Before we launched Living we had a little blog called Backstage. It’s still there if you want to check it out, we just don’t always update it. But in a nutshell, it was about the business behind SMP, the little nuggets of lessons learned that helped us take stock and helped other small businesses learn from what worked and didn’t work. And for many insiders, backstage was their go-to. So today, we’re hearkening the days on backstage, where business was an open-ended conversation and we could all learn a thing or two from someone else in the trenches. Please welcome, Good Company, an over-the-top-talented team of professionals – with some of the biggest names in weddings – who have banded together to act as a one-stop shop of lovely for brides-to-be.
SMP: Sharla, how did you know you wanted to be a floral designer for a living?
It came about at a really young age. My father’s office is located in an old hotel building from the early 1900’s. He used to rent a portion of it out to a family friend in order to allow her to run her first floral shop. I vividly remember the whole ordeal, and the combination of this gorgeous floral shop and my parents being avid gardeners definitely led me down this path. I used to get up early to watch the morning glories open! That was my first sign.
SMP: What inspires you?
Texture! I love the subtle nuances between tones and texture and how they play off of one another. Pairing foliage with flowers that compliment and contrast just enough to keep it visually interesting is always my goal. Mother Nature is a rock star in my book!
SMP: What is a typical day like for you?
No day is typical with a three year old, 2 dogs, and a floral business, that’s for sure. When I do have a wedding, I’m up early getting ready for the flower market. After I load up on flowers I head back to the studio to process and clean them before beginning the arrangement process. Music on, candles lit, I eat chocolate, sip on iced tea and play around with making bouquets and centerpieces.
SMP: What’s your most beloved flower?
Garden Roses. The smell and color are divine! I grow them in my own garden, I love them that much!
SMP: What’s one thing you can’t live without?
Garden Roses!!! (And Peet’s iced tea). It just about kills me from November to May when I don’t have a fragrant bouquet gracing my desk.
SMP: Eunice + Sabrina, how did you discover your passion for paper goods, illustration + design?
We have always loved good design in all its forms and were especially drawn to vintage illustrations and ephemera and have been drawing and making cards since we were kids. Our mom actually used to tell Eunice all the time she should make and sell greeting cards – an idea she scoffed at for years! Needless to say, we have to admit (much to her great satisfaction!) that she was right all along.
SMP: What is the most important thing you’ve learned since starting Hello!Lucky?
Take time to grow your business slowly and thoughtfully. And having a great time and a good laugh while brainstorming new ideas always produces the best results.
SMP: Favorite quote that describes your creative process?
“Taking time to live life will only inspire your work.” And we’re big fans of this quote we’ve been seeing all over Pinterest lately – “Always be yourself. Unless you can be a unicorn. Then always be a unicorn.”
SMP: What’s your best tip for balancing work and personal life?
Take time for yourself – being happy and healthy and having time to decompress will only make you more productive and creative. You have to experience life to find inspiration! And if you hit a creative block, don’t beat your head against the wall. Take a break, go for a walk, do something else for awhile and the ideas will come.
SMP: What do you ladies love to do on your day off?
Mini-road trips with our kids, reading, crafting and taking a nap in the middle of the afternoon in a sunny patch with a nice breeze.
SMP: Lauren & Emily, how did the idea for Downey Street Events come to life?
Planning and designing events has been something we have always done in one way or another, but we came up with the idea of starting Downey Street Events, the business, after planning Lauren’s gorgeous Napa wedding. We were both corporate lawyers and had the time of our lives meeting vendors, designing her wedding, and getting to know people in the industry. We took a leap of faith that we could turn it into a successful career when Lauren quit her job to run the business full time, and Downey Street Events was born. We found out quickly that our skills as lawyers – attention to detail, familiarity with contracts, organization, and professionalism – combined with our love of art and design made the business a natural fit.
SMP: How did you market your company when you were just starting out?
Word of mouth and building on our reputation have always been the most natural form of marketing for us. However we also got great responses from our features on the big wedding blogs – most especially Style Me Pretty! We tend to do only very targeted marketing aimed at reaching our core clients, and focus on networking, working with blogs and print publications on stories, and most of all creating great relationships with our clients, who pass our name on to friends. But truly the best marketing is doing an absolutely perfect job at each event, every time. Eventually people take note.
SMP: The biggest lesson in business you’ve ever learnt?
We have had to learn that what we are doing is a BUSINESS. We are extremely fortunate to be living our dream jobs. We love our clients and want to give them the world. But even when work doesn’t feel like work you have to remember that it is the way you pay your mortgage, feed your family, and you have to think about the long term health of the business. Its important to have a long term business plan, a yearly budget, and an accounting system (like Quickbooks) that can basically run itself. It’s also important to charge what you are worth. In order to have enough time to devote to your clients (and not burn out too fast) you need to charge enough to cover costs, including your time, which is valuable.
Lastly, we have learned to seize opportunity when it arises. When we found out Cassandra was leaving her last job we immediately created a position for her, even though one hadn’t existed before. It was one of the best decisions we have made — she is incredible and adds so much to our team. Also, when Lisa and Sharla were looking for studio-mates we took it as a sign to embark on our dream of opening a brick and mortar studio. It was terrifying signing a commercial lease during a shaky economy, and even more terrifying to take on a major renovation, but in the end, the studio has propelled our business to a much higher level.
