It’s Monday Morning, May 1st 2017, the start of my busiest months of the year. I’m Layla Vaughan, a twenty-five-year-old, average body type, brunette. However, something that isn’t so average for my age, and not to boast, is that I am an established, well-known, wedding and events planner, with my own reputable business. But becoming successful at my occupation and establishing my own company didn’t come easy. It was my determination, long hard-grafting hours, sleepless nights and a stroke of luck that made me accomplish it.
I graduated from college at almost nineteen years old with my A-Levels. I had studied business, fashion and interior design, all which led me to my dream career of becoming and events planner. I never intended on becoming a wedding planner originally, but I saw a gap in the market for it, and as the driven person I am, I strived to become a successful wedding planner. I also didn’t intend on becoming one of the most successful wedding planners and young entrepreneurs in the whole of the UK, but I had.
I currently live in London, but I’m originally from Cardiff. My slight Welsh accent is often mocked here in London, but its something I have become used to after living here for five years. After college, I took a gap year to work as an accountant at a lawyers firm in Cardiff. The pay wasn’t amazing but it was over minimum wage. I was lucky to even land the job, and I only got it as my mothers friend who also works there got me in.
I continued to live with my mother during that year and saved every penny I could after helping out with the rent and some essential bills. I had planned to go to university after my gap year, but as the end of the year approached and I reflected on my savings, I took a huge risk, which thankfully paid off. I moved to London, leased a studio and began to set up my small business, in the hopes of taking bookings for weddings and other events as soon as possible.
Back then, I had to live on the top floor of the studio as there was no way in hell I could afford to rent an apartment and studio with London’s extortionate prices. I was barely able to afford the rent for the studio and I knew I’d have to start turning over a profit within the first month or two of being in London to be able to continue renting the premise. It was a dangerous ambition, as I knew if I didn’t make that profit, I’d risk losing the studio along with all my savings. If I was to fail, I would have no other choice than to move back to Cardiff and live with my mother again.
When I got the keys to the studio, I had already printed leaflets and flyers off in batches from nearby, highly convenient, graphics shop. I also had a website designed and set up by a college friend I met back in college. Her name was Louise, and she had taken business class with me. She also studied her two other chosen subjects of computer science and economics at the same college. She was thrilled to design the website for me and said it would be good for her portfolio when she starts applying for jobs after university. She insisted on setting it up for free, but I paid her a small fee as appreciation and for being a good friend.
I advertised as much as I could. Flyers through doors, in shop windows, (those that allowed it), on social media and by website. I offered all the services a normal planner would, such as arranging venues, venue interior design, catering, props, flower arrangements etc. Basically, I was taking the workload off of the bride and groom-to-be, by calling around and arranging everything for them, for a fee of course. The idea is that they’d pay whatever the companies charged for their items or services, such as a florist order, or having a wedding cake made and delivered, and I’d receive commission for planning and arranging it all. Clients also receive advice on colour schemes, dresses and other recommendations too of course, as that’s part of the job description.
At first, I wasn’t sure I’d pull it off. How many people were going to pay a person to make a few phone calls, possibly give some professional interior or design advice, when they could do it themselves?
A lot of people apparently. It seems Londoner’s are all so busy with their lives and careers, that they barely have time to get married, let alone plan it all themselves. The market for wedding planning in London was bigger than I initially imagined, which was a huge bonus for me.
However, six weeks had passed and I hadn’t heard anything from anyone. My hope was beginning to fade and I was practically eating my money away with the cost of groceries in this city.
I had been keeping in touch with my mother and some casual friends by phone and social media, and carried on advertising however I could. Mum had started getting worried about my idea and goals not working out, which she tried to conceal, but her tone always gave her away. Before I left Cardiff, she had plenty of concerns which she didn’t hold back on lecturing me about before leaving. She calls it supporting, but I call it doubting. Though, I don’t blame her. As I said, It was a huge risk. I knew the whole ordeal was crazy but I wasn’t going to get anywhere by sitting back and thinking about it. I had to do it, or forget the notion altogether.
