Whether we can admit it or not, we all need a cheerleader sometimes: that person who walks into the room with a big smile (no matter how dreary the day) and does her absolute damnedest to make you smile, to make you feel valued, to support your efforts, to make your day better. To just get it, and to be the rock that you need at that moment. Like many pivotal points in life, starting a business can be a lonely time: your friends and family might not really understand what you’re going through or what you’re trying to do, and you may not have yet built up a community around you that does. That’s when you really need that cheerleader… and, luckily, I found mine a while ago when I found Desiree. And most days, quite honestly, I’m not sure what I’d do without her.
She has that impact on quite a few people, and not just our members here at the House. Through her business, Desiree Dawn Events, all of her event planning clients get the full benefit of her talented, creative, organized, got-your-back-through-thick-and-thin, fierce love cheerleading bad-ass abilities. She’s a force of nature (mostly just the sunny parts, though), and all of us are damn lucky to have her on our side. We sat down with her for a spell to get her perspective on staying productive, balancing work and life, and the never-ending pursuit of contentment.
What are you drinking?
H20 currently…wish it were a cold beer!
Current mood in less than 3 words:
90’s Dance Par-tay!
(legit just jammed out to Salt-n-Pepa & Marky Mark for a solid 10 minutes…how else do you get over the 3pm hump with a toddler running around?)
How did you discover that wedding planning was what you wanted to do?
The first big wedding I attended after college was epic. I came home, reached out to their planner in Pensacola and after several chats with lots of guidance, I was hooked. I still admire that event and that planner. Both of my parents are entrepreneurs, so, for me, it was never about, “IF I’ll do my own thing one day”… just a matter of “what”. Wedding planning fits the bill for now!
How’d you take the leap from passion to full time job?
It was a leap/shove situation. I saw the open-door and lept for it… my previous employer had no trouble pushing me out! Ha! Sometimes, you have to listen to the universe. Almost immediately, all of my worries and concerns were met with opportunities and more open doors. I grabbed a few side jobs (pet sitting, dog walking and tending bar at a brewery), which allowed me the time to focus on my business and provided a little cash flow for the interim. Nothing happens overnight and I think it’s important to stay humble enough to recognize a job is a job. Be grateful for it.
What’s your favorite part about your industry/your job?
Getting to know a family or a couple… I’m a people person and pleaser, so when a client says, “oh, you get me!”, well that just sets my heart ablaze. This job is a lot about trust, knowing your strengths and letting them shine. When a client allows me to do that, it’s pretty magical. Their trust allows me to compose the best team for their event specifically. I really adore working with my favorite vendors in the industry and coming together on the day-of is always super fun.
How has Social House helped you with the way you do business?
You guys. This. THIS right here, why you’re on this little blog, reading this wee post. It’s everything. Laura (owner of Social House), was one of those “open doors” I encountered after leaving my “real job”. We shared a small studio together and from that has sprung more opportunity than I could ever imagine. Social House is literally thousands of hours of conversations, brainstorming, photo shoots, real events, road trips, pop-up parties and vendor gatherings, all rolled into one. It’s nothing that she/we dreamed it would be and so much more. My creative community has blossomed to include way more small business owners, creatives and incredible people I get to see each week. What an honor to be a part of all this!
Any productivity tips or secrets?
I have two: 1. Do the thing you’re least looking forward to first. Get it out of the way and move on. I do this with daily tasks and in my planning with clients.
2. Work when you’re most efficient. I’ve let go of the guilt and embraced my midnight and beyond planning sessions. Thanks to gmail boomerang, clients don’t know I’m a night-owl… shh!
Any tips for other creatives looking to start their own business?
Everyone needs a Laura.
Seriously though, find a partner to do business with, even if it’s just a partner in the you-got-this-high-five sort of way. Having someone listen to your inner dialogue, share their wisdom, and just be there can make all the difference. My business would be so boring and probably just a hobby had I not found the yin to my yang… or the wine to my beer. [Clink!] I think it’s so important for growth of perspective, encouragement and gumption.
Your ah-ha moment:
I’m certain there will be many many ah-ha moments. A good one I can recall was sharing a first-reception-look moment with the sweetest couple, Claire and Zach. That was the first event where I felt completely trusted to tend and care for a wedding celebration for this family. They let me do my thing and we had the time, just the three of us, to see their dinner scene completed. Claire’s face lit up and Zach was so thrilled that she was so thrilled. It was perfection. That moment was enough for me, that couple was everything. Three years later, I’m still in love with their day and I’m lucky enough to have that exact moment captured thanks to my friends at Shaina Koren Cinematography!
Most challenging part of owning your own business:
Not taking a break from working or always feeling on. There’s no 9-5 clock out when you work for yourself. Setting and keeping boundaries (especially now that I have a kid) is important.
Most rewarding part of owning your own biz:
The ridiculously cool people I get to collaborate with and doing that whenever I want!
Most rewarding part of your week:
Weekly work-wise: The hot coffee and the empty inbox after a grind-it-out trello list day at the House. And on the day-of an event: the moment that bride is down the aisle. It’s all on them and our wedding team from that point on! I’m the kind of planner that steps back and lets the party unfold naturally, allowing our catering, entertainment and service teams really do what they do best.
Life-wise: Our weekly picnics in the park by the water. On Sundays, we pack up some snacks and craft beer, grab a bouncy ball and head to Bryant Park to let the kiddo play in the grass. The breeze and shade is plentiful and those few hours make me feel really lucky to live here.
What’s something that has happened while owning your own business that you never could have planned for or expected?
The personal growth. You can’t please every client, 100% of the time. That’s a tough pill to swallow, especially when you dump so much of yourself into an event and when you’re not used to failure. Receiving negative feedback – it’s only happened once! – was pretty devastating for me. It took several months of reflecting to understand that I did the absolute best work I could do, for that type of client. The event has reaffirmed that there is an ideal client and we, as small business owners, should strive to work with those that are a fit. The outcome is both parties are happy, and since it is my business, my happiness is just as important as a client’s. My willingness to experience and work through failure will ultimately lead to better success. I’m really proud of that growth.
What do you wish more people knew about you?
Just because I cry, doesn’t mean something is wrong or I’m upset. It’s just my way of release for me. I probably tear up once a day!
Your dream job:
I have a few I’d like to try: travel agent and guide, personal assistant to someone really nice and who likes to travel (take me with you!), rom-com writer, an editor or writer for Martha Stewart, Real Simple or some creative lifestyle magazine, a farmer or gardener…
Your favorite piece of work:
All the stars aligned for Morgan and Stephen’s wedding. (Editor’s note: you can view it here: wedding.) What an incredible couple. Again, the trust level for this event was magical.