Posts filed under ‘Insider to Insider’

Insider to Insider: Amy Beth Cupp Dragoo, Owner of ABCD Designs Bespoke Stationery, inc.

I’ve been a fan of Amy from ABCD Designs Bespoke Stationery for some time now.  I first came to know her wedding stationery from features in Grace Ormonde, Style Me Pretty, and Brooklyn Bride.  But, it was through Twitter that I really got to know Amy.  She is incredibly candid and very personable.  And, then I fell in love with her blog.  WOW! Oh – WOW!  Her blog is a true work of art.  Amy manages to showcase not only her stationery, but also her amazing sense of style.  She speaks from her soul about things that truly move her.  By doing this she has an incredible way of connecting with her readers.  I can only imagine that she has a million fans… oh, and then there’s you. Dear Reader, you’ll SOON be a fan of ABCD Designs too!

Amy Beth Cupp Dragoo
Owner, ABCD Designs Bespoke Stationery
New York, NY (sells worldwide)
Established 2006

What is your favorite thing about weddings?
There are always wedding guests (like parents’ friends) who may not know the bride or groom very well. For me, the wedding invitation is a wonderful place to tell the couples story. I like to incorporate the feel that the bride intends for her wedding celebration. I am very inspired by the decor, food and space where they plan to marry. I love to be able to set the tone for their party as invitations are the first glimpse of the wedding day. In my eyes, there is nothing like helping to grow and heighten the anticipation for the celebration through their printed wedding stationery wardrobe.
What is your best tip for time management?
I open up the blog with my first cup of coffee in the morning. I treat it like it is a part of my work. By blogging, I give my customer the chance to get to know my personality. While I do updates of recent projects on my blog, I do not try to “sell” my product by constantly shoving it down their throats. I Twitter mostly from my blackberry. I am very much a multi-tasker. I keep the widow open and tweet when I am standing in line, waiting on a train and sometimes when I am riding the bike at the gym!
What is your little marketing secret?
THE ABCD Design BLOG!! It is pretty amazing – I’d say about 90% of my clients find long before they find They “stalk” the blog for a while, convince themselves they like “me” and my product. It makes selling my services that much easier come time that they decide to hire me. They trust if I am exhibiting good taste and promoting item/design/decor/recipes that they like, they realize that I will not steer them in the wrong direction when it comes to their wedding stationery. The blog is great because I blog about all things “nesting” and about “living a well lived life.” Brides stick with me and the ABCD Design blog long after the wedding day because I don’t blog about 100% weddings all of the time. It’s a great thing, because when it comes time for holiday cards, change of address, business cards or baby announcements ABCD Designs Bespoke Stationery is at the top of their minds.
What is the funnest (most fun) trend you are seeing in the industry?
The brides that I work with often buck (or make) the trend. I really like to incorporate the personality of the couple that I am working with. The more they share about their story, the more creative I can get. Recently, I worked with a couple who met when he was working on a the Campaign trail and she was writing a political blog. The result was fantastic. We ran a campaign of our own, complete with a wink and a nod to the Constitution and “real life” campaign stickers!

If you were starting your business all over again, what would you have done differently?

I would/should have charged more for custom services from the get-go. The amount of time you spend brainstorming, baby-sitting, editing, revisions and calming the bride down all adds up. The brides -knowing my history in floral design, styling and event planning- often look for my advice on flowers, food and styling the event. Maybe I should have offered this as an ala carte service? At this point and time they get a really, really good deal for my design services and wedding “therapy!”

Thanks Amy!


August 14, 2009 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Insider to Insider: David and Corbin Baxter, Owners of Soulbox Productions

David & Corbin Baxter

Photo courtesy of Sil Azevedo, Azevedo Photography

This week’s Insider Interview is brought to you by Kelly Simants.  She met with David and Corbin Baxter of Soulbox Productions a few months ago and was wowed by their energy and enthusiasm.  She loves how open the videographers are to share with people in the industry. David and Corbin started their business in 2001 when they wrote, directed, and filmed a feature length film.  They began filming weddings full time in 2004.  I love what they have to say about their clientele: “It is amazing to us that our clients are just like us.  They find us through our work: creative, energetic, carefree, organized, and detail-oriented.”  This is so relateable.  They have managed to give prospective clients a taste of what it’s like to work with them.  Brilliant!  Here are more brilliant thoughts from David and Corbin.

David & Corbin Baxter
Owners, Soulbox Productions
Dallas, TX
Established 2001

What is your favorite thing about weddings?

