Thank you all for the amazing feedback on Design Darling's first career feature! I have some really exceptional women lined up for the next few months and I can't wait to keep sharing their stories with you. We could all use a little extra #girlpower, don't you think?
Today's spotlight is on Tamra Sanford, an event planner extraordinaire and one of the feistiest, most fabulous women I've gotten to know since moving to New York. She founded her company Ever Swoon in 2012 and has taken the wedding industry by storm, landing her in New York Magazine's little black book for preferred wedding vendors after just six months in business. Being an event planner is totally one of those careers that I would have listed as a dream job as a little girl so it's pretty neat to see Tamra making those dreams a reality. I'll let her take it from here!
Name: Tamra Sanford
Position: Founder and owner of Ever Swoon
Location: Tamra's SoHo apartment and home office
What was your first job ever? Were you always interested in event planning?
I taught ballet and interned for the Texas Rangers but I've always been planning events on the side! My grand idea at the ballet studio where I worked was to use an extra room to host birthday parties for kids.
So you've always had a bit of an entrepreneurial streak. How did you wind up launching your own company?
I moved to New York and started working in product development at a major beauty company. I continued planning events on the side, volunteering for charities, and planned my own wedding. Eventually it caught on with other women in my company and through my blog. I started hearing from people, "Can you help me plan my wedding?" Finally it occurred to me that this is something I'm really good at — why don't I take the leap?
And that was back in 2012. What does a typical day look like in 2014?
It sounds so cliché but there really isn't a typical day. I could be doing venue visits all over the city (or outside the city!), appointments for flowers, photographers, videographers, stationery, or meeting with clients in my studio. I like to take one day a week where I have no meetings and can just sit at my desk and get shit done.
That's great advice for anyone who's self-employed. I'm taking notes! How would you describe your ideal client?
My ideal client is somebody who wants to enjoy the process of wedding planning, the experience of being a bride. I love hearing each person's story and pairing them with vendors that will make the process special for them. I build relationships with each couple, letting them know they're heard and really becoming a friend to them in the months leading up to their wedding.
You told me earlier that you're juggling more than 20 weddings this year. (Congrats!) How do you keep everything organized?
I live by Google Docs. My clients are able to access their budget sheets, contracts, planning documents — everything lives in one place. Quickbooks is a must-have as a small business owner; you can photograph your receipts and upload them to Quickbooks instead of holding on to them and having to sort them at the end of the year. And some of my clients like to create a joint board on Pinterest for planning.
What's it like to be self-employed in the wedding industry?
Well, the wedding industry is pretty much run by innovative small business owners. Every day I'm surrounded by inspiring and successful entrepreneurs. Whether you've been in the business for two months or fifteen years, we're constantly teaching each other new things. Right now I'm launching this group called Downtown Wedding Revolution. I'm partnering with all these amazing women: a wedding dress salon, a beauty concierge, a stationery company, a jeweler, a floral designer. We all started getting together because we realized we were sharing a lot of the same downtown clients and we all look at the wedding industry in a different light. It's a very approachable, laid back, fun, and business-savvy group.
The shoes Tamra wore to her wedding!
That's so exciting! What's the best advice you've received along the way?
Not everything is going to be perfect, no matter how much planning you do. It's how you handle it and react to challenges in the moment. That's a must in this business!
(Editor's note: Tamra is definitely a roll-with-the-punches kind of girl! When we couldn't get the right lighting in her studio, she offered to climb out onto her fire escape to capture the portrait above. Love it!)
When will you know you've made it?
In some ways, I feel like I already have made it! I really love what I do. But I never want to feel comfortable. I always want to feel like there's something else I'm chasing!
Keep up with Tamra: