If you know Kelly Simants of Sage Wedding Pros, you know that this is one strong woman! She balances two successful businesses, two young sons, and everything else life decides to throw at her with grace. So when we had the opportunity to collaborate with her and be a sponsor of her upcoming Be Sage conference, we weren’t going to pass up a chance to learn a thing or two from her! And, in preparation for the conference in November, we sat down with Kelly to chat about her experiences as a wedding planner, her secret to juggling it all, and what she is most excited about for the conference this fall!
Tell us about your path to becoming a wedding planner.
In college I wrote a business plan on becoming an entrepreneur and owning my own wedding planning business. This was in 1998 (ack, makes me sound so old!). After graduation, I was working in human resources and still had the dream of owning my own business someday. In 2001, I saw a job posting in a bulletin at my church for a wedding coordinator opening, so I decided to apply and got the job! I worked there for 1.5 years and was incredible experience learning about the industry and all that was involved in a wedding day. From there, I planned friends’ weddings and started a business on the side to get experience and network. Fast forward to 2007 and I left corporate America to pursue my dreams of becoming an entrepreneur and established Sweet Pea Events, which is now operating in 3 regions – Seattle, Dallas and NYC.
When did you decide to expand the business from its home base in Dallas?
When I moved from Seattle to Dallas in 2008, I knew that I had an opportunity to keep my business running in Seattle that I had started. Being that my background is in business, I knew the tools/systems that I needed to have in place in order to expand my business. When I moved to Dallas, I started the office here, and then in 2010 we opened our NYC location.
How was the experience of building teams in different cities?
It’s been exciting, challenging, yet so rewarding. I have now been able to develop our team so that they’re able to benefit from the foundation of the business I’ve built, and create their own careers as wedding planners. I love mentoring others, so to me this is the perfect place for me to use my talents – to help others grow in their Planning careers.
On top of managing a planning business that operates in 3 different cities (literally from coast to coast), you also teamed up with Michelle Loretta and founded Sage Wedding Pros. Was there an exceptional challenge in your business that helped inspire Sage Wedding Pros?
Michelle came up with the original concept of Sage Wedding Pro and she started the company as an educational outlet to discuss business in the wedding and event industries. She asked me to come on board a few months later as her business partner, to help develop training and workshop content and offer educational opportunities around the country. With my background being in HR and hers in Accounting, it has been the perfect match for us as business partners. We saw a huge challenge in our industry in 2009 when we started Sage Wedding Pros, as our colleagues were struggling with sustaining their business – so, this is our mission. To sustain small business in the wedding and event industries.
What’s in your purse right now?
Purell, Burts Bees lip gloss, Kate Spade wallet, keys and business cards.
Your favorite thing to do with your hubs and boys?
Any chance we can get to take the family on an adventure, we’re all game! Next year we’re hoping to take the kids to Mexico since they won’t be joining me in Cabo this year. My oldest son REALLY wants a passport. J
Best bbq in town?
Rudy’s! Hands down. So so good. Not only is it incredible bbq, they have a gas station and a country store so it’s a quirky and fun.
What’s your secret to juggling it all? (Because you’re a mama of two boys as well!)
I now have learned to say no A LOT. I say no to meeting requests, projects, speaking engagements, etc. that aren’t in line with my personal and professional goals. My family is definitely a priority to me as I have 2 young boys, so for example, when I’m considering being out of town for a speaking engagement I really have to prioritize the return on investment as it impacts my family when I’m away. I’ve also learned that hiring REALLY great people, working with the right business partner, etc. allows you the freedom to NOT have to do it all – asking others to help, relying on your team…I couldn’t do it all without each person on my team.
What was the biggest challenge for your clients and is there one story that stands out?
We had a HUGE ice storm a few years ago in Dallas that shut down the city: “Icemaggedon”. There were originally 150 guests expected to attend, and only 60 guests ended up being able to make it. We still managed to pull together every single wedding pro to make their wedding incredible (had to call in some last minute colleagues the day-of to help out). I also happened to fall on the ice (and was 6 months pregnant and was having contractions), so Meaghan on my team took over and clients were in great hands, and I didn’t have to worry that my clients weren’t being taken care of. It makes for a good story when we’re in a consultation and brides/grooms ask what our most difficult situations have been that we’ve dealt with as Planners!
You are hosting Be Sage this fall in Cabo San Lucas (and we are so excited to be partnering with you!) and it’s a “no-fluff” meeting of the minds. What can people expect if they attend?
We are SO excited to be partnering with you as well! Attendees can expect to learn from experts in topics that aren’t offered anywhere else in the industry. They will be able to interact and engage with our speakers the entire conference. Our guests will experience an incredible welcome party, 2 days of HARD CORE education, and a fabulous closing party! The connections that our attendees make with each other is also invaluable, as they walk away with new formed relationships that last years to come. We have a graduate group that we connect with on Facebook so that everyone keeps in touch and continues to encourage each other from wisdom they learned from Be Sage. A lot of people have even walked away from Be Sage with accountability partners and/or groups that they create on their own. We have SMART attendees and we love seeing them engage with each other in this way!
This year’s speaker line up is impressive! Any tid bits you can share?
Yes! We agree! We love to bring in experts from outside the wedding industry so that you can learn from other industries. There are a few speakers who will also be from our industry as we want to make sure to have a good mix, but what really sets us apart will be the speakers who are armed with incredible content and expert advice who many of our attendees have never heard of before.
This is your third time hosting Be Sage. How has is changed over the years and where are you hoping to take it in the future?
Over the years, it has grown in size and we believe in the quality of our experience we offer attendees. Each year, we have taken the feedback our attendees provide us to heart. For example, last year they begged us to hit the beach so hence, we agreed on Cabo this year! We are hoping to keep this conference true to what we set out to do with it initially – provide an intimate gathering of experienced wedding professionals who are looking for advanced education. It would be incredible if we’re able to offer it up twice a year so that people have more opportunities to attend if they can’t make one of the dates.
Anything else you’re excited about?
I’m still totally open to adding other markets to the Sweet Pea Events brand, so if anyone is interested shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!