Capturing once in a lifetime moments for our wonderful couples. We’re so lucky that we’ve built so many great relationships, we absolutely love what we do!

What is your best tip for time management?

Make attainable yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals. Corbin and I set priorities and accomplish them as efficiently as possible. For example, we pride ourselves on replying to inquiries within 24 hours.

What is your little marketing secret?

Network, network, network. Corbin and I are both advertising majors and so it was a surprise to us in the beginning that building relationships with your clients and other wedding vendors is by far the best marketing.

What is the funnest (most fun) trend you are seeing in the industry?

Well, we’re going to be a little biased on this one and say anything vintage: cars, dresses, veils, invitations and for us, true super 8mm film coverage.

If you were starting your business all over again, what would you have done differently?

Started filming weddings in super 8mm from the beginning. We had Corbin’s father’s super 8mm camera for 5 years and didn’t even know it.

Thanks David & Corbin!

August 7, 2009 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Insider to Insider: Andrea Porter, Owner of Circle Park Bridal Boutique

circleparkbridalKelly Simants recently met with Andrea Porter, Owner of Circle Park Bridal Boutique in North Dallas.  She was impressed with Andrea’s business saavy and her super cute shop!  Andrea started her career in the cosmetic and fashion industries working for companies such as Estee Lauder and a leading intimate apparel company. More recently, Andrea worked in hospitality management and event coordination, overseeing daily bridal, social and corporate functions for up to 5,000 guests. In 2004, Hilton Brand Vice Presidents awarded her with the Innovation Award, given annually to just one person in the company worldwide. Circle Park Bridal was Andrea’s vision to create a beautiful boutique with incredible customer service and gorgeous gowns at fair prices.  I love Andrea’s business insight!  (I think you will too!)

Andrea Porter
Owner, Circle Park Bridal Boutique
Addison, TX
Established 2007

What is your favorite thing about weddings?

Whether it is a huge affair or a small and intimate celebration, a couple will never feel more overwhelming love and support than on their wedding day.  I encourage brides to walk slowly down the aisle, to savor the look in her groom’s eyes and to take in the joy on her guests’ faces.  Relax and enjoy everyone’s company, cherish every conversation, each giggle, every smile and all the happy tears.

To have everyone that you both care about, together in one room is an incredible experience….a gift that happens just once in a lifetime. There comes a time when most would trade all worldly possessions to experience this one day over again.  The day will truly feel magical and it will be the one day you will reminisce about forever.

What is your best tip for time management?

Here in Dallas, there are industry mixers, tradeshows and open houses for wedding professionals almost every night of the week.  Face to face networking is extremely important for new business development but can easily take away time allocated to product research, inventory purchasing, staff training, etc.  I had to get a grasp on my schedule by prioritizing which events and associations were most advantageous to attend.  I learned to not over commit. Saying no to some board and committee seats was difficult, but absolutely necessary to ensure I am 100% on top of my store’s daily operations.

What is your little marketing secret?

I truly felt there was a need to shake up the way the bridal gowns were sold by eliminating the hassles that are so common in the industry and by adding a much needed fun factor.  My research showed a need to ensure marketing efforts exude the experience a bride will have at Circle Park Bridal.  We have a super cute retro bride logo that has been very popular with our customers and our website main page is a whimsical replica of the exterior of our two story boutique. Blogging and our presence on Facebook and Twitter have also been great for us to get our message out. We also host a lot of spirited events that are a little off the beaten path from what most bridal shops would offer, such as complimentary special advance movie screenings for our brides to movies such as MADE OF HONOR and BRIDE WARS, our annual Ghoul’s Night Out for Halloween parties, etc.

I guess it is important to explain how a bride’s experience at our store is so different. In developing the store’s concept, I looked at the way most bridal boutiques are run and realized their way of operating hasn’t changed in forty years.  They are perceived as stuffy, they carry mostly sample sizes and only special order, leaving plenty of room for mistakes (wrong size, color, or style arriving or gowns arriving late or being damaged going through customs, etc). Brides relay that most shops are crammed with merchandise and charge ridiculously high prices for gowns and accessories.

I  then compared the operations of a couple of large bridal chain stores and thought with their mammoth size and large number of brides serviced at one time, they were missing the mark in providing a truly intimate and special experience for brides. Through bridal focus groups, I learned many brides perceive gown shopping, whether in a “normal bride boutique” or in a chain store, to be the one thing about wedding planning they dreaded the most.

