Overcoming the ‘Age Barrier’

When I began my career in events ten years ago (and to some extent today), one of my greatest hurdles was my age and its perception of ‘inexperience’.

Many did not take me seriously.  In fact, I was often eliminated from many proposal processes when my age and experience level became known.  It was very disheartening and frustrating.  I harboured negativity towards those that treated me this way early in my career, but always did my best to work through it and be the better person.  Admittedly, it was difficult.

In addition to this, many took advantage of me (for the same reason).  In my excitement towards every project, desire to please, and commitment to secure design contracts, I often ‘gave away’ many designs, earning very little profit (and in some cases, no profit at all).  Perhaps, the most difficult scenarios to digest were the prevelance of this amongst not only potential clients, but also amongst industry professionals.

I was (and continue to be) very confident in my ability to design.  What I didn’t understand, early in my career, was that I had not proven myself or established my brand in a manner that commanded attention, confidence, or the respect of my peers and potential clients.  It wasn’t enough to be confident in myself (although this is extremely important), I had to ensure that I communicated this to each and every prospective client or event partner.  That was the difference.

I have worked very hard, made many mistakes, and enjoyed many triumphs -learning important lessons along the way.  In my experience, overcoming the age barrier required the following:

1) Every design proposal I created went above and beyond the requirements stated in the ‘Request for Proposal’.  In addition to my vision for the design and decor, I included condensed critical paths and production schedules to communicate my professionalism and standards in execution.  In addition to this, our proposals were highly polished and reflected our branding, mission statement, and industry achievements.

2) I attended and participated in as many industry events as I could, including international trade shows and conferences.  I was determined to build my knowledge base and level of expertise.  As an introvert, this was difficult for me as it took me a lot of time to get comfortable with someone.  I quickly noticed many ‘cliques’ and worked hard to ensure that I had visibility in the industry.  The ability to network in this industry was essential.  Slowly but surely, I became more comfortable with my position in the industry and consequently, my confidence with clients increased.

3) I applied to many awards programs and design challenges to increase my profile in the industry and strengthen my credibility as a designer and event professional.

4) I designed an innovative client experience.  My team and I created a very high-end studio experience through effective interior design.  This included comfortable furnishings, programmed conversation vignettes with intentional design and layout, and product displays that eliminated context.  The proposal process was refined allowing our clients to remain fully involved in the design process and maintain transparency.  I personally spent a lot of time creating renderings of my event concepts, vision boards, floor plans, and presentation tables to communicate my ideas.  I had not established a strong portfolio for myself just yet, nor did I have the funds to, so this was the best route for me.

5) I established strong friendships with industry professionals that were at the same stage as I was in my career.  There was comfort in knowing that there was someone else who was going through the same business challenges I was facing and that we could work on them together.  Nothing replaces the feeling that comes from knowing you have a strong support network of people you can count on that are genuinely committed to your success.

6) Just keep going.  Work at it.  Prove yourself.  Be confident.  As Lara Casey says, ‘Make It Happen’.

This weekend, think about how potential clients perceive you, your business, and level of expertise.  Are you presenting your ‘best self’?

Please comment below, did you have an ‘age barrier’ when starting your career?  How did you communicate your ability to design and plan events to your first clients?  Share your experience!

Have a wonderful weekend!


Friend Feature: Distinct Occasions

I have known Crystal for almost six years now.  She is one of the first friends I made in this industry and she has been by my side ever since.  Crystal and I have worked on many beautiful events together, some of which represent my first ’big breaks’ in the industry.  We have seen each other grow personally and professionally and I will be forever grateful for the friendship I have with her.

Crystal is the ‘Planner of Once-In-A-Lifetime Awesomeness’ and founder of Distinct Occasions.  The foundation of her business is built upon ‘True Love’.  She has a cute, quirky, and eclectic style that stands out amongst the industry.  She is not afraid to be herself and ensures her brand represents this.

Please take a moment to visit Crystal’s beautiful website at www.distinctoccasions.ca for a preview of her services and portfolio of events.

March 2013

Greetings from Panama!  The warm weather here has me dreaming of the spring and summer seasons.  I am so excited that spring is only 15 days away!  Last year we planted a beautiful Japanese garden and I cannot wait to see its progress this season.  I will share some images later in the season, let me know what you think!

March 2013 is especially important to me and my family at PARAS Events as it marks our 10th anniversary in business!  I was so humbled by all the congratulatory messages I received today through email and our social channels.  It has been an incredible journey with many lessons learned, friendships made, couples happy, and continual steps forward.

