Doreen Nyamaka has always had a passion for wedding dresses, decor, and planning, since her childhood. But she finally stepped into the business of wedding planning in 2015 when she was getting married and her husband had insisted they plan the wedding themselves without asking for contributions or help from family and friends.
Doreen could not get a professional wedding planner to handle her wedding preparations, that was when she noticed there was a gap in the wedding industry.
From there, Doreen quit her job, went to a wedding planning and management school and got a certificate in wedding planning in 2016.
How did you get into wedding planning in Tanzania?
Wedding planning is actually a new thing in Tanzania. Normally weddings are paid for by family and friends who help the couple with contributions and the whole planning process which is never professionally.
As you’d expect, this leaves the couple super stressed and with no authority over their own wedding.
I am determined to introduce it and make people save themselves the stress of planning a wedding, and reducing boring and repetitive weddings which do not represent their vision.
How do you differentiate yourself from competitors?
First, I take my job very seriously and treat every wedding as my own. I want to make it right for the things I could not do at my wedding. This is my passion, so I give it my all when I get a client. Apart from that, I am a professional, with an MBA and wedding planning, flowers and decor certificate.
Most of my competitors go with passion and intention to make money. I have the passion, skills, and commitment to turn my client’s dreams into reality.
What has been your challenges in this business so far?
My biggest challenge so far is awareness. People do not know what wedding planning is, and how it can save them stress, time and money. It has been difficult to introduce the new culture and win clients over.
Are there peculiarities to doing business in Tanzania compared to other countries?
I guess so. In most countries, couples do not ask for contributions, the couple fund their own wedding with maybe a little help with close family members. I doubt that people go all the way to do a fundraising just to get money for their wedding. I think this only happens in Tanzania.
What do you wish you knew before you started the wedding planning business?
I wish I knew that this new culture of wedding planning will take a while to be acceptable and that the old culture of planning a wedding is deeply rooted and will take time to be uprooted.
What is your best memory on the job?
The last wedding I planned and coordinated in 2016. The father and daughter danced to Luther Vandross’s song “Dance with my father again”. That moment was so epic and emotional, I can still feel the goosebumps.
Final words to other entrepreneurs…
Before you jump into a business, make sure it connects to your core. Don’t go into it because of the money only, but because you love what you are doing from your heart. That way even if you face challenges and you can’t find a way, you’ll still hang in there, and step forward.
Do you have a business idea that isn’t popular in your country?
So you want to quit your job to start your own event planning company (or any other one) but you have no money and no clients, yet. What do you do?
Have a roof over your head and food to eat
Firstly, if you’re going to quit your job, make sure you have some back up. This doesn’t necessarily have to be cash, but a family or someone that is willing to maintain a roof over your head and food on your table. If you don’t have that, then you will need to ensure you have some cash back up to keep yourself going through your start up phase, this will be a minimum of a year – two years, depending on your company.
This back up, in whatever form is comes is essential! It’s essential because you will need all the energy and focus to get clients and start earning an income.
For an events company, you should be earning a small income within your first year to at least cover some costs.
Once you’ve figured out your back up, quit your job! It will be the scariest but most liberating thing you’ve ever done, but a word of caution, you will now work 24/7. Be prepared!
What makes your company unique
The next step is to figure out what your unique selling point (USP) is, what sets you apart from all the other event coordinators. As JamJar, our USP is customer service, efficiency and pushing the boundaries. We are willing to go the extra mile for our customers and promise to push ourselves as we create concepts and experiences that are truly one of a kind for the customer.Once you have your USP, start using your contacts. Your first job is likely to be someone you know. If you do a good job, the word will start to spread. E-mail people you know and ask them to recommend you. Send out your company profile to people and test their reaction to your information.
Be realistic and original. People can tell when you are trying too hard or being fake. Initially, you may need to take a few jobs that you do not make much money from but is worth value in terms of marketing, building your portfolio and experience for yourself. Keep note of this, however: there will become a point where you no longer need exposure, and exposure won’t pay your bills. Be aware of your business and your value and continue to reflect. Once you reach that point, own it and do not be ashamed.
Listening is key
Until you reach that point, continue to work, listen and learn from your jobs and experiences. Make sure the experience of working with you is memorable from when the person first takes your card to the end product. This is everything! Even when something goes wrong or you have a difficult customer, remember your response is key and will last forever.
People will tell 4 out of 10 people about a positive experience but 8 out of 10 for a negative experience.
Get to bookkeeping
Slowly you will start to increase the number of customers you have, do your best to keep them. As you start to grow, make sure you have a good financial system, this does not have to be fancy. Keep track of what you are receiving and what you are spending.
The event planning industry is one that is not heavily reliant on start up equipment – your brain and a piece of paper are all you need to be organised, efficient, and reliable, the main characteristics an organiser should have. Take advantage of this fact, it means your start up capital required is much less and you can pace the growth of your company.
Share with like-minds
Lastly, Collaborate. Collaboration is powerful if you are strategic. Don’t just collaborate because someone asks you to. Collaboration usually means you will foot the bill for whatever you are willing to contribute to the project, or provide your time for free.
Be sure you are prepared to lose or not gain as much as you hoped. Moreover, make sure you do what you can and get the most as much as possible for your brand while working with your collaborators.