Since starting her wedding business in 2010 Maria has gone on a huge journey, taking something she loved doing and turning it into a profitable business!
In today’s episode I am interviewing my wedding pro member Maria about her business journey and I’ll be finding out what made her start to take her business seriously and what an impact that has made on her wedding business and her life.
Ready to start taking your wedding business in a more serious direction? Why not become a member of my Wedding Pro members lounge just like Maria:
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Maria: [00:00:00] So it was a bit of an idea in the beginning, just playing
around. Really. I had no idea how to run a business or even where to buy supplies from. So it took a while, but the, the business was kind of efficiently born in, um, 2010 now. So I’ve been doing it for quite a while.
Becca: I’m Becca Pountney, wedding business marketing.
Speaker and blogger. And you are listening to the wedding pros who are ready to grow podcast. I’m here to share with you actionable tips, strategies, and real life examples to help you take your wedding business to the next level. If you are an ambitious wedding business owner that wants to take your passion and use it to build a profitable, sustainable business, doing what you love, then you’re in the right place.
Let’s get going with today’s episode. Today I’m gonna be interviewing one of my longstanding wedding pro members. Maria is one of the loveliest down to earth. People you could hope to meet. She’s hardworking, talented, and always looking for ways to move her business forward. I know many of you are gonna be inspired by her story today, so let’s get straight into it.[00:01:00]
Maria is so good to see you so great to have you here. Why don’t you tell everyone a little bit about who you are and what you.
Maria: Yes. Hello, thank you for having me. So I’m Maria from a company called Bomboniere by Maria and I design and create Italian style, um, Bombonier wedding favors and stationery design as
Becca: well for anyone who doesn’t know what that means.
Can you tell us a little bit more about it?
Maria: Uh, yes, basically the Italian style Bomboniere is wedding favors. It dates back for many centuries and it’s a really, really big part of the Italian tradition to give at weddings. It will always consist of five, um, sugared almonds. Which represent, uh, health, wealth, longevity, fertility, and happiness for the couple.
So they’re always included and they’re either given on their own boxed or with a keepsake gift as well. So that’s generally the tradition. Um, but nowadays I get asked, um, more for like chocolate [00:02:00] favors and other confectionary, which we can package up, um, using still the pretty ribbons and flowers, um, as per tradition.
Becca: then, how did you get started on that in the first place? It’s quite a niche market. What was it that led you down that path? And how long have you been doing it
Maria: for? Yes. I mean, being Italian, it’s just been part of my, my life growing up, going to weddings and receiving the Bomboniere, but it was when my first child was
born, I made his bomboniere to celebrate his birth. Um, and then for his christening as well, and I really enjoyed doing it and I’ve always been a creative person having studied art at school. So it was always the creative side. And so I kind of got thinking about it and I didn’t really want to go back to work after I’d had my child, but I wanted to do something.
So that’s when the idea. Started that I thought I could make them, um, for other people. So it was a bit of an idea in the beginning, just playing around. Really. I had no idea how to run a [00:03:00] business or even where to buy supplies from. So it took a while, but the, the business was kind of efficiently born in, um, 2010 now.
So I’ve been doing it for quite a while.
Becca: That’s so often what happens, isn’t it, people just almost fall into business in the wedding industry. I think we, we go to an event or someone asks us to do something and we realize this is kind of more fun than my actual day job. So what was it that you did before, before you got into your own business?
Maria: Before I always had office jobs, I was always been in, um, customer services. Um, I was a PA and I. Spent the, the bulk of my career, I did about seven years working for my local newspaper in the advertising department. And that was fun. I just had so much fun in there. And I loved my clients. I ran a team of about 10 people.
Um, and that was really, really good. And it was good for me to get like the customer service side of things. And I did a lot of training, um, through them. So that’s generally what I did. It was mainly
Becca: office based. [00:04:00] Now I always say that people have things from their past, which will always help them in their business, whatever kind of career background they’ve come from, whatever family background they’ve come from.
So are there things that you learnt during that time working in advertising that you now implement in your business?
Maria: Yeah, I think it’s, um, actually the office side of it actually, you know, because I’m quite organized and the whole even just like filing stuff and knowing how to be organized. And certainly, um, it gave me a lot of experience in, in speaking to clients and dealing with, with different situations.
So it was the, the customer base really helped, helped a lot. Um, and the organization as well,
Becca: if you are listening to this currently, and you are still stuck in an office job that you don’t really wanna be in, or perhaps you’re wishing your business was full time, just be encouraged to know that actually.
It can be a superpower. That’s an opportunity for you to learn right now, whether you are serving drinks in Costa, whether you are working in an office or working in a high powered job. And you’re thinking, I [00:05:00] just wish I was running my own business. It’s really important to take absolutely everything you’re learning.
Now I remember when I was working at heart radio and I got kept getting put on training courses and I thought this is amazing, because I’m getting all this free training that I can now use in my business going forward. So it’s always worth enjoying that time where you’ve got. So you started your business officially in 2010, but you kind of admitted you fell into it.
Do you think you really thought of it as a business back in 2010? Or do you think it took you a little while to find how that was gonna be a
Maria: business? Uh, yeah, it took me a little while, cuz I kind of started it then, but I was still working around. Babies and family. Um, so it was more of a, a kind of a hobby business, I guess people call it now, but it was something that I enjoyed and I kind of did it on the side.
And I did that for a while. To be honest, while I was raising my family, I, I created my own website. So I thought, right, how can I do this without. Paying loads of money out. So I, I created my own website, so I did a lot of [00:06:00] it myself and then life events happened a few years back and forced me to then make a decision and say, right.
I either go out and get a full time job in an office, which I really didn’t want to do, or I really make this business work, how it should work. So it was in 2018 that I. Uh, rebranded. I joined Facebook groups, which, yours was one. I still remember you letting me into your Facebook group. I’d never even heard of them before.
I had no idea and I thought, right. You know, I’ve gotta kind of get myself out there. And, and it’s really from 2018 that I can probably say. I’ve been running the business properly as it were. And that’s when I started kind of investing in myself and learning and connecting with other people. Um, and I’ve not looked
I think it makes such a difference when you make that decision in your mind to go, right. Actually, I’ve been doing this kind of on the side and now I’ve got the confidence to really go for it. And again, if you’re listening [00:07:00] to this and that’s you, and you know, you’re kind of playing at business right now, I encourage you.
You have got the ability to make it a proper business. You’ve just gotta have the confidence to step out, try it and invest in yourself. So for anyone who’s listening to you and realizing, right, she’s, she’s got it sorted. She’s decided to take it from a hobby business and make it a proper business. Has it all been plain sailing or have you made some mistakes along the.
Maria: Yeah, I’ve certainly made some mistakes. Um, I think the one thing which, and I know a, a lot of people, I speak to fell into that initially as well, is that when you start your business, you feel like you have to service everybody and be out there for everyone. So when I kind of did my website and I was saying, you know, I kind of.
I liked the bomboniere but then I was thinking, but I’m in the UK. Are people gonna understand it? I need to appeal more to the English market. So I was putting out just so many different things and my message was completely mixed. So, you know, one thing is [00:08:00] to kind of. That I wish I’d probably done a little bit sooner, was really decide who am I targeting?
Who’s my niche market. Who’s my ideal client. Believe in what I believe in and go out there and push it. Because once I did decide that then my business has absolutely boomed because I know how to direct my messaging to get the clients.
Becca: That’s really important for people to listen to because so often people say to me, I don’t wanna niche because then I’ll lose clients.
but actually so often it’s the opposite. Exactly. Like you’ve just said that when you niche and you’re really the specific person, who’s really good at that specific thing, then actually you attract more people rather than trying to be a Jack of all trades. So at what point did you make that decision and what was it that made you decide?
Right. Now’s the time I need to niche down. I need to go after the market that really wants my product.
Maria: Yeah, I think it was when I, um, decided to kind of rebrand in 2018 and I spoke to, um, a business [00:09:00] consultant actually. And he just said to me, I haven’t got clue what you do. I’m looking at your website and I just don’t know what you do.
Like you need to like decide what the products that you have is beautiful. It’s stunning. You need to be pushing that out there. So it was through sort of conversations. So it was from there that I thought, yeah, actually that’s where my passion lies. And I’ve gotta just go with it because I know I’ve got a good product.