By the eighth week, I had almost given up hope and considered forgetting my dream and moving back to Cardiff. But I didn’t give up hope. I refused to. I persevered and carried on.
I visited a local registry office and asked if I could have the names of couples who were due to get married in the next few weeks. Of course though, they were unable to hand me out those details as they were confidential. I really should have thought that through before committing to the bus journey that almost cost me an arm and leg.
When I got off the bus that day after returning from the registry office to the area my studio was located in, I popped into a supermarket, the only large grocery store for a few miles without vehicle travel. I told myself that after I was done shopping and returned to the studio, that I’d need to come up with a plan B asap. But it turns out, plan B was never needed.
As I packed my shopping with the ingredients for a spaghetti Bolognese into white paper bags, the previous couple who had packed before me were stood behind observing the local advertisement board. The board was used for when people wanted to buy, sell or advertise their services, which cost a small weekly fee, one I had been paying to advertise my own flyers at the start of every week since living here.
“Babe, what about this one? That other woman let us down and the others are fully booked,” the female voice says from behind me.
“Layla’s Luxury Vent’s?” a male voice replies to the female one.
Hearing my company name immieditaly distracts me from packing, and has my head turning towards their direction.
“Yeah, and she’ll plan it all by the looks of it too.”
“Excuse me,” I say to the, I’m assuming couple, “I don’t mean to interrupt or be rude, bit I couldn’t help over hear that you’re considering the advertisment on that flyer.”
Thet both stare at me as if I’m alien.
“I was reading and consdiering it, yes. Why?” the lanky blonde with a face full of make-up asks me.
“I actually own that company, I am Layla, and I do have a licence should you require proof,” I feel for an object below me and pack it into the paper bag whilst keeping eye contact with the blonde. “I’m delighted that you’re considering my services, and should you wish to choose my services for your big day, I’d be happy to offer you a twenty percent discount off your chosen package.”
“Really? Why would you give us a discount?” the man asks slightly suspcious.
I could hardly tell them that they were my first client. I’d only admit that if there were to ask, as I wouldn’t want to appear unreliable and unestablished.
With little hesitation, I quickly announce, “it’s a deal I’m doing at the moment for all weddings during the next two months. It’s a seasonal offer for autumn weddings.”
“Hmm, that sounds pretty reasonable. I must say though, you do look rather young to own your own business,” he adds.
“It’s her skin care routine and make-up, honey,” the blonde says to her fiancé. “You totally need to share you secret with me,” she cups the back of her hand to her mouth and whispers to me.
I’m not sure if that was a compliment or not as I don’t have a skin care routine, nor am I currently wearing any make-up. I’ll take it anyway I suppose.
“Uh- sure,” I smile, trying to get back on topic. “Here, take my-”
“That’ll be twenty-five pounds, sixty, please,” the male cashier in his forties announces.
I had almost forgotten that I was supposed to be packing.
“Sorry,” I apologise to the cashier.
I tap my contactless debit card onto the screen of the chip and pin machine and pull out my business card from my back jean pocket, attempting to multi-task as I hand the couple my business card. “If you wish to get in touch, my details are on this card. And congratulations by the way,” I smile.
“Thank you, we’ll definitely be in touch,” the blonde says before walking away hand in hand with her fiancé.
Definitely? Does she mean that? Or was she just being polite?
I hope she means it, that’ll be some good news.
“Miss?” the cashier interrupts again.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I take the receipt he hands me and quickly pack the rest of my shopping into the bags before leaving the store.
That was the day my career and business took off. Jenny and Alan were the names of the couple I had met in the store that day, and they did contact me to have me arrange their wedding. They had chosen the gold package, with platinum being the best, and it gave me a beautiful profit by the end of it. I also admitted at the end that they were my first clients, which they had been overly impressed about and could hardly believe. I asked their permission to use the photos I had taken approaching and during their wedding for my website and portfolio, so that others may see some of my work. Luckily, they agreed, and even sent me over some of their professional photos taken by the photographer on the day. The pictures helped a lot, along with their positive review left on my social media and website, as more engaged couples began booking their weddings with me. And so, my goal to success had began.
