Posts filed under ‘Time Management’

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

Productivity Lessons I’ve Learned…

Creative Commons License

This week, I want to share with you some of the good, bad, and ugly things I’ve learned while having a small business in the wedding industry.  My reasons for starting this blog include sharing my experiences with those of you who are newish to the business in the hopes that you can learn from my triumphs and even, from my tribulations.  And, maybe those of you who are not-so-newish can share your stories too.  I’m going to break this down over the three days into the following lessons I’ve learned: productivity lessons, people lessons, profit lessons.

Productivity Lessons…

My business has gone through many iterations of time management.  When I first started my business in 2004, I was balancing a job as a merchandiser for Coach Handbags, doing a little market research reporting for my uncle-in-law’s Hispanic Research Business, teaching Spanish to little kiddies, and a few other odds and ends.  I learned quickly how to get lots done in the late hours of the night.  At this time I was launching my business so everything was new and exciting and sleep was overrated.  (Plus, I’m a night owl.)  Time management for me was balancing all aspects of my business: business planning, designing, meeting with clients, production, delivery, etc. while balancing a few jobs.  Life was crazy and fun.

But, this was certainly not forever.  I strove to build my business into my full-time gig.  As my business has grown, I’ve been able to hire AMAZING people to help me with some of these responsibilities, particularly assembly production and some administrative tasks.  My role is more of a company “visionary” and I am still the primary client interface and designer.  And, while I don’t have a day job anymore, I was blessed with the role of motherhood in 2007.  This has introduced a whole new equation of time management and productivity.  And, so with that, I give you my…

…5 Lessons Learned in Productivity

1 – Keep detailed calendars, lists, and schedules.

This isn’t news.  But, take it a step further by including follow-up dates and deadlines on your calendars and to-do lists.  When you are communicating with various clients, vendors, and contacts it isn’t good enough having them on your list.  You need to be on top of every detail.  I use google calendars for everything and I have clients’ info on an Excel sheet or google spreadsheet, so that I can sort by follow up date.

2 – Don’t overschedule

I don’t schedule more than 5 client meetings per week and no more than 3 “other” meetings (vendor, philanthropy, networking) per week.  This is maximum… (optimally, I won’t schedule more than 3 meetings in a week and 2 meetings in one day.)  I know that if I overschedule myself I’m doing too much catch-up of my real work.  And, I start to feel burned out quickly.

3 – Act immediately

I try to respond to email as soon as I see it.  It doesn’t mean that I’m sitting by my email waiting for it to arrive.  This means that as soon as it comes in, I provide the sender with some sort of response.  That way their need is taken care of immediately.  If I need to do further work for them, I simply respond that I will have an answer for them in a stated time and I add that to my to-do and deadline list.  For example, if a client wants an invite revision that I know I cannot pay full attention to immediately:

“I’d be happy to send you a redesign in the next 2 days… so be on the lookout for that!”

I don’t know how many people I email and don’t respond to me for a few days.  This is irresponsible. If you don’t have an answer, just let me know you’ll get back to me.  Communication is the key.  (Which brings me to my next point…)

4 – Communicate!

Part of managing your time is managing expectations.  If you are slammed with work and cannot satisfy an inquiry, let the client know that.  You don’t need to give them the dirty details, but let them know that you are on top of their request and will give them further information in the days that follow.  This sort of communication also works for balancing personal needs vs. work needs.  Most people don’t expect you to work on their wedding 24/7… but, if you communicate your boundaries, this works much better.  For example, I tell clients that I will meet with them on the weekends only if a weekday/night time is not possible by either of us.  Weekend time is family time for me.  Every client I have ever worked with is very respectful of this.  And, if someone is only available on weekends, I’m happy to meet with them.  This is an exception, not the rule.

5 – Why am I procrastinating?

I’ve learned that when I’m procrastinating there is usually a good reason for it.  So now, I ask myself: why am I holding off on doing that?  Sometimes it is because I’m burned out and need a break.  Sometimes it’s because I have a fear of trying something and failing.  Sometimes it’s because I am uninspired.  I’ve learned to identify times where I’m just spinning my wheels (or internet surfing) instead of tackling my to-do list.  So, now I stop myself and ask: why am I procrastinating?  I take a step back, go downstairs for some lunch and think of the one thing I need to accomplish when I get back to the office.  Works like a charm!

I could list a gazillion more… but it’s your turn now! What are your productivity lessons?