I know that it’s not even that, you know, because there’s lots of Italians in the UK. So many other nationalities buy from me because they like that style. So I don’t just do Italian weddings, you know, which is really lovely. It’s people just like the presentation. So, yeah, so it’s probably going back to 2018 and that’s when I, I said realized, and, and then my brand and my messaging started going out and it’s been a, a work in progress up until now.
Really it’s, it’s always ongoing and trying to push it out there a little bit more each time.
Becca: And you mentioned [00:10:00] earlier on how, when you first started, you wanted to save money. So you did your own website yourself. Are you still working with that ethos? Is there ways that you’re finding to keep those costs down or have you started investing more in your branding and your
Maria: marketing with the website?
I still do my own. Um, I think that’s probably the control side of me, because I like to just be able to jump on anytime and make changes and because I’m quite creative. So I’m always. Sort of changing imagery and stuff like that. So the website, yeah. I still manage and run it myself. I do, I do everything myself, but as the business is growing and I’m getting busier and doing more and with the changes I’ve now got coming later on in the year, I’ve just invested in a social media manager and a, a VA to help me with that particular launch.
But then I’ll see how we go from there because it, it is just too much for me to do.
Becca: Yeah, there definitely comes a point. Doesn’t there where you get so busy that you realize if I don’t get any help, I’m never [00:11:00] gonna grow. So that’s an important message too. What do you think it is then? That’s made the biggest difference to your business over the last few years?
Maria: Uh, connecting, I think just, just plain and simple, just connecting with other people, um, you know, mixing with the right people, going to networking, um, and just learning. And I’ve invested in myself a lot. Um, and actually for me, I know it wasn’t a great thing, but I kind of thank COVID to be honest, because it made me stop and really look at my business again and invest.
And so I did a lot of training, a lot of learning. Yeah. Just getting involved and, and having the time to network and make connections with other business owners where. You know, we talk about each other. We recommend each other. We use each other when we are doing certain jobs and that’s really helped me as well, because it can be really lonely doing it all on your [00:12:00] own.
And it’s so lovely now that if I need help with something. I know who to call or I know I can pop onto a group and just ask a question and there’s always somebody that can help. So definitely surrounding yourself with the right people is, is a big
Becca: thing. Yes, Maria, you know that I love talking about connections.
Connections is what it’s all about. And again, if you’re listening to this and you’re thinking I don’t have a wedding business community, get involved in one, come and join my free group. There’s loads of communities out there with other wedding business owners, just like you. Don’t do it alone, because it can be really isolating having your own business.
And actually there’s a real ethos of that community over competition in the wedding industry. If you find the right groups and the right people, so don’t stay doing it alone. Now I remember Maria, you came on a training session, um, with me that I did. And I remember saying to you, after that session, you’ve got to make these connections.
you’ve got to connect with the more luxury market. You’ve got to talk to these wedding planners, just put yourself out there. And I know that you took action on that and you did it. So just [00:13:00] tell us about how that’s kind of transformed your business over the last year
Maria: or so. Yeah, well, as, as I said, it is just, um, you know, just connecting with people and putting myself out there.
I’ve ended up actually doing lots of styled shoots, which is something that I realized. Because I take my own photographs every time I make something, but it’s never gonna be the same as a professional photographer to have it in an actual wedding setting. So I kind of threw myself in and by making connections for the first time.
I actually had people contacting me and saying, I really love your product. I want, I want you to design something for me, for my shoot. And that was just amazing, because normally I’d be like knocking on doors saying, hello, it’s me. I, I want to get involved in stuff, and now it’s, it’s a bit of, you know, a nice balance of both where people.
You know, getting to know me and my, my product and asking me to be part of, you know, either whether they’ve got a client they want to [00:14:00] forward to me or they’re organizing a shoot, um, and want some of my designs, which has been great. And it’s given me some beautiful images to, to put on my website on my social media, which has definitely attracted my ideal clients.
I. Had it on my kind of goals that I wanted to design for weddings like top London, hotels, and I’ve ticked most of them off in the last year. because of
Becca: that. That’s incredible. I think that’s really important. I’m glad that you shared your story there about how now people invite you, but at the beginning you were knocking on doors and you have to do that graft,
don’t you, if you are new or if you’ve got a product or you’re desperate to get in styled shoots. To start with you do just have to put yourself out there on knock on the doors and start getting those images. You can’t sit back and wait for people to come to you because they might never come. If they don’t know you exist.
But over time as you get involved and people realize you’re a good person and you’re fun to work with, and you have a great product, then people will eventually start coming to you. You [00:15:00] talk there about. Goals and setting those goals and setting those intentions to get those London, uh, venues, which is amazing that you’ve got them.
How important is it for you to set goals in your business?
Maria: Yeah, it’s really important. And it’s something that I’ve only just realized. Not that long ago, you know, I was one of those people as a lot. Are that just kind of. Sat there and waited for things to come in. Whereas now setting goals, it, it kind of gives you a bit of accountability as well.
because you can kind of look at your year and have things put in and if you set a goal, then you can figure out how you’re gonna get to that goal, how you’re gonna reach it. What do you need to do to get there? And, and actually the very first. The ever strategy session I did was with you when we did an in person one and it was brilliant.
And that’s the first time I’d ever even looked at strategy and goal setting. I’ll be honest, I’m not as kind of militant with it, you know, like really specific, but I do map out an idea of what I [00:16:00] wanna do in the year and then figure out how I’m gonna get there. And it helps you to move forward. Otherwise, the years just fly.
And you haven’t done
Becca: anything. Yeah, that’s so true. And actually, even though you might not be militant with it, just having an idea of where you want to go. Even just that simple thing of, I’d like to have a photo shoot in XYZ venue. If you have that written down, it makes you actually start going ahead and contacting the right people or trying to find the right connections with those people.
Whereas if you don’t have that written down, Honestly, you’ll just never do it. So that’s really good to hear. It’s funny that you mentioned that first strategy session that you came to with me because I had that on my notes to talk about, because I remember really vividly being in that room with you and taking you through this kind of sales target training.
And you saying to me. I can’t believe, I never thought to do this in my business when I did it in my day job all of the time. So talk to me about that. Why do you think sales targets and thinking about the financial side of your business is really important now?
Maria: Yeah. It just, it just gives you something to [00:17:00] work towards and I think just kind of mapping out your figures and, and I think also over time, you know, there’s a lot of things out there that say do it, like.
Do it like that, but over time you just figure out what works for you. And there’s some things that do, and, and don’t work for me. And even just having a simple spreadsheet and having all your months set out and just putting in what you wanna, you know, hit every month in terms of financial goals. And then I’ve got personal goals as well.
And just seeing it, I’m a very visual person. And also now what I do, because I’m now in an actual office. I’ve got post-it notes on the walls and things like that, that just having it visual. And it just, it just, it just reminders that it’s like, this is what I need to do. And it’s been, yeah, really important to have.
However you do it, whatever works for you, but have some kind of idea. And it’s not always gonna map out in the year. I’m now reviewing my kind of last six months that I’ve got left of the year and it’s constantly changing. But you’ve always got something [00:18:00] to, to work towards. So definitely
Becca: do it. And when you have a financial goal, I think it becomes kind of more exciting in a sense.
I think when we have our head in the sand about our business and we think, oh, I don’t wanna look at the figures. I don’t wanna know if this business is costing me money or making me money. We’re kind of hiding away. And we don’t have that confidence when we lay it all out on the table, like we did at that mastermind day.
And I’m sure you’ve done since. And you say, right, this is actually how much my business is costing me. This is how much I’m making, and this is how much I want to make all. You can see the gap there and you can see, right, I need to do something about this. I need to get excited about my business. And then when you start bringing those, those finances in and you start taking off some of those goals, suddenly the money side of the business becomes exciting rather than terrifying.
And actually it doesn’t matter if you don’t always hit those goals, but just having them and having something to aim towards is a really good thing. Be honest with us. If you want to, do you feel like you are achieving the goals that you set for this year or are you feeling like you’re behind or ahead of them?[00:19:00]
Maria: I feel like I’m a little bit behind financially if I’m honest, but I think this year, I mean last year was an amazing year because everyone was all of a sudden coming back after the lockdown and getting on with their events. So it, it was a really, really good summer. Whereas this year, It’s kind of leveling out a little bit.
So I think last year I was a little bit kind of spoiled with everything that came in um, and now I’m like, oh, I want that again. So it’s in a good place, because again, over the last couple of years, I’ve looked at, you know, adjusting my prices, charging what I’m worth, you know? So the things that are coming in are all like really good.
