There is no shortage of incredible female entrepreneurs in the wedding industry. From planners to fashion designers and caterers, women lead the charge on all things weddings. To honor these industry leaders, Brides tapped some of our favorite professionals to share what it’s like to build a successful wedding business—and their biggest piece of advice to someone starting a company of their own.
Brittany Lo is the founder and CEO of Beautini, one of New York City’s top bridal beauty companies. She hosts a pop culture and business podcast, Cake for Breakfast, and offers beauty advice through her personal social media and newsletter.
“The wedding industry prides itself on years of experience, and I entered this industry straight out of college at 22 years old. I saw a big white space in the beauty sector of weddings and knew I could create an innovative brand that would be even better than the current offerings. Instead of spending time trying to convince people to trust me and my new business, I decided very early on that I would let our business and high-quality services speak for themselves. I focused on connecting directly with brides and having Beautini be a part of every wedding expo, industry event, or any other opportunities that let our work show.”
Biggest piece of advice: “Listen to your gut, listen to your customers, and believe that you can. It's scary trying to navigate the initial steps to building a brand but keep listening to yourself. No one will understand your vision more than you.”
Breathe Your Brand
Fashion designer Rime Arodaky has been imagining gowns for women for the past decade for her eponymous label. The looks challenge traditional norms, created for women who want to stand out in a crowd.
“You also need to be obsessed with what you do. It needs to be like the air you are breathing. Being an entrepreneur is hard every single day. If you want your company to be successful, it needs your full attention, and you need to have ownership of everything: marketing, public relations, styling, production, sourcing, design, retail strategy. It’s a very competitive market, and we need to fight lots of copies of our designs. We have to protect the value we bring to brides. Each day is a challenge, but it’s also so, so fulfilling to see your vision come to life. I never take anything for granted.”
Biggest piece of advice: “Never try to be like someone else. People will follow you if you are authentic, and your clients will buy from you because you are different. Invest your energy in new ideas and new ways.”
Know How to Break the Rules
As a founding partner of Brooklyn-based event design company Tinsel Experiential Design, Erica Taylor Haskins has produced hundreds of weddings and social occasions at iconic institutions like the New York Public Library, Guggenheim Museum, and One World Conservatory.
“With countless teams that can provide beautiful flowers, candles, tablescapes, and boxwood walls, we had to make it known that our ideal client is looking for a design that feels bolder and more electric. Sure, we can provide flowers and candles, too. But our clients come to us because they know we can fill a ballroom with disco balls, roll a Cadillac into a venue for a photo booth, and suspend an opera-singing aerialist from the ceiling. The real challenge isn't competing against other companies; it's a challenge of how to position yourself as the only choice for the clients that are right for you.”
Biggest piece of advice: “Build your ‘advisory board,’ a trusted circle of mentors and peers you can use as a sounding board and gut check. Know when to ask for help. The people in your life want to see you succeed. You don't have to do it alone.”
Welcome the Challenges
For 18 years, Jung Lee, a veteran of the industry, lifestyle expert, and mother, has run her world-renown event planning company Fête. During that time, she also launched a successful brick-and-mortar home goods store, Jung Lee New York, and its innovative wedding registry business, Slowdance.
“I've been in the wedding industry for a long time so that means I have faced lots of challenges! While it may sound crazy, I welcome them. As a creative entrepreneur, I am always pushing the envelope. I see things in my head, and I have a deep desire and excitement for others to share in that. When I entered this market, my approach and philosophy were very nontraditional: great weddings should have a strong point of view. Today, my focus and challenge are teaching couples [how to do that with] a wedding registry. Every newlywed’s home should reflect their personal style. Without the challenges along the way, we couldn't see what we are made of.”
Biggest piece of advice: “Have a deep sense of gratitude. Inherently challenges are hard, but it is how we get defined. When things get rocky, take a pause and look for the lesson.”
Sonal Shah is the founder and creative force behind Sonal J. Shah Event Consultants, an event design company for South Asian weddings, and the author of The Complete Guide to Planning the Perfect South Asian Wedding.
“It is a challenge to be taken seriously as a petite female who looks younger than my age. When people initially meet me, more often than not, they think I am just a newbie, even though I have been in the industry for 18 years. So I talk about my experience and share the knowledge I have accumulated over the many years of blood, sweat, tears, and sleepless nights. While everyone else was enjoying the weekend, I was working tirelessly every weekend and holiday. Family and friends aren’t that understanding of why you need to work so much, so I learned to surround myself with women who genuinely want to see me succeed.”
Biggest piece of advice: “Keep an open mind. There is always room to grow, no matter how many years you have been in business.”
Carve a Niche
Amy Anaiz is an editorial, wedding, and portrait photographer that has built her business around heartfelt storytelling and beautiful imagery. Her style is focused on capturing the emotion and personality of everyone in her shots.
“The most rewarding aspect of being a woman in the wedding industry has been being able to command my style and create a niche. I am known for being an expert on photographing all shades of melanated skin and capturing my clients in an authentic way. I am proud that I lead a diverse, all-women team of five. Our unique diversity and way of thinking and seeing are what makes the final product so special.”
Biggest piece of advice: “Set a small set of goals first, achieve them. Set a new set of goals a little bigger, achieve those. And keep building from there.”
Don’t Change Who You Are
Robin is carrying on her mother’s namesake company, Marcia Selden Catering, as its managing partner and executive chef. She recently launched an entirely planted-based catering service, Naked Fig, alongside Matthew Kenney.
“I’m a nurturing woman and feel that our couples want to share things with me. One of my favorite parts of my job is creating that trust and bond when working with our couples to help design the perfect menu. It’s typically such an intimate experience getting to know them. It’s exciting and rewarding when they come back time and time again to then do their housewarming parties and their baby showers. My sensitivity and desire to be a people-pleaser, though, sometimes get in the way of being a businesswoman. But it is what makes me who I am—I don’t want to overcome it as it’s what I believe makes those relationships with couples really special.”
Biggest piece of advice: “Lead with positivity. Jump over the roadblocks and see them as learning experiences. Be kind, passionate, and compassionate.”