Siobhan Craven-Robins has been planning weddings since 1996- when she established the first ever dedicated wedding planning business in the UK. She is renowned for her unique style, attention to detail and savvy business mind. She has been invited to appear on national radio and TV programs, as well as contribute her expertise to a number of wedding publications.
Siobhan dives deep into industry education, networking, and the NAWP in our interview below.
Siobhan when you started out as a wedding planner there were no courses available, other than standard business courses, you had to learn as you went along. Now of course education comes in many forms, for me I was lucky enough to have a mentor, but what did you do to ensure you were able to keep moving forward in those early days?
Before I launched my business, I spent 8 months doing market research. It was the only way to glean the information I needed to put together the template for my services- it was immensely helpful. I had an idea of how and what I was going to offer, and I really wanted to get an idea of what the main challenges were when it came to planning your own wedding. Once I launched, the business (and my service), it grew organically; I learned from each client and extended my services to further cover anything I hadn’t yet included. I also realised that I needed to publicise that my services were available. There were no other sole wedding planners in the UK (I was the first!) and so I was very much an unknown. Carole Hamilton, the editor at You and Your Wedding at the time, and Sandra Boler, editor at Brides back then, are two people I credit with extending a huge helping hand to me in those early days. They were interested in what I was doing and keen to relay this to their readers. I also approached the Lorraine Kelly show on ITV, and with them, devised a Bride Guide series that ran over 4 weeks, helping couples plan their wedding. This was very helpful in gaining some much-needed publicity.
There is no governing body for the wedding industry here in the UK and that is really where the NAWP comes in, to fill that gap. Like every industry, the world of weddings is in a constant state of evolution and change. As a wedding professional, you can stay stuck in your comfort zone or you can take advantage of all the amazing knowledge available to help you be the very best you can be. How does the NAWP help to promote the need for continued education?
We run two bi-annual education forums for our members. NAWP Talks Business has been devised specifically with our Associate Members in mind; it’s a discussion platform where members can pose their questions openly and confidentially. Many of us work alone and sometimes miss the opportunity to brainstorm, bounce ideas, or simply ask for advice or guidance about our businesses, so this is ideal. Prior to the event, we ask our members to provide us with one question they would like raised and we answer this and then discuss it amongst the group. These are hugely successful and enlightening. I really enjoy them!
The other one is Business Ambitions for our Professional Members. This is a topic based forum with a guest speaker. Again, there is an opportunity to ask questions and discuss points after the initial presentation. The speaker is always relevant to business and on a subject that requires continuing education, e.g. SEO or Social Media.
I think one of the biggest things about being in the wedding industry is that it can be quite lonely from a business perspective. Many of us work from home and often on our own and only see people when working an event and that can be so isolating. What advice do you have for people to help with this?
Networking – quality networking is key. By quality I mean, events that cater to the industry and invite vendors of an equal calibre. If you are in a room with positive, quality people, business and ideas flourish. We have seen this first hand with our NAWP Networking Events. Our stringent joining criteria ensures that we have members who are all professional with the same ethos, and this, in turn, encourages good working relationships as they are all keen to help each other and work together. I relish this and am thrilled that we have created this group and environment that was much needed in our industry.
How do you get a wedding planning work experience opportunity? Work experience is a tricky one and often it’s about putting a lot of feelers