I market Circle Park Bridal as the pseudo bridal shop…the opposite of what most expect to experience. The store was created initially more as a hobby, as when it opened, it was just three days a week. By staying true to our concept:  offering brides of all budgets a convenient, upscale boutique experience with “retro prices”  as each bride deserves to feel special on the day she selects her wedding gown (all of our brand new designer gowns are priced below $800, up to 80% off their suggested retail price).

We work hard to ensure our store’s offerings are clear on our website. We are small and we carry just 200 gowns at one time in sizes 0 through 16. We don’t have every gown in every size, color and style. We know don’t have a gown for every bride. But when we do, it is an incredible match and the shopping experience is like no other!

Brides have really embraced our store’s concept. We work with just two brides at any one time, so it is a very intimate experience. When a bride selects her gown, she knows exactly the price, the color, the size and how much will need to be altered before she takes it home. With us, there are no rush fees, no lectures about waiting so long to order a gown and no surprises.  Brides take immediate possession of their gown and can then have alterations when they want without rush fees and have bridal photos taken on their schedule.

Circle Park Bridal

What is the funnest (most fun) trend you are seeing in the industry?

Most of our brides are steering away from traditional veils. Birdcage veils and hair feather fascinators with antique brooches are very popular with our brides and create a ultra whimsical look that makes their guests smile and know they are in for some fun at the reception. Most of our brides are wearing bold colored heels to incorporate a splash of color and personality into their look.  The Old Hollywood glamour look is a really popular wedding theme right now, complete with cigar bars, martini bars, Frank Sinatra-esque bands and crystal accents everywhere, from floral arrangements, to centerpieces to “back jewelry”.

If you were starting your business all over again, what would you have done differently?

I would never again do a finish-out in Texas during the months of July and August.  I would have met with a CPA before I formed my Limited Liability Corporation.  I also would have saved a large amount of time and money had I immediately created an account with a payroll company rather than allocating that task to my CPA’s office for my first six months of operations.

Thank you so much, Andrea!

July 31, 2009 at 6:00 am 2 comments

Insider to Insider: Laura & Chris Randall, Owners of Edit 1 Media

Laura RandallLaura Randall and her husband Chris are the founders and co-owners of Edit 1 Media, a video production company.  Recently, I visited with them in their Tacoma home.  I was struck by their warmth and sincerity.  Instantly, I understood why their work is so beautiful, so touching, so real.  (That’s how they are!)  Several years ago their son Matthew was diagnosed with cancer as a toddler.  On their journey to hell and back they started filming him.  They met so many families that wanted Chris and Laura to film their children.  So, they began taping the families as a way of helping them in their catharsis.  What began as something charitable, turned into requests for filming all life events… including the more uplifting ones, such as weddings.  Their entrepreneurial story is by far the most touching one I have ever encountered.  Out of this very painful moment in their lives, blossomed an amazing business… and a healthy little boy…  Matthew will turn 15 this year!  Thank you so much, Laura and Chris, for sharing of yourself with me!

Chris RandallLaura & Chris Randall
Owners, Edit 1 Media

Seattle, WA and Honolulu, HI
Established 1998

What is your favorite thing about weddings?

The interactions and emotions. It might be the look on a mother’s face as she watches her son dance with his new wife for the first time. Or the quivering lower lip as a father sees his little girl as a beautiful bride. Or the smile on a bride’s face when her soon-to-be husband whispers “You are so beautiful!”. Or the roaring laughter of the crowd during the Best Man’s toast. There is so much power in these moments and I love seeing the story unfold. Every wedding we film is unique and I love being a witness to the story of the day.

What is your best tip for time management?

I am a list person and I have been since I was a kid! I use a program called Remember The Milk which I can access from my laptop or my iPhone. It gives me a great sense of accomplishment to cross things off on my list. I also keep a running list of our editing backlog and send that out to our clients periodically so they can see where they stand in the queue and what items I’m waiting to receive from them in order to finish the video.

What is your little marketing secret?

Be very visible, stay in touch with other industry people and let your personality shine through!

What is the funnest trend you are seeing in the industry?

For videography it is definitely Same Day Edits! This is where we take video footage from earlier in the day, edit it on-site, then project it on a large screen at the reception!! The guests are completely blown away and it’s a HUGE smash hit!!

If you were starting your business all over again, what would you have done differently?

