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The Pros (and Cons) of Using SquareSpace for Your Wedding Business

Posted by on Mar 2, 2015 in Strategy & Advice | No Comments

I built our first website back in 2003 on an orange iMac, on Yahoo! sites using a dial-up modem with a copy of HTML for Dummies on my lap.   I think it took about 2 weeks. The homepage had no photos b/c we had done no weddings…. By the time we were ready for our second website, probably circa 2006, we realized we needed to hire a professional and spent around $5,000 for a new site.  We spent another $7,500 two years later for a totally new WordPress Site, plus few thousand dollars for a re-skin when we re-branded in late 2011… Plus all the money (in relatively equivalent sums) on JAM’s first site and this very blog (original and re-skin).

So, going into 2013 it was very, VERY apparent to us that we needed a new website, especially the day when, to my HORROR I realized that our portfolio feature on our then AAB Site didn’t work on mobile!  Our friend had just launched her businesses first website and had a good experience with her designers and so we engaged them to create something more modern, but retaining AaB’s unique quirky personality.   We were extremely specific clients with mood boards and graphic references and more and, halfway through the process decided to cut our losses (and lose our deposit) because we realized quickly that creating someone’s FIRST website and creating a new site that elevates their brand and personality are two different tasks and not everyone is cut out for the latter.

Our company's original website Homepage from almost 12 years ago!

Our company’s original website Homepage from almost 12 years ago!

 

Since the old HTML for Dummies days, I’m sort of IT here, so rather than start the painful process of looking for someone else to take on the webdesign process, decided to spend a few days tinkering with the (then) AaB Site in WordPress and via a variety of easy to install plugins, was able to optimize the whole thing to mobile in about a weekend… and it worked.  So we held the Band Aid on the thing for another year UNTIL, looking for a quick fix to redesigning the Just About Married site, I decided to build it in SquareSpace.

Armed with a beautifully re-designed Logo by Regas and amazing portfolio images, good taste and a semi-legitimate degree in Fine Art (I don’t know that I would have called myself a shining star of that department.. but it IS on my diploma.. ) in one 15 hour day we had a new, beautiful website.  Six Months later the site was coming up #1 or 2 on google search for DOC services in NY.

Still, while this was good for the Jan Brady of our businesses, would it ever be good enough for Marcia?  Initially I thought no, until after doing tons and tons of interviews for web designers I realized that the kind of people who would take the time to understand our brand and the story we wanted to tell were about 3x the cost of people who wanted to tell their version of a wedding business story and slap our logo on it.  And after doing the math not just on the output of MONEY to a firm we felt really good about, I realized that it was still all of the TIME not just waiting for the site, but coordinating all the materials, etc back and forth.

And that is the story of how we came to build the latest (and actually greatest) version of the AaB Site in SquareSpace….  with almost immediate results- we noticed a direct increase in the number of inquiries converting to meetings and bookings as soon as the new site was launched.  Clearly… our Besties in Business site was built in Square Space too.  Still, I get that this isn’t necessarily a good choice for everyone.  The quick Pros, Cons of SquareSpace for your Wedding Business….

Our Current AaB Site (built in Square Space)

 

 

Pros:

– Great for a start up business or experimental branch of your own brand, because you can get something that looks really good without a ton of investment.

-Really great (and relatively easy) SEO

-Once you get the hang of it, using SquareSpace is pretty simple- ESPECIALLY uploading photos as they resize themselves, which has been the bain of my wordpress existence.

-If you have Beautiful, Unique Work, you can have a Beautiful, Unique Site… It showcases images really, really well and again, easily… so if the bulk of what you are selling is your portfolio, it’s a great option.

-It is easy to update and make changes, which is great for small business

-If you run a lot of video content, it’s easy and nice looking to embed video.

-If you have a good story teller about your brand and want to avoid a middle-man, this is a quick and easy well to tell a beautiful story.

-The ROI is immediate as your cost is significantly reduced.

Cons:

-Can be “generic” if you haven’t worked with a Graphic Designer to get your Visual Identity of your brand strong.

-If you don’t have a strong portfolio with a strong point of view, your site will look like a generic “square space” site.   For this reason, I think it’s a fabulous solution to newer brands/companies who haven’t had websites before (believe it or not, they exist)  AND for more established, boutique firms like AAB where our work has a strong P.O.V, there is a ton of it, and we are VERY familiar with how to convey our brand… Put more simply, if you are looking at your 2nd version of your website (or 3rd) in that critical year 3-6 phase of your business where your reputation is established… you should invest in a professional web designer to HELP YOU identify, define and refine your brand more clearly.

-If your business is web-based e-commerce related to weddings, a solution that is more customized to you might simply be better… something that gives you more metrics and analytics and specific skew based SEO is going to boost your business more (in my opinion)

-I don’t love the mobile versions… I hate mobile versions in general… I want the same site, but smaller… so it doesn’t do that intuitive response resizing thing that custom designers can do.

