#LearningCurve | Giving newlyweds a fairytale start

Mother-and-daughter team of wedding planners build success on quality service, rolling up sleeves when heat is on What is your core service?

Brenda: We host weddings, corporate functions and conferences. We’ve hosted musical artists, our own events for businesspeople, and even some praise and worship evenings [with local church bands]. After the fires in this area in December 2016, we had an especially big gathering last year to give thanks to God for protecting us. It was an absolute miracle. The gutters at the back of the venue were burnt in the fire and the kitchen windows cracked. The shrubs behind the chapel and the trees next to our house were burnt as well, but when we walked into the venue afterwards, it didn’t even smell of smoke inside, and the white tablecloths were still pristine. How many people do you employ? Brenda: We have five full-time employees. My husband André, myself and our daughter Danike are all directors in the company. It sounds very formal, but it just means that we wash the dishes and sweep the floors. Danike and I and another employee are all event coordinators, while I work with the finances as well. Danike: Usually, whoever has seen a client for the first meeting will work with them throughout in planning the wedding and event to its conclusion. How do you manage to run the venue as a family business with minimal conflict? Brenda: You hear horror stories around family businesses but we’ve never really had problems. It works really well, but you have to be vigilant about keeping social family time and business time separate. We respect each other and our faith in God serves as our foundation. Danike: It’s a true privilege to be able to work together. What makes your business unique?

Brenda: We have a hands-on approach and deal directly with customers. One of us will always be present during a function and are involved throughout the planning process. Our view and our beautiful chapel is also quite special. Danike: Our caterer, Petronella Catering, plays a massive role. I also think it is important to provide feedback to clients as soon as possible, which we try to do. What kind of advertising do you do?

Danike: A large part of the advertising is word-of-mouth. We have a tab on our website now that asks how people heard of us, and it is about 50% recommendations from other people, with our website and Facebook page also accounting for a large part of that. Still, we have people attending corporate functions, saying they’ve driven past before but never came here. So it’s nice to know there are still people we haven’t reached yet, people who need to come here. How important is social media and an online presence for your business? Danike: It is our biggest marketing tool. We are very proud of our website. Many magazines contact us for marketing but it is expensive. A website and Facebook page is a smart way to market your business. It’s good to get reviews on these platforms, because people will look to other people’s opinions. What are some of the biggest inhibitors your business faced before even getting off the ground? Brenda: We waited over a year for approval for the rezoning of the property, but once that was done we started making dreams come true. What are some of your biggest challenges in day-to-day business operations? Danike: The hardest part is always being available. With weddings, the weather is also a problem sometimes. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your business journey so far? Brenda: Having a venue involves quite long hours. You have to be a people’s person. What are the greatest challenges and advantages of running your business in a city like Port Elizabeth? Danike: Many people come to PE to get married because it is more cost-effective than in other regions. Cost is the biggest challenge because you still have to provide a service and you have to be careful not to undercut yourself. What do you think are some key traits of a successful entrepreneur? Brenda: You have to work hard and be dedicated, and you must love what you do, then it won’t feel like work. Danike: You have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and wash the dishes.