I would have learned how to handle accounting, budgeting, taxes and our workflow from the very beginning! As Michael Gerber says in “The E-Myth” (paraphrased) – “Just because you are good at doing something, doesn’t mean you are good at running a business!”. We have spent the last few years really stepping back and re-evaluating how we run our business while still keeping our artistic and creative passion flowing. It is a delicate balance and there have been some hard lessons learned along the way, but we love what we do and we love to continue learning how to make things work even better!

And, here’s a clip of some of their amazing work…

Seattle Same Day Edit with 5D Mark II from Edit 1 Media on Vimeo.

July 24, 2009 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Insider to Insider: Laurel McConnell, Owner of Laurel McConnell Photography

Photo courtesy of Barbie Hull Photography

Photo courtesy of Barbie Hull Photography

Laurel McConnell is seriously one of my favorite people in this industry.  Her photography is amazing, gorgeous, incredible, delightful and talented.  But, it’s Laurel herself that I adore even more.  She is funny and smart.  She is witty and bright.  And, she has an incredible spirit and fire.  Laurel is a marketing maven and any wedding business could learn a lot from her on branding, niche, and having a “company voice”.  (You’ll know what I mean if you read her blog and once you read her interview below.)  Her personal flair is on everything she does… and that’s what makes it so special.

Laurel McConnell
Owner, Laurel McConnell Photography
Based in Seattle, WA (but travels worldwide)
Established 2001

What is your favorite thing about weddings?

Other than the obvious (happy giddy love and gooey gushy moments & feelings) it’s the anticipation of what exciting things could happen and the cool things we’ll find. Each time we change locations or focus on a new part of the day a whole new world explodes in front of us, waiting for it’s turn to be documented.

It’s like each day is a scavenger hunt- I put all of my energy into finding the light in each situation, absorbing the energy of the people around me, and being in the right place at the right time for the moments that are happening before my eyes. Bride bathed in the most beautiful light that it takes your breath away, CHECK. Ring bearer picking his nose, CHECK. Dad crying when he thinks no one can see him doing it, CHECK. Series of a surprise proposal during the reception of his best friend’s wedding, CHECK. Talk about an exciting day.

What is your best tip for time management?

I’m probably the worst person to ask about this because photographers have SO much pre and post production for each shoot and client that we drown and end up missing dinner, but I like to save a little bit of time each day for my “research” (blog reading, newsletter reading, market trends, social networking, etc) so I feel like I got a treat and got to “goof off.” I got to have a little bit of fun and can move on, and really get stuff D O N E. But really… I turn off my email and phone, lock the door and shut the curtain, and work solid straight through lunch and sometimes dinner: I call this my little Workcation. You can always tell when I’ve had one because there are like 5 blog articles in a row, and then hear nothing but crickets for the next three weeks while I face the music of the missed calls and unanswered emails!

What is your little marketing secret?

If I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret, now, would it?! But I can give you two hints:

1. Being genuine in your personal relationships with other people in your industry when you network. Your network of other photographers and professionals is your biggest ally and loudest cheerleading squad.

2. Finding something people generally like outside of what you do for work that you can write about on your business blog to keep folks coming back for more. In otherwords: yep, you guessed it, CUPCAKES are my little marketing secret.

What is the funnest (most fun) trend you are seeing in the industry?

The wedding photography industry is so ridiculously trendy, it’s dizzying and distracting, so I’m going to be a little abstract here. The one thing that stands out once you take away all the photobooths, generic post-processing ready-made actions, and retro-vintage-thingamabbobers is CREATIVITY AND INGENUITY. The hottest new trend is to be creative and differentiate yourself from other photographers with a difinitive STYLE. People are trying new things outside of their normal realm of shooting, marketing, image-processing, writing, reading, listening, and letting it inspire them to carve out a niche and style that is highly marketable to the types of clients they want.

If you were starting your business all over again, what would you have done differently?

Not a dang thing. There are millions of awesome workshops, blogs, and chatty photographers who are willing to share more now that what was available when I came out of commercial art school. Heck, you don’t even need to go to school anymore, most budding photographers I meet aren’t or didn’t. But you know what…. I feel like the route that I took, learning things the HARD way, finding my own way to do things, shaped and molded my style, business skills, and personality in such a way that if I did anything differently, I just might blend into the masses.

YAY!  Thanks Laurel!