Decent orders. So I’m okay. But then as I said, I’m, I’m now sitting and looking at the last six months of the year and looking at, you know, well, what can I do now to just kind of level it out by the end? And
Becca: that’s why goals are so important, because if you didn’t have the goals, you wouldn’t be able to even know whether or not you’re behind ahead or on target for the rest of the year.
And now you can. [00:20:00] Proactively do something to make sure you carry on getting ahead. I think that’s the same for everyone across the industry. Last year was kind of a, a weird year. This year is also sort of a weird year. It’s kind of quiet in a sense and busy in another sense. So I definitely think I’m hoping that by next year, we’ll start to level out and see a little bit more about what’s going on.
And I think it’s important as well. I think a lot of people took their foot off the gas because of the end of COVID and suddenly all these inquiries were coming in. I’m not saying you did, but a lot of people’s marketing dropped off because they sat back on their laurels and now people are realizing, actually I need to do something about this.
I need to keep making connections. I need to get my name back out there. I need to keep on going with these venues because things are changing all of the time. The connections are changing all the time. The venue coordinators are changing all the time, so we just have to stay on top of things. And I have.
No doubt, Maria, that you are definitely doing that because you are one of the most proactive people I know, which is incredible. Now I said at the beginning, you’ve been part of my world for quite a number of [00:21:00] years. Now. You’ve been part of my members lounge for quite a long time now as well. And it’s an absolute privilege to walk alongside you and watch you on your journey and watch you as you kind of step out towards that luxury market.
How have you found that’s helped and supported you over the last few years? Oh, yeah. Like
Maria: I said before, it’s just about having people around me. I’m not always kind of very active in in the group, but that’s because kind of, you know, life happens and you get busy or whatever, but I’m always reading like posts and things.
And it’s, it’s that, it’s almost like a safety net that I know that if I do need something, which I’ve done before. I can just pop a post in the group or contact you direct if I need to, you know, and I will always get help and advice. So, um, like I said before, just surrounding myself with people that you don’t always talk to them every day, you know, but you know, that that community is there and the help and support is there as well.
And that’s yeah, that that’s definitely. Help me a
Becca: lot. And I’m [00:22:00] definitely there for you, Maria. I am always at the end of my Instagram direct messages or an email, if you need anything. So yeah. Do always reach out. It’s funny. We were talking in my accountability Monday video this week about the members group and about whether you need to be in there all the time, or if it matters, if you are quiet.
And I was saying actually, Exactly what you said. I always see it sort of like an insurance policy in a sense that yes, you might not be having all the time now, but when you need that support and you need that question answered in a hurry, it’s great to have a place to be able to go and do that. Now, I know that you are looking forward to this year and looking to take your business in a slightly different direction.
Do you wanna just tell us a bit about why that is, how that’s come about and what it is you’re looking to do next?
Maria: Yes. I’m going to be launching a course in the autumn matching. End of September, uh, cause I’ve decided to now teach people to do what I do in terms of not running the business, but decorating their own favors and [00:23:00] presenting them.
because I kind of felt like there are a lot of people out there that do. Make their own favors or bomboniere whether people are creative and they want to make them themselves and kind of, you know, get the girls together, bottle of wine or whatever, and make a night of it also. Or I think with everything that’s going on now, people do want to have the lovely details and the beautiful things that their event.
But they might not be able to afford it. And sometimes I think the favors and the bomboniere is something that kind of gets, oh, actually we don’t really need it because it’s gonna cost us too much. So I’m now going to, um, I said, be putting out a course where people can buy it and learn how I. Box the gifts or the confectionary tie, the, the ribbons perfectly put the flowers on, really looking at finding your style, um, and matching colors.
So we go through a lot. It’s not just making favors. It’s basically taking you through the journey. That I take my own [00:24:00] clients on when I, when I get that initial phone call right. To the very end. So I’m quite excited about that. So that’s launching end of September.
Becca: That’s very exciting. Well, make sure you keep me in the loop about that so that I can share it on Vicinity weddings or on my Becca Pountney page as well.
We also talked a little bit earlier about the importance of niching and how you realized that niching was really important for your business. You’ve also just set up a new Facebook group as well. Haven’t you tell us a little bit about.
