The Journey Thus Far
My introduction to the wonderful world of events was through an entertainment production company – Aerial Angels. I dedicated my life to this company…it was a passion! We provided high-end performance artists for corporate events Australia-wide and internationally and being involved in the creative industry was a dream come true. I had always loved events and occasions and working in entertainment gave me incredible exposure to spectacular corporate events.
I didn’t think I would ever do anything else…
Until I turned 30…and my head completely changed.
I was doing a wealth creation course, and we were encouraged to take something that we really loved and think about how we could make a business out of it. I remember giggling to myself, as I wrote my answer…. “I love to set tables”. I have loved it since I was a little girl and my parents bought some nice placemats with images of the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and other pretty scenes of iconic Australian architecture. The Opera House was my favourite as it was all lit up in purple in pink. Every time we sat down to dinner we had a good time, we talked and laughed and were silly, it was a real time of family togetherness.
As I grew older, I still loved to set a fabulous dinner table and throw elaborate dinner parties for my family and friends, because I just loved getting people together. Easter was an extravaganza…Christmas - legendary. Birthdays were a week-long celebration always culminating in a fabulous night out with friends, dancing until our feet hurt and creating memories.
Images below of my 30th Birthday party and our house for one of our Christmas Parties =)
A few days after I turned 30, I had a flash of light…one of those pre-destined moments of clarity and I couldn’t do anything else but start an event company. I was a woman obsessed.
I registered the business name: Sugar & Spice Events.
I began to research the local market and how I would be different. I quickly realised that on the Gold Coast there was a gap in the market for glamourous and lavish weddings and my years of exposure to theatrical events put me in a good position to fill this need.
The problem was....I had big dreams and empty pockets! Although I was in a good job as was my hubby, we had a crippling mortgage and piles of debt that we had incurred when we were younger. I had an iPhone that work paid for (they were alot smaller in 2010 BTW) and I would spend every spare waking moment squinting at the screen and looking at opulent images from international event planners. We didn't even have a computer until my kind father-in-law bought me one because we couldn't afford it.
I was frustrated all the time because I had so many ideas and couldn't act on them. We decided to sell our house to get rid of our debt and have some funds to start the business. It was a decision that didn't come easily, and I cried alot...but I knew there had to more to life than debt and unfulfilled dreams.
Our house sold about 6 months later and I immediately got to work on creating a website, business cards and marketing plan.
I continued to work full time for two whole years, and would leave my day job to go home, scoff some food and sit on my laptop until midnight every night: contacting venues, updating social media and pouring my heart and soul into every single client who graced me with an enquiry.
The bookings started to trickle in, and on weekends I would load up my little Toyota Corolla to the roof with linen and chair covers and centrepieces, and take hours and hours and hours to set up small events (with the help of a begrudging but very supportive husband). I would walk away with $100.00 profit on a good day, but I didn’t care. I saw the big picture…It was a labour of love, and hard work helped me to elbow my way into an already well-established market.
Images below of a couple of my first jobs - a 60th birthday for my mother-in-law and very small wedding =) I remember all of the hot glue gun burns looking at those "napkin rings" (ribbon with plastic buckle on them) ha ha ha ha ha
By 2012 I had a good stock base and had the opportunity to style some really cool weddings that I could let my imagination run wild with. The problem was, they were few and far between. I had cut back to part time at my day job, but had a conversation with my hubby saying that if the business didn't take off in 2013, I would have to go back to work full time and just do this as a hobby as it was not profitable.
I of course had other plans, so in January 2013 I left my job and began working full time on the business. I had 6 months to make enough to pay myself the same wage I was already earning.
It took 4.
By April, I had employed someone to assist me with administration and had a team of 6 helping to set up weddings and events across Queensland. We began to receive between 30-40 enquiries every single week, and Sugar & Spice exploded! We recorded a 600% growth in that first year. I remember the first time we had two jobs on one day and I planned for months on how we were going to do it...went in with a team of like 6 people...So funny. Now it's nothing to do 8 different events across a weekend.
Images below of two of my fave early events. I wanted to ensure the light touched the tops o the trees, and lit them up just like the Opera House on those place mats! We had to import special ones from China, and it was so worth it. The second image was an Enchanted Garden theme...my fave! It was supposed to be outside but it rained, so we brought in a marquee. The bride cried when she saw it...so did I =)
I had all of our stock stored in my dad's garage, and by 2014 I needed to lease a warehouse as it kept growing and growing. We quickly outgrew that warehouse, and had to move to a bigger one!
We employed more staff and together, over the last five years we have created some amazing events.
Images below show the evolution of our warehouses! First image is Dad's shed. Then the first warehouse...before we got shelves, our first sign (I was so chuffed) and our office space with a blackboard wall calendar for all of our events. Next pic are our bigger warehouse and meeting room, then the style board and vision for our current space and what it looks like in real life. So. Much. Pretty!
Our work attracted national attention, and we have been featured in more magazines than I can count. (See some of them here if you wish) and Sugar & Spice has been named one of the best wedding stylists in Australia for four years running.
We have received many wedding awards, the most notable being one of only 5 finalists in the Telstra Young Business Woman of the Year, and also a finalist in the Gold Coast Young Entrepreneur awards. I personally travelled to New York to participate in a styling and planning workshop with world-renowned event designer, Preston Bailey – a real career and life highlight. He wrote about us on his blog!
Meeting Preston in his New York office...a dream come true. PS - He's a really beautiful man, you can read more about my NY adventure here.
After many years and many, many lessons, being in business has taught me more about life and people and myself than I ever thought possible.
I understand that my love for setting tables, was really about what happened when we were sitting at the table: connection. I love events because they facilitate connection among people. I love events because there is an opportunity to create beauty, and that inspires joy. I love events because they are a series of exquisite, elevated moments that will live in people's minds forever and enrich their lives.
We don't plan events, we design experiences.
On our 8th birthday, I am so grateful for the privilege to run a business in Australia. I am grateful for the times that have tested me personally and professionally, stripped away my ego and taught me about who I want to be.
In 2018 we are more on track than we have ever been, and I know my best work is yet to come.
Happy Birthday to us!