– The blog functions are functional and relatively easy to use… but we decided to keep this baby on WordPress… because.. I don’t know. It seemed easier to give the BLOG part more personality…

-If you have a very complicated business structure and lots of password protected areas, this probably isn’t for you.

-If you want to use the SquareSpace Platform but have a developer trick it out for you… there aren’t a ton of people doing that yet…  visit 

 

FOMO is EGO And It Might Be Bad for Business

Posted by on Feb 26, 2015 in Business Advice, Strategy & Advice | 3 Comments

So, to be honest ever since I culled through the AMEX Small Business report that I talked about last week I can’t stop thinking about how a lot of us (as wedding professionals) run our businesses and wonder and worry that perhaps we aren’t, as an industry of largely business-women, focusing enough of our energies on profit generation and are instead wasting energies on Ego-stroking… I have been guilty of this myself at times for sure.   Let me explain…

At the last Engage in Grand Cayman, David Beahm spoke eloquently about how there is a lot of peacocking that goes on in this industry and he was absolutely correct.  One of the beauties of working in an industry as relatively small and close knit as the wedding world is that we have a circle of professional friends to lean on for advice and support when needed.  One of the downsides is that it creates a peer community that can sometimes be akin to high school… creating the urge to feel “cool” or “in” and of course, trying to impress our peers.

Besides the EXTERNAL behaviors of peacock-ing, the other side of this behavior is the internal self-torture of comparison…   “Why were THEY on the Martha Stewart list and I wasn’t?” “Why did they get that job and I didn’t” .  Taken a step further this self-inflicted torture expands to FOMO (Fera of Missing Out)… “Why did they get asked to attend that Fam trip and I didn’t?” “I didn’t get invited to that event…”

If having FOMO was a crack addiction, Mark Zuckerberg would be the dealer and Facebook and Instagram the crack…

And,  like one who is addicted to crack, after enough time you start acting like a crack-head and your fear of missing out results in a frenetic cycle of saying yes to every networking event, dinner, fashion show, fam trip and whatever else you might get invited to… not so much because it’s serving a direct business purpose, but because it feeds the FOMO monster in you… And when not feeding the FOMO monster, your “crash” might involve mournfully scrolling through instagram looking at the things you missed out on.

FOMO is one of our modern-made Ego Monsters and it doesn’t serve you or your business at all.  It’s driven completely by FEAR which is never a mind space or vibration that results in Creativity… it just isn’t possible.   Fear creates panic, panic creates frenzy and frenzy makes it hard for us to stop, think, weigh and check in with ourselves.

As I mentioned last week, 80% of women owned businesses are sole-proprietorships with bare-bones staff and REVENUES just over 100K a year… Most of us are actually filling several job rolls and not probably getting paid quite enough for any of them.  Our time and resources are extremely valuable.

There is a (large) place for networking, relationship building and education both in our industry and in running a successful business, but there is a difference between weighing and prioritizing your time and energies against your goals when accepting invitations and managing your time and feeding your FOMO…

This week, Mayra and I talk about how to tell if you are choosing for your Ego or your business.  Check out our 2 minute topic here or below!

WPW: The Lonely Road & Industry Happenings & Change!

Posted by on Feb 18, 2015 in Business Advice, Strategy & Advice | 2 Comments

When Mayra and I decided to launch Besties in Business, the main goal was to work with and create content to help/inspire female business owners, because, being in the wedding industry where there are so many woman-owned businesses, we noticed so many gals going it alone.  To us this just seemed like a hard place to be during those moments when you just wish you could brainstorm with someone else, or get feedback on an idea from someone else.  In thinking about what services (besides brainstorming sessions) would aid women in business we had this idea of launching a matchmaking program to set people up with Accountability Partners (peer business owners) and thought… that could be fun.   Of course being the nerds that we are, we started doing research to see if there was any data that this could be helpful and were frankly shocked by some of what we found…

First, we found that while women are opening businesses at a rate that is more than 1.5x the national average… we’re TOTALLY under-pacing male-owned businesses in both revenues AND in “economic klout” (essentially the number of jobs you create)… So, that’s weird, we thought… what could be the cause?  Aside from start-up capital (women are typically under-funded from the outset),  generally speaking, Solopreneurs (single-owner businesses) have a greater challenge growing.  Not only because of the obvious juggling of workload, but also because Solopreneurs tend to have a shortage of Feedback- feedback that’s critical to that creating innovation and expansion.   A full 91% of women-owned businesses are Solopreneur enterprises.

The second bit is that for solopreneurs our networks are even more important- because our network helps give us feedback and grow our client base.   We in the wedding world know this intimately, of course.   The interesting thing though that we found is that for women, who do so much better in long term relationships than just “one-off” connections, is that mentoring and peer mentoring can play critical roles in business growth.  We made a cool little infographic about it (see below)… And bolstered by all this research (and our gut love for this stuff) we’ll be launching a Business Bestie Peer Mentoring program later this year.  If you are interested in hearing more, please sign up for info here!  We can’t wait to roll this program out!

