It shouldn’t be surprising that New Orleans is the second most sought after city for destination weddings after Las Vegas. 11 years ago, Emily Sullivan started her journey as a wedding planner. Her business Emily Sullivan Events has grown ever since. One of the reasons why she loves to plan and execute destination weddings is because it allows people to get a taste of the New Orleans culture and hospitality. “I’m very relationship-driven, so I personally like doing weddings,” she says. Because of the city’s popularity in terms of destination weddings, over 90 percent of her clients are not local.
Wedding Planner – A Natural Fit
Emily didn’t grow up thinking she was going to be a wedding planner. “I just kind of fell into it. It’s a business of hospitality and that’s my gift, so it was just a natural fit once I started,” she says. After Katrina, she worked for a major cosmetics company and decided to do makeup for weddings. At one of the weddings, she was offered to handle coordination. At this point, she discovered that she really enjoyed event planning.
Today, her team is composed of one full-time and one part-time employee. She also works with event teams on the day of the wedding. They break up roles based on the individual needs of the client, including setup of decor, transportation, logistics or scheduling second line.
Planning a wedding with Daisy was a dream! Check out my blog post on her magical NYE wedding. The link is in our bio! Invitations: @designbylaney Dress: @callablanche Jewelry: @kendrascott Flowers: @crystalvaseflowers Shoes: @stuartweitzman Makeup: @roseheffartistry Hair: @juliethouser Linens: @lovestrucklinens Venue: New Orleans Board of Trade Photography: @jbwphotography Band: @phunkymonkeys Caterers: @pigeoncaterers Cakes: @bittersweetnola Decor: @fireflyambiance
Having a solid foundation in place pays off in the long-run
When Emily looks back at how she started, she would advise people to do it a little bit differently than she did. She explained that her business grew so quickly that she didn’t have a solid foundation in place. Several years after she launched the business she had to go back and build that foundation.
“I didn’t really go through a process of setting clear goals and what I wanted to accomplish. I was almost in survival mode for the first three or four years,” she says. Some of those foundational things included team planning, budget planning, pricing and how many weddings they wanted to do each year. Now that the structure of the business is more intentional, she feels much more at ease.
How to stand out in a competitive industry
According to Emily, in the hospitality business, you can’t necessarily be taught to be a certain way. Through her personality, she has found a way to stand out in a competitive market. “What makes us special is that my skills are in line with what we need, which is hospitality, logistics, and problem-solving. These are things that come very easily for me and it’s not forced,” she says. She trains her team in all of these areas in order to foster their collective gift: the way they treat people.
Greatest success as an entrepreneur and mother
Emily’s greatest accomplishment as a business owner and single parent is being able to provide a great life for her kids. “It’s my driving force. I want to be able to take care of my kids and provide a life that looks very similar to what they would get if they didn’t have a single mom,” she says. While Emily is homeschooling, she enjoys having the flexibility and freedom to spend time with her kids without having to compromise her role as a business owner.
If you give up in business, you’ll never make it
In 2010, Emily suffered from massive burn-out. After 5 years in business, she almost threw in the towel. She was working around the clock, trying to micromanage her team, and didn’t have the right people in place. After all, she realized that she had to start over with a completely new team. Fortunately, she was able to clear the slate, rebrand the business and start over.
“In business, if you give up when you have challenges, you’ll never make it,” she says. Challenges like handling different emotions and personalities at work are often inevitable. “Because I have a strong spiritual foundation, I know who I am, and I’m able to take that into business. So I don’t have to get upset if I’m facing a challenge,” she says.
Emily has found two things challenging: Listening to other people’s ideas and criticism, and refraining from comparing herself to others in industry. After all, she has found a way to focus on her clients needs and building a strong team.
Don’t let the urgent take away from the important
The team motto at Emily Sullivan Events is “Don’t let the urgent take away from the important.” Emily knows that in business, it’s very easy to let that happen. Things like social media or blogging may seem less urgent, but are equally important for the future of the business. By having the right people on her team, Emily has been able to execute strategies even in challenging times.
Long-term vision for Emily Sullivan Events
Because Emily is personally involved in managing daily business operations, she plans to continue running it in the future. Aside from that, she plans to further improve the quality of weddings she does rather than increasing the quantity. “While we have to do a certain amount of weddings per year to meet our financial goals, we are still able to choose our clients. It’s not about how many we do. It’s about the quality,” she says. She recently launched a sister company Intimate Weddings and is also thinking about launching in other cities.
Why start a business in new Orleans?
Although there are challenges that come along with logistics and politics in New Orleans, Emily simply loves living and running her business in the city. “I’m a foodie so I like going to lots of restaurants. My favorite thing is eating out in nice restaurants and making experiences out of it, such as girls nights, and things like that.”