's creative and challenging, with a lot of split-second decision-making.
Challenges: Must be organized, creative and able to meet challenges. Advise the bride and groom on what they can get for their budget and provide them with resources and price ranges for everything from invitations and photographers to orchestras. And because weddings are emotional for everyone involved, it's vital to stay cool, help soothe ruffled feathers and suggest compromises.

The Market
Clients are couples eager to make their wedding the event of a lifetime or brides and grooms seeking a "day of" coordinator.

What You'll Need to Get Started
All that's really necessary to get started is a calendar, a planning book, a phone and your list of resources and contacts.
To get attention:

  • Attract business through ads in the local Yellow Pages, in the society or wedding section of your local paper and in special bridal supplements.
  • Establish a relationship with local wedding-oriented vendors--florists, photographers, bridal shops, videographers, caterers, hotels and country clubs, bakeries and cake decorators, jewelers and musicians.
  • Leave your brochures with all contacts and ask for referrals.

Q&A With Planner Lisa Vorce

Entrepreneur.com spoke with industry professional Lisa Vorce of Oh, How Charming , about how she started her successful wedding design and consultation business. She offers valuable tips on what it takes to help a couple's special day go off without a hitch.

What would you recommend people do first if they're interested in wedding consultation? I would highly recommend they intern or shadow an established event planner so they can really understand the nuts and bolts of the event-planning world. It's not always as glamorous as many people think it is, so it's extremely important that prospective event producers truly understand what they're getting into.

How did you get started? I did the exact opposite of what I'm preaching. I jumped in headfirst with little experience. Through a family connection, an insane drive to succeed and hours upon hours of hard work, I built a brand and a successful international event production company. I do consider myself one of the lucky ones, and I don't recommend my approach to anyone looking to get into the industry. There is too much liability involved in what we do to jump in without fully understanding what you're getting into.

Do you think now is a good time to start up a wedding design/coordination business? I'm a firm believer in the "do what you love and the money will follow" philosophy. So I will always tell people to go for it regardless of the economy or the market conditions. No matter how oversaturated a market may be--there is always a place for quality and innovation. That's the key.

What services can wedding planners offer in this do-it-yourself world to remain cutting-edge and in business? My best advice is to create your own niche. Even in this do-it-yourself world, there are always people who are willing to pay for unique services that are of value to them.

What kind of person does it take to do what you do? Aside from the obvious attention to detail, you need to have an extreme amount of passion and drive to survive in this industry. Among other things, you need to be a negotiator, a diplomat, an innovator, a concierge, a confidante, a therapist, a strategist, a problem solver, a cheerleader, a producer, a designer, a team leader, a listener, an advocate and a conductor. It is also important to have an appreciation for culture, religions and traditions. You need to be able to monitor energy and the flow of an event. And, most important, you need be able to manage heightened emotions and stress (and smile the whole time).

What kind of training and background are necessary? On-the-job training and actual event experience are the best ways to learn the tools you need to succeed in the event-planning world. You can read event-planning books, take certification courses, etc., but nothing will prepare you the way real event experiences will. My interns are trained by baptism by fire! I throw them right into the mix, and it's a matter of survival of the fittest. They need to be able to think on their toes, be problem solvers and learn through observation.

Would you say it's common for those planning their own wedding to decide to start up a wedding-related business? It is common. I would never discourage anyone from following her dream, I would just encourage her to proceed with caution. There is a huge difference between planning your own wedding and planning events for a living. If you plant a beautiful garden in your backyard, it doesn't exactly qualify you as a landscape architect, right? The same is true for event planning.

How much capital did it take for you to start your business? I had about a year's worth of expenses in savings when I started. This is a very difficult industry to break into, and if you have the luxury of donating or discounting your services to get your foot in the door, it's a huge bonus and can help you build your portfolio quickly. Even though I started by donating my services, I was still very choosy with what I attached my name to. I think that's extremely important--to only associate yourself with projects that you believe in and that you'll be proud of.

How did you establish your fees? When I first started I was basically giving away my services so I could build a portfolio. Now I work off of a percentage of the total event cost. Our event budgets range from $200,000 into the millions.

What are your closing words of advice to wedding industry entrepreneurs? If you're going to go for it, do it for the right reasons. Be gracious and humble. Surround yourself with a quality team of vendors who share a similar philosophy and work ethic as you. Treat each event with the same amount of care and passion as if it were your own wedding or special occasion, and you'll have a great recipe for a successful event.

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