I am looking forward to an amazing month!


Keeping the Balance

I had the absolute pleasure of attending and speaking at the Wedding Planners Institute of Canada Alumni Event this week.  A group of over 125 wedding professionals gathered for an evening of education, networking, and FUN!  It was so great to make some new friends and re-connect with existing friends.

I had the honour of speaking to my colleagues about the importance of ‘Keeping The Balance’.  It is a very important topic of interest to our group of local wedding professionals as most of us are small business owners and entrepreneurs and due to the nature of our industry, ‘keeping the balance’ can be difficult.

Today on the blog, I would like to share the highlights of my presentation with all of you so we may better juggle the work-life balance and learn from each other.

1) Identify What Makes You Happy

Think of all the ‘awesome’ in your life.  What brings you complete joy and happiness?  How do you put yourself in your ‘happy’ place?  Now decide, how am I going to shape my business to ensure I am truly happy?

For me, it is definitely the time I spend with my two younger brothers.  I cherish my friendship with both of them.  They keep me grounded.  To them, no matter where my career takes me,  I am always going to be their ‘big brother’.  I am so grateful for all the joy and happiness my brothers bring into my life.

2) Curate Your Network

I have written about the importance of ‘Curating Your Network’ several times on the blog.  I can’t stress enough how important this is in our personal lives and in business.

You must surround yourselves with those that truly support you and are completely committed to your success.  Eliminate the ‘crazies’ in your life that can be emotionally and physically draining, attract ‘drama’, and distract you from your core focus.

Curating your network applies to your business relationships and social media interactions as well.  I insist on working with suppliers and event partners that share my vision for quality, customer service, and the collaborative approach.  Within social media, decide early on what your main marketing and branding goals are and position your social channels accordingly.  My social channels are more about my brand (a brand extension) and have very little to do with me as an individual.  This approach is not for everyone, so choose the method that works best for you.  If you would like to know me on a more personal level, follow me on Instagram.

Acknowledge, appreciate, and nurture your network.  They will have your back no matter what.

3) Stop the Comparison

Comparison becomes detrimental when you let it effect you negatively.  It is so easy to become distracted by the cycle of comparison that occurs across your social media channels that it can be deflating, frustrating, and overcome you with a sense of envy.

It becomes increasingly important to make the self realization that ‘Going At Your Own Pace’ is integral to healthy business growth.

Whether you decide to take baby steps or giant leaps toward your success, don’t become distracted by others.  Just stay focused on YOUR growth and YOUR goals.

4) Celebrate Your Achievements

Too often we are so busy with the ‘chase’ that we don’t stop to reflect on all of our personal and business achievements.  As business owners, we have bills to pay, and sometimes it can feel like we have to take on every project to stay afloat.  Truthfully, (no matter the stage at which your business is operating) it is something we all have been through or go through or contemplate when things get ‘tough’.  Put yourself in the following mindset: Owning your own business is an achievement.  Operating a business is an achievement.  Making a living doing what you love is an achievement.  Being in charge of your own destiny is an accomplishment.

5) Learn to Say No

This is a tough one.  I have come to realize that it comes from a mindset of ‘missed opportunity’.  We are afraid that if we are not everywhere all the time or everything to everyone we will ‘miss out’.  Whether that means a missed business opportunity or what (at the time) may seem like ‘burning a bridge’.  Like many, I am programmed to please, so saying no makes me feel like I am letting someone down.  It is only over time that I have come to realize that part of the work-life balance is learning to say no when it pushes you to your physical and mental limits.

6) Establish Your Life Plan

This has become extremely important in my goal setting.  Determine your life plan and then structure your business around it.  Think about how you run your business.  Does your existing business model support your future goals?  Where do you see yourself ten years from now?  Are you living in the tropics?  Are you starting a family?  Ensure you operate your business in a manner that supports your life plan.

What happens when the business is no longer operating?  Have you taken the necessary steps to secure your future?  Who are you without your business?

Peter Callahan calls it his ‘Aspen Money’.  He makes sure that his business supports his life goals, hobbies and interests, and future security.

I am continually working on this step.  It is a work in progress, but I feel I have really embraced this step in the last two years of my life.  I will let you know how I am doing!

I want to thank the Wedding Planners Institute of Canada and the production team consisting of Holly Carney, Danielle Deebank, Tracy Nolan, Jaxx Swadi, and Janice Lewis for a wonderful event.

I will be blogging while in Panama next week with my clients!  Have a wonderful weekend!


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