Leah Weinberg of Color Pop Events: “I wish someone had prepared me for all of the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur”

I wish someone had prepared me for all of the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur. I remember one day somewhat early on in my career when I was jumping for joy in the morning because I had been published on a prominent wedding blog and by the afternoon I was in tears over […]

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I wish someone had prepared me for all of the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur. I remember one day somewhat early on in my career when I was jumping for joy in the morning because I had been published on a prominent wedding blog and by the afternoon I was in tears over a misunderstanding with a fellow wedding vendor. And it’s not that I wouldn’t have still chosen this path knowing how emotionally challenging it would be, but I think I would have mentally prepared myself more if I knew then what I know now.

The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.

As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Leah Weinberg.

Leah Weinberg is the Owner & Creative Director of Color Pop Events — a New York City-based wedding planning company that lives in the logistics, providing an unmatched focus on event details for clients. Her colorful work and party planning tips have been published online and in print with Vogue, the New York Times, People, CNBC, Bravo, Martha Stewart, and The Knot, among others. Recently, Leah has been recognized as a 20 on the Rise winner by Honeybook and the Rising Tide Society, one of the 25 Young Event Pros to Watch by Special Events Magazine, and one of BizBash’s Top 500 Event Pros in the US.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

My childhood backstory isn’t anything too exciting. I grew up in Athens, Georgia (go Dawgs!), which most people think is pretty cool because it’s a college town and because of the rich music history there. But because of it being a college town, most shows were 18+, and as a staunch rule follower who never had a fake I.D. in high school, there wasn’t a whole lot to do as someone under 18 there. Athens is where I started playing tennis in the 3rd grade, where I started honing my writing skills in middle school, and where I discovered my passion for journalism in high school. There were many layers to me as a kid and still are to this day.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I wouldn’t say that there’s one particular quote that I’ve carried with me over the years or that I always go back to. Instead, I’ll find that there are specific quotes that resonate with me at different times in my life. Right now, as I reflect on the heart of my wedding planning business, I’m constantly drawn to this quote by Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” How you make people feel is really the crux of the wedding industry. As vendors, we can do all these things for our clients to make the different elements of their wedding day special and memorable, but years from now they probably won’t remember what their food tasted like (if they even got to eat!) or what songs their DJ or band played. What they will remember is how they felt on that day. And that’s the true impact that a wedding vendor has.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Whenever people ask me what my favorite business book is, I tell them about Setting the Table by Danny Meyer. Hospitality is the cornerstone of event planning, and, in a way, it’s the cornerstone of any business. This book is so informative about how you can go above and beyond in your business by providing incredible service, looking for connections, and paying attention to the details. I love learning from people outside of the wedding and events industry, and the lessons in this book are a perfect example of taking concepts from one industry and applying them to another. I also recently started digging into my core values and realized that hospitality is one of them — something I didn’t realize back when I was reading this book. But I guess that’s why the book had such a significant impact on me. It spoke deeply to something inside of me that I didn’t even know was there at the time. There’s also a quote from Danny Meyer in the book that is in line with the Maya Angelou quote I referenced above: “In the end, what’s most meaningful is creating positive, uplifting outcomes for human experiences and human relationships. Business, like life, is all about how you make people feel. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard.”

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?

My first career was as a commercial real estate attorney. I started off that career in Atlanta and then after two years decided to move to New York City. Very early in my legal career, I knew that the law was not for me and that I was destined to own my own business of some sort. I thought about opening up a doggy day care, starting a dog walking business, and even came dangerously close to enrolling in pastry school because I thought I wanted to open a bakery. Event planning was a business idea that popped up one day and just continued to resurface year after year. It wasn’t until 2012, when I planned my own wedding, that I decided to actually take steps to get my event planning business off the ground. So, I started Color Pop Events while still working full time. I had my first official wedding in October 2013, quit my full time legal job (as associate general counsel to a publicly-traded REIT) and traded it in for a part-time legal job in the summer of 2014, and then went full time with Color Pop at the end of January 2016.

In addition to planning weddings, I’ve expanded to public speaking on topics related to the wedding and events industry and to small business owners. I’ve been a WeddingPro Educator with The Knot and WeddingWire since January 2020, and have traveled the country physically (and now virtually) to speak at national conferences and regional events, and have been on numerous webinars and podcasts.

That’s what my life looked like prior to March 13, 2020. The day that I officially locked down in New York City.

What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?

I decided to finally write the book that I had been telling people about for years! I’ve had the idea to write a book about the emotional side of wedding planning for a while and have worked on it on and off. But the silver lining to basically having zero weddings in 2020 was that it gave me the time and space to actually sit down and write the bulk of this book. In addition to being another income stream, my hope for the book is that I can use it as a springboard for future books and more speaking engagements.

Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?

The idea for the book actually came to me in 2017 after a conversation with one of my clients. To make a very long story short, she was having an argument with her father over whether fried chicken would be on the dinner menu at her wedding. She had jokingly told her dad that having fried chicken was non-negotiable, and he reacted to that “declaration” in not exactly the best way. They hadn’t spoken for days, so in an attempt to help my client understand what was going on with her dad, I explained that it most likely wasn’t about the fried chicken. For a lot of folks who aren’t necessarily great at expressing their emotions, a lot of times when they are feeling some sort of feeling, it manifests as anger. In this particular case, my client was one of two siblings, the youngest, and the only girl. I suggested that maybe her dad was having some strong emotions about his baby girl getting married and those emotions were coming out in a hostile way. I hoped that helping her understand what was really going on gave her some comfort and helped her to take things less personally.

In that moment, I was pretty proud of myself for coming up with such a thoughtful observation, and it got me thinking about all the weird behavior I’ve seen when it comes to weddings and the countless conversations I’ve had with my