Maria: Yes. It’s a Facebook group called my Italian style wedding. So kind of going back basically to what I do.
And it’s basically for couples that are planning a wedding and want to add Italian touches, you don’t have to be Italian to do that. As said, I, I work with a lot of clients that just like my style and want to include it. I have couples. Might be their Italian and their partner isn’t but it’s just like a nod to their roots.
And I wanted to create a community where you can just talk to like-minded [00:25:00] people, people that are going on the same journey as you Italian weddings do tend to be quite big as well up to sort of two, 300 guests. So all the kind of issues that go with that. And so, yeah, I wanted to create community where people have something in common.
I go in there live as well once a week and you can ask me anything, you know, we have a bit of fun. I share what I’m doing. I give tips and advice. So yes, it’s a nice. A nice community just to help you on your, your wedding journey in, in when you are planning something, you know, quite specific.
Becca: So if there’s anyone out there that’s listening and feels like they fit into a similar kind of niche, they’re targeting a very similar kind of client, or they’re excited about what you’re doing.
Is there any ways that they can collaborate with you, reach out with you, uh, or even join the Facebook? Yes. A
Maria: Facebook group is my Italian style wedding. You can always find me on my Instagram at bomboniere by Maria or on Facebook under the same handle, Bomboniere by Maria. [00:26:00] So social media is generally yeah.
Where you’ll find me kind of hanging out and seeing what I get up to every day.
Becca: and are you up for some collaborations or people reaching out to you?
Maria: Yes, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. And yeah. Anybody wants to get in touch, whether it’s for, you know, business, business related or any couples that are listening to this.
Um, yeah, absolutely.
Becca: It’s always important to keep on growing your network. And I know if you reach out to Maria, she would love to hear from you now, Maria, before we go, there’s two things I finish every single interview with the first one is my quick fire quiz. So I’m gonna give. Two options and you’ve just gotta decide as quick as you can, which option you would go to.
So there’s no time to think. You’ve just gotta give me your first answer. Does that make sense? Okay. Yes. Right? Let’s do this. Let’s find out a little bit more about you and your preferences. So would you rather get married in a barn or a Manor house, Manor house? Would you rather have live music or a DJ DJ?
Would you like light and airy weddings or dark and moody? Dark and moody
Becca: summer or [00:27:00] winter wedding, summer chocolate cake or lemon cake lemon, Instagram or Facebook? Instagram. Would you rather promote your business at a wedding fair or on a directory? Oh
Becca: Are you an early riser or a night owl? A night owl.
And do you think you work too hard or are you easily distracted? Easily distracted. well, at least you’re honest. I think as entrepreneurs, we’re all a little bit of both. We work too hard and then we suddenly get easily distracted. Absolutely. Now, before you go, Maria, the final question to finish this chat with is always the same, which is, is there something in your wedding business that you wish you’d known sooner?
Maria: Yeah, I think making connections, if I’d kind of realized sooner that connecting with people would’ve pushed me forward a lot quicker then I would’ve done
Becca: that. Maria, it’s been such a pleasure to talk to you. If people wanna find Maria do find her on social media, I’ll link to her in the show notes as well, because honestly, I can [00:28:00] never remember how to
spell your business name. So I’ll make sure that the link is right there in the show notes. So you can click ahead and go and find and connect with Maria and Maria. Good luck with the course launch later this year. Make sure you keep me up to
Maria: date. Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Becca: Isn’t Maria, just one of the most lovely people you could hope to chat to and listen to.
I hope that her story has inspired you in your business today. And if that resonates with you, that you realize now maybe is the time to take your business from being like a hobby and actually treating it seriously and giving it the time and effort it deserves. So it can make you money. Then do get in touch with me.
That’s what I’m here for. I can help you with the confidence, the connections and the marketing ability to get your business where it needs to be. Just find me on Instagram. @beccapountney drop me a DM saying I’m ready and I’ll have a chat with you. I’ll see you next week.
One thing I love about the wedding industry is the other amazing people you get to work with. If you want to meet like-minded wedding pros, just like you, then why not join my free [00:29:00] Facebook. Wedding pros. We’re ready to grow. Come meet some new connections, hang out with me and hopefully learn some new things too.
Just search for us on Facebook.