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Speaking of Besties in Business and amazing Solopreneurs, this week we sit down with Amanda Allen, founder of the online wedding registry NewlyWish. We’re talking about two really key things that can help any of us grow our businesses: strategic partnerships and leveraging our core competencies to open new revenues streams.   Check out her video here, and catch up on all the Besties Videos while you are at it!

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Sending a GIANT congratulations to Anne Chertoff and Lindsey Mann on the launch of Twirl Weddings.  So excited for fresh editorial voice in the wedding landscape and these two industry veterans are sure to keep their eye on luxury as they focus on New York weddings with plans to expand to other markets across the country.  The site looks great and it will have a print version out soon!  (how cute is my honey Todd here with his hubby Ceron!)Twirl New York- for sophisticated weddings

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Speaking of editorial voices…. We’re making some changes this year at Always a Blogsmaid!  This is our 9th year online believe it or not and the wedding blog landscape has changed so much… as have we!  We went from being a 2 person planning team working locally  to owning two different wedding related businesses that work all around the world.  We LOVE this industry, and love being entrepreneurs in this industry so we’re going to shift the focus on Always a Blogsmaid to be by Industry Professionals for Industry Professionals… so if you love Wedding Pro Wednesday posts, you’ll love the coming changes!  We’ll still cover trends and review helpful tech and cover bridal fashion… but expect more posts to highlight amazing venues, vendors, and to tackle the issues of running and growing a successful wedding-related business!

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Finally, I’ll be up visiting our neighbors to the North on March 31st for the Business of Weddings Symposium in Toronto! I  think there might still be some spots left!

Help for the Female Business Owner

The PERFECT Bridesmaid Gift for Destination Weddings

Posted by on Feb 17, 2015 in Practical Planning | One Comment

People are always asking me “What’s a good gift for a bridesmaid?” and I have to stop myself from saying “Not telling them what to wear.” (because I recognize that that is MY personal opinion, not actual professional advice… and that’s one of the benefits of getting older, my friends.. knowing the difference!)  Anyway, I often come up with either a total blank, or a very specific response to the person asking… but FINALLY I have a really good blanket answer – especially if you are having a destination wedding.

Get them a charm and chain to commemorate your wedding location from Jet Set Candy!  These are the perfect gift to stylishly mark your occasion!  Frankly, this would make a great gift to commemorate a bachelorette trip together or a milestone birthday trip too.  I simply adore them!  And don’t even get me started on the charm bracelets… the perfectly romantic gift for a beau to get his lady (or for a lady to get her lady) to commemorate all of the travel they will take together… imagine getting one of these fabulous charms every time you two ran off someplace fabulous together??? #swoon  I have such a nostalgic place in my heart for charm bracelets- especially this kind- they remind me so much of the one my grandmother had from the 60s… chunky, with amusing charms with moveable parts.

My favorite part about this line is that the charms are clever but not corny! An Italian Espresso Pot, A London Cab, Luggage tags! Take a look and you can shop here!

The Perfect Present for a Stylish Traveler

jet_set_candy_2gold_italian_espresso_pot_charm_closed_necklace jet_set_candy_gold_2hamptons_montauk_surfboard_charm_necklace jet_set_candy_gold_aspen_ski_charm_necklace jet_set_candy_gold_paris_champs_elysees_charm_necklace jet_set_candy_gold_what_happens_in_vegas_charm_handcuffs

Inspired By…. Charcoal Grey and Magenta

Posted by on Feb 10, 2015 in Entertaining & Inspirations | One Comment

So, I’ve had this amazing over-dyed rug rolled up under my bed for more than a year with the intentions of redecorating my living room/ office space around it and never quite getting to it… The time has finally arrived as I realized that I cannot spend another winter month staring at my old blue curtains anymore… but I’ve felt totally stumped as to what to do next…. not being inspired by any particular fabrics and knowing that I really need- above all else, make it all work around this RUG.

Over-dyed Rug in Magenta

My walls are a dove grey, and so when I saw this image, I thought… well, maybe we keep things neutral.

Dove Grey and Magenta Bedroom

But, neutral seems a little boring, and the truth is… I’m ready for a change.  A dramatic change.  And then I saw this….

Charcoal and Magenta Living Room

 

It has DRAMA… It has intrigue… it has the depth of a Renaissance painting.. I’m digging it.. But it’s still missing my favorite color- yellow (because it makes me happy).   So then I saw this…

Charcoal and Grey Living Room with YellowSo, this sold me on the charcoal grey… But while I am not at all afraid of the bright pop of yellow… I am worried it’s a bit obvious.. This might be more of the ticket… The complimentary jewel tones are bright and cheerful, but soothing in some way.

Screenshot 2015-02-10 09.16.40

 

Of course, none of this resolves the original dilemma… which is.. what fabric for the curtains…. you see, I ALSO have these really large windows and the way goes the curtains goes the entire space…  Here is what I’m torn between and I promise the next time I write about my living room it will include photos of what finally happened…. Incidentally.. this would be a fun palette to work with on a tabletop!

Floral Fabric in Grey from MoodOR
Screenshot 2015-02-10 11.08.39