SMP: What advice do you have for women looking to become event planners?
We think that it is important to remember that while wedding planning may seem like a really fun, cool job – and it is – it is also a very physically demanding and time-consuming profession. We are the first ones at the wedding and the last ones to leave. Everything is our job – we take responsibility for every aspect of the event, and it is a lot of information to organize and execute for each client. It is really important for us to treat this job as a true profession, to give our clients the utmost attention and care, and to create strong relationships with other vendors in the industry. While we love tasting wedding cake and spending time with brides trying on gorgeous dresses, we also spend a lot of time behind the scenes! So just be sure to understand the demands of the job before jumping in head first. Each wedding is the most important day of another person’s life. Invest in amazing branding and a stellar website. Act with integrity and always treat others in the profession with respect and friendliness because it’s the right thing to do, and because you need each other.
SMP: #1 destination on your travel wish list?
This is probably different for each of us! For Emily, it is Paris – never been, but as a newlywed myself, dying to go on a romantic trip with my husband! For Lauren, it is anywhere in Italy — for so many reasons it is always the destination I want to return to over and over again. For Cassandra, the Maldives because the average temperature is 88 degrees in Jan/Feb when wedding planners have time to travel, I can sail and dive to coral islands, sleep over the water in a secluded villa, dine on just-caught seafood, and sunbathe!
SMP: Lisa, what inspired you to become a wedding photographer?
I knew at an early age that photography was what I was most passionate about. After completing a degree in Visual Arts, and exploring both the Fine Art and editorial sides of photography, a friend asked me to shoot his wedding. I was hooked! I loved how weddings combined photojournalism with portraiture, still-life, even landscape photography. I was elated to find such a satisfying career; one where I could create meaningful work that would be part of my clients’ family histories.
SMP: Best moment of your career so far?
While of course it’s my first priority for my clients to be thrilled with their photographs, it’s always nice to be recognized by your industry.
I’d have to say two events were pretty equal: having my image on the cover of PDN (Photo District News), and Fujifilm running an advertorial/profile of my work.
SMP: What is one piece of advice you would give to a photographer just starting out?
Make the images you want to make, not the images you think you are supposed to make.
SMP: What are some words you live by?
Keep it simple.
SMP: #1 destination on your your travel wish list?
SMP: Meaganne, how did you become a hair + makeup artist?
I was hired by Chanel Cosmetics back in 1995 with no experience based solely on my 90’s look at the time – pale skin and a black Louise Brooks bob haircut. While working behind a counter was not where I wanted to stay, it was a wonderful introduction to the makeup world.
SMP: What is the best part of your job?
I get to play dress up for grown women! Seriously, the camaraderie during one on one hair and makeup application can’t be beat. Also, I adore coming up with hair and makeup looks that women love and have never tried before on themselves. Anything I can do to help women see how beautiful they are is super rewarding.
SMP: What does beauty mean to you?
Beauty is something that lifts one’s spirit, either as the beholder or as the woman radiating it. She can do this by wearing no makeup at all, or being made up to the nines. The key is for each woman to courageously express her own beauty in a unique way.
SMP: One thing every woman should have in her makeup bag?
A little mirror with the words, “You’re gorgeous, kitten” on it. A decent lip balm (without petroleum) and mini-rosewater hydrating spray. One of Tarte’s LipSurgence lip tints and their maracuja creaseless concealer.
SMP: Favorite thing to do on your day off?
Depending on the day, that can include lying on the grass at the dog park with my husband and baby boy, attending or participating in improv theater, or finding unique treasures in thrift shops.
SMP: Kelsey, what inspired you to start The Whole Cake?
I wanted to do something that was artistic and sculptural and different every time. I also love parties, and food.
SMP: What did you do before you started making cakes?
Before I made cakes, I worked for a medical model shop making realistic hearts, and skin and other various body parts out of rubber.
SMP: What is the best part of your job?
Exceeding expectations. It is going to be pretty, but when it just really comes together, it feels like I finished a sculpture even if its simple and just done well with beautiful flowers. It’s a rush.
SMP: Tell us a bit about your creative process.
I meet the clients and get to know them a little, usually they send me some images before we meet. Then we talk about the feel of their event. I try to design a cake that I think they will like, depending on choices they have already made in the design process. The cake is the centerpiece for the party, it has to have some personality either with texture or color or shape or a combination, then cutting it up is all the more ceremonial.
SMP: What is your favorite cake flavor?
Well that changes, right now it’s chocolate cake with toasted hazelnuts, vanilla buttercream and sea salt.
From all the pretty ladies at Good Company… Good Company’s Wedding Studio is designed to help ensure a relaxing, inspiring, custom planned design experience. Home to a small group of the most extraordinary wedding vendors in San Francisco, the Good Company Wedding Studio is a haven for clients seeking a boutique environment in which to meet wedding professionals who are industry-leaders, media darlings … completely devoted to perfecting the craft of a well-celebrated life. Although we work beautifully together and recommend each other enthusiastically, we are all independent small businesses enjoying each other’s good company and yours.Photography: Lisa Lefkowitz | Group Photo: Meg Messina | Studio: Good Company | The Vendors + Designers: Hello!Lucky, Downey Street Events, Sharla Flock Designs, Meaganne McCandess, The Whole Cake, Lisa Lefkowitz