July 21, 2009 at 6:00 am 2 comments

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

The Mompreneur (or Papapreneur) – if You have Kiddos!

courtesy of Barbie Hull Photography

courtesy of Barbie Hull Photography

Let me begin this post by saying that I have been a parent for 21 months this Saturday.  I am definitely not an expert in parenting, nor am I an expert in being a mompreneur.  This is where I’m going to ask those of you that have children to chime in.  I’d love to know what you consider to be the best advice you could give another parent who is also a business owner. (Psssst… post a comment below.)

So that you know where my “tips” come from… and so that you can apply which ones work for you… I’ll preface by saying that I have had a mix of parenting/working experiences:

  • full time parent / full time business owner (no outside sitting/nannying) – we simply refer to this as “INSANITY” in our house
  • part time parent / full time business owner (my husband and I were both sharing in baby caring equally or a sitter was hired part time)
  • full time parent / part time business owner (I was at home for the first 2-3 months of Lili’s life and working less hours)

I am in the very fortunate situation that my husband is also self-employed and is an equal partner in the insane baby/work balancing act.  He is quite the pinch-hitter in times that our little team has been in need.  (I can’t believe I just made a sports analogy… did I even do that right?)

What I do have to offer in this department is some
habits that have been REALLY helpful for me in my baby/business (ad)ventures:

  • Take care of yourself
    If you are running the machine and you break down, who is going to run the machine?  You MUST take care of yourself so that your child, your family, and your business can continue to thrive.  Whatever it is you need to do for yourself (a glass of wine, 15 minutes with the newspaper, a shower, a walk around the block) do this every day so that you stay grounded.
  • Don’t forget about your spouse or partner
    It’s easy to forget about your spouse or partner when you are so busy keeping everyone else happy.  But, what about them?  They are your partner in this.  Remember that you two are the team captains and that most daily occurrences are just silliness.  If you can laugh about it with your spouse, your relationship will thrive.  (And, so will everything else.)
  • Manage your “wasted time”
    The Mompreneur blog on has awesome resources.  I love a recent post they did on managing all the technology that ends up zapping our time.  Read here.  I’m a sucker for facebook and twitter (you probably see me there all the time)… but learn how to manage those social networking tools to work for you, not to make it another endless websurfing competition.
  • Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize
    There are only so many hours in the day and you are doing the jobs of 2-7 people.  So what are you going to do first?  Is it the pile of laundry?  Is it the emails that arrived in the last hour?  Is it the phone ringing?  Or is it the order of wedding invites that needs to go out Friday?  It’s important that you prioritize most important and most urgent first.  (Hint: laundry is not urgent, email is most likely not urgent)
    It’s also important to batch your work.  If you are stopping to pick up the phone every time it rings, you will never get through the proposal you are trying to write.  Batch your proposal-writing time, email time, phone call time, appointment time.  Prioritizing and batching will make your life so much more efficient.  Lisa Druxman addresses a similar philosophy in her Mompreneur blog.
  • Don’t overbook commitments and appointments
    Set limits on how many appointments you make each week and how many networking events you attend.  It’s hard to believe, but if you can’t see a client THIS week chances are they will be OK seeing you NEXT week.  As for networking events, do what is reasonable for your business segment and for your family.  For me, I try to limit these to 1 event every 2 weeks.  I’d rather have the time with my family or just to myself or working on my business plan.  Otherwise, I’m not effective.  Wish I could do more, but it’s all about prioritizing.
  • Wake up an hour before your kids do
    Believe it or not, I started enforcing this only a couple months ago when I was writing posts about productivity.  In talking with my good friend Jean Louise Paquin Allen of Juniper Flowers she mentioned that she woke up before her son so that she could get a start on her day.  I thought she was crazy.  (I am a notorious night owl who is fueled by the darkness and detest any form of morning.)
    But, it made me realize that I was using Lili as my alarm clock which meant that I woke up when she did… and I started my day on her terms (breakfast, dress, diapers, “mama play”, tantrum, time out, read, sing, dance) instead of mine.  My day didn’t begin until all that crazy morning ritual had passed (somewhere around 10am or 11am).  By waking up an hour or two before her I get SOOOO much done.  It’s not something I do every day.  (I still LOVE to sleep in.)  But, on the days where I know I have to be a work maniac it helps to do it.  It makes me a better mom too because with some work done, I can focus on her and have fun.

Well… there you have it… a list that is by no means complete… but, probably represents my most important lessons learned and habits aquired.  Now, it’s your turn… what are your sage mompreneur and papapreneur tips?

July 2, 2009 at 6:00 am 6 comments

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