If you've seen The Office (which I have like 10 times) then you might remember the episode where Michael is meeting his replacement manager, Deangelo, at a bar. They end up sitting together talking for almost an hour and wondering where the person they're supposed to meet is, only to then realize they're meeting each other.
Meeting Maya of Preoccupied Bride kinda started out like that - I was sitting in a corner of a coffee shop in Evanston, super excited to finally meet Maya and hear about her business. I had texted her that I was in the corner when a woman came near me and I smiled at her awkwardly because I wasn't sure if it was Maya (cons about meeting strangers on the internet). She sat next to me for a few minutes before reaching over to get my attention and ask if I was the Katie she was meeting - we couldn't catch our breath from laughing at our goofiness.
Maya was another one of those women that I just instantly connected with - I'm not sure if it was the mutual love of finding ourselves in a situation straight out of The Office, or just because our personalities click like a puzzle - either way, I'm so so so glad I met this woman. We spent the chilly afternoon drinking coffee and talking about Preoccupied Bride, growing up in the Chicago suburbs, talking business strategies and playing in the snow by the Lakefront.
Thanks so much to you, Maya for being a good sport about the cold, not thinking I'm a total dork because of the awkward situations I can get into, and for being such a fun person to know. :)
Q. What's your title? Small business owner, planner, etc.
I am a small business owner and wedding planner.
Q. Was this always where you intended to be in your career, or were there alternative career paths you considered?
I always wanted to start my own business, but I wasn’t sure what kind and thought I would do so later in life. I didn’t expect to start one so soon and in wedding planning! I studied media and journalism in college and graduate school and thought I would have a career in the entertainment industry. I also wanted to become a novelist and write my own book. (That’s still a dream of mine I hope to accomplish one day!)
Q. Why did you choose to do wedding planning in Chicago?
First off, I LOVE Chicago. I’m totally biased because I grew up in the city’s suburbs and eventually lived in Chicago for years, but it’s such a diverse, fun and beautiful city. I knew Chicago was the right place to do my wedding planning business because the planning industry is growing at an extremely fast rate and there’s more opportunity in a big city like Chicago and its surrounding areas.
Q. Do you feel like you're connected to a creative community, and if so, how has it affected you and your work?
I can’t stress enough how kind, positive and energetic the creatives are in the wedding community! Being new to the business, I didn’t really know what to expect from fellow planners and other wedding vendors. Would planners see me as their competition? Would vendors, like florists and DJs, want to connect with a newbie like me? I had some doubts, but I was completely wrong! Truly everyone I have met in the wedding industry—planners, photographers, videographers, musicians, decorators, florists, DJs, you name it—have been so kind and welcoming.
The creatives in the wedding community have been beyond generous with the knowledge they’ve learned over the years, informative of networking events and other learning opportunities and always willing to connect with me to help grow my business. This encouraging and supportive environment has really pushed me to work harder, connect with other talented professionals and generally be a more positive person.
Q. What's your favorite part about running your own business?
I love being my own boss. Don’t get me wrong, there are a TON of responsibilities you have when you run your own business that you wouldn’t have to deal with if you were an employee at a company. But the upside is you get to do what you want, when you want. I get to create my business (and everything else that comes with growing my brand) from scratch, and it’s all mine. On top of that, I actually love my work!
Q. What surprised you about being an entrepreneur?
Hands down, the biggest surprise was learning to manage my business. Coming from a project management background, I knew what to expect as a wedding planner. Every wedding is different and curve balls are thrown at planners all the time, but I’m familiar with and know how to handle things related to planning. I didn’t know anything about being a business owner. In the past, I never had to think about work from a business management perspective, so it was unfamiliar and surprising to me (in a good way) to have to change my thinking.
Q. Tell me about your blog - what do write about, what are your favorite types of posts?
Coming from a writing background, I love blogging. I write blog posts that are helpful to all the preoccupied brides (and grooms!) out there. Every couple may not be able to afford a wedding planner, so I want my blog posts to be resources for all engaged couples who need wedding planning advice along the way. (And let’s face it, every couple at some point during their wedding planning process needs guidance.) I also write vendor spotlights and a few personal posts related to wedding planning. My favorite type of post to write is the “list” post. They’re easy on the eyes, quick reads and beneficial to busy couples.
Q. Where do you find inspiration for your work?
Everywhere! From wedding podcasts and business blogs to networking events and vendor meetups, I find inspiration all over the place through my research on the web and the people I interact with. I’m also inspired by my friends and family. They give me great ideas and input on my business, so I see things from different perspectives, which helps me keep my brand fresh and creative.
Q. What role does a styled shoot play in your business?
I love the concept of styled shoots. They add to your portfolio, help you network with other vendors and actually give you a chance to experience working with a team without the additional stress of a live wedding or event. It’s truly a win-win situation for everyone involved. I’ve done one so far and it was amazing. I planned a styled shoot at a beautiful outdoor venue with the nicest vendor team I’ve ever worked with. I can’t wait to plan more!
Q. Tell me about the name Preoccupied Bride
I originally wanted to start a wedding blog before I opened my business, and I thought of a nice name for the blog (which happened to rhyme), but it was too generic for my taste. I eventually decided to skip the wedding blog and jump full swing into my business. I knew I didn’t want my actual name to be the company’s name, which a lot of planners do, but instead I wanted a company name that was cute, thoughtful, rhymed (so it was easier to remember) and also provided a solution to a problem. I loved the idea of the word “bride” in my company name since my target audience was brides, so I used the rhyming dictionary online and put “bride” in to see what results came up. I eventually found “preoccupied” and thought it was perfect, especially since I was a preoccupied bride myself when I was planning my own wedding!