“You’ve got the Patterson’s coming in at 11am, and the Grangers at 1pm. The rest of your afternoon consists of ordering the last few props and pieces for the Jones wedding on Saturday,” my assistant recites to me as I scramble through the papers on my desk.
“Thank you, Hannah. Did you manage to call Flora’s about the pink peony order for Thursday?” I ask.
“Yes. They’ve confirmed that they’ll deliver three hundred peonies, 7am, Thursday morning, to the King’s place wedding venue.”
“Great, that’s perfect. Thank you,” I continue to toss and turn papers on my desk.
“Are you looking for something, Layla?” Hannah asks.
“I’m looking for the Patterson’s catering order. I needed to rearrange the head count with them as Miss. Patterson informed me yesterday that she had removed forty guests from her list.”
“Ouch, that’s a lot,” Hannah replies. “It’s here on my desk by the way. You placed it here last night and asked me to rearrange it with them. Which I already have, of course.”
“Oh gosh, you’re right. I totally forgot. I’m sorry, and thank you for that. I’m all over the place today, business is picking up and it’s about to get a whole lot worse than this before the end of the month.”
“I don’t mean to dwell into your personal business, Layla, but have you considered hiring more help? Perhaps another qualified planner to help you out?”
“Oh, I’ve thought about it many times, trust me. But with the loans I took out to get the business to where it is today, I’m only just breaking even. By the end of the year, I should have paid off all the loans and still be left with a little profit. Then next year, I’ll be able to employ more people as the profits will belong to me, and not to the bank. It’ll be a tough year with lots of hard work ahead of us, but we can pull it off, we’ve always managed to before.”
Hannah nods and passes me a smile, “How does a cup of tea sound?”
“Perfect actually. I’ve got half an hour before the Patterson’s arrive. Mr. Patterson’s fiancé is a right stuck up cow. She wants the absolute best money can buy. However, they’re not in a financial position to afford such things. Her fiancé keeps politely reminding her that as discreetly as he can, but she’s having none of it. They are already six thousand over budget and we’re not even half way through the planning yet.”
“Oh god, why do the snobby bitches always get the rich fellas?”
I chuckle softly at her comment, “Don’t worry, Hannah. I’m sure your day will come. You’ll probably end up marrying one of the divorcees of the snobby bitches,” I joke.
“Oh, I do hope so,” she laughs with me before walking off to make some tea.
My office desk, along with Hannah’s own desk, is located upstairs in the studio. We also had a small kitchen fitted for caffeine purposes, along with a small bathroom. With my small success and breaking even, I had started renting an apartment nearby last year, allowing me to convert the upstairs in the way it was, with the permission of the lovely landlady of course. The apartment was nothing special, but it was a lot more pleasant than sleeping on a blow-up mattress which constantly deflated.
Downstairs in the studio is the meeting room where I meet with my clients, along with brochures of venues, dresses, props, vehicle’s to hire etc, scattered around the place. I also have a selection of dresses on display. I’m sponsored by a popular bridal store, and in return, I advertise their best dresses of the month in my windows and store.
Time flew by today. After my meetings with the Patterson’s and Granger’s, I had managed to complete the last few arrangements for the Jones wedding for the weekend coming. We received a few more bookings today, which is normal and to be expected, but there was a specific client who was adamant that he wanted an appointment tomorrow at the earliest. As Hannah took the phone call, I had her explain to him that there is a waiting list, and he would have to wait his turn or attend an appointment with a different planning company, but he was having none of it apparently. Hannah had said he barely let her get a word in and that he sounded like a right prick when telling her he’d be visiting tomorrow before hanging up the phone. She had tried to call him back to politely let him know that it would be a wasted journey, but he had a private number and it didn’t allow her call to connect. I told Hannah not to worry about it and that he’d probably end up calling other planners instead. He was probably just trying to get his own way, and as he hadn’t, was just being rude instead.
After finishing up my work, and having said goodbye to Hannah two hours earlier when she finished for the day, it was 8pm and had already grown dark. I walked the ten-minute walk back to my apartment and passed out on the sofa by what must have been around 8:30pm.
End of Chapter One.