July 17, 2009 at 6:00 am 4 comments

Insider to Insider: Susan Alexander Shapiro, Owner of Bravo Bride

Susan Shapiro (and hubby!)I met Susan Alexander Shapiro through Business Networking International.  She has a phenomenal design business, Susabella, that specializes in web sites, e-newsletters, logos, stationery, corporate branding, brochures, advertisements, promotional materials and much more.  Last year I was amazed when this smart woman launched Bravo Bride, a website where brides can buy pre-owned wedding items.  Not only do brides get great deals on things that were often used for a few hours, but also customers get the satisfaction that they are doing good for the environment by reusing, recycling, and reducing.  And, we like that!  BRAVO, SUSAN!  BRAVO!

Susan Alexander Shapiro
Owner of Bravo Bride
Based in Seattle, WA (sell nationwide)
Established 2008

What is your favorite thing about weddings?

That’s a hard one, there are so many wonderful things about a wedding but I have to admit my favorite is watching the bride walk down the aisle in her wedding gown. I love to watch the look on the groom’s face, that is such a special moment.

What is your best tip for time management?

Time management, what’s that? Just kidding :). Everyday I make a to-do list and cross things off as I go. This makes me stay focused and helps me feel like I am accomplishing things. I recently started adding not only work items on my to-do list but also personal items such as grocery shopping, going for a run, etc. It easy to put those things off if they aren’t on my to-do list and it feels just as good to mark those off too.

What is your little marketing secret?

I don’t know if you could call it a secret but I believe that word of mouth referrals are your best marketing tools. If someone likes your service or product they will tell everyone they know and that’s the best type of advertising you can have.

What is the funnest trend you are seeing in the industry?

I love how brides are wearing different colored shoes under their gown. Here are a few on BravoBride that I love:

If you were starting your business all over again, what would you have done differently?

We have some new features on the site such a forum for brides to chat, our blog and a new messaging system. These would have been great to have when we launched the site but I am learning as I go that BravoBride will evolve and change as time goes on. Hopefully the best is yet to come!

Thanks Susan!

July 10, 2009 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Insider to Insider: Whitney Speir, Owner Brown Sugar Design

Brown Sugar Design

Brown Sugar Design

A few weeks ago I wrote about knowing your competition.  I told you to hug your competitor because he or she can be your greatest ally in knowing the specific niche for your business.  This week, I introduce to you one of my FAVORITE competitors: Brown Sugar Design.  Whitney and Jonathan Speir are co-owners of the invitation business and their work is exquisite!  They have elegance and beauty in everything they produce.  And they are really sweet too… sorta like brown sugar.  Here’s my interview with Whitney… enjoy!

Whitney Speir
Co-owner of Brown Sugar Design
Based in Seattle, WA (sell worldwide)
Established 2002

What is your favorite thing about weddings?

We love seeing details come together to make a wedding uniquely personal. Since we work with brides and grooms pretty early in the planning process, we get to hear them describe their perfect day…and as time goes on, and we work closely with them from save the dates to invitations to day-of items…we get to see their vision become a reality.

What is your best tip for time management?

Time management has been an ever-evolving project for us. Since we love what we do, we tend to work 12-14 hour days without even noticing. We’ve learned to discipline ourselves and to stick to a specific work schedule so that other important aspects of life don’t fall by the wayside.

With individual projects, we’ve found that two secrets to successful time management are 1) setting a timeline and 2) communicating that timeline with our clients. After all, we’re dealing with a hard deadline: the wedding day. Communicating deadlines for receiving content, sending designs for review, and the like at the start helps our clients feel at ease and keeps every part of the process moving at the proper pace.

What is your little marketing secret?

Our blog ( has been a great way to introduce new projects and keep people interested in our freshest work. We’ve also tried to be diligent to create and maintain relationships with other bloggers out there so that when we have something exciting to tell the world, they’re ready and willing to help us shout it from the rooftops. This has been such a wonderful source of business and press for us – and it’s free!

What is the funnest trend you are seeing in the industry?

In the invitation industry specifically, we love seeing the use of unexpected materials and techniques. Metallic foiling on chipboard, blind letterpress on wood veneer, screenprinted fabric, etched plexiglass, laser-cut details, die-cut shapes – there are so many new and interesting ideas out there!

If you were starting your business all over again, what would you have done differently?

We would have been much more diligent from the start in keeping tabs on our accounting. While we’ve always monitored it satisfactorily, it’s only been in the past year that we’ve really taken more of an interest in carefully planning every dollar in and every dollar out. It’s been such a benefit to us that I wish we had started much sooner.

Thanks Whitney!

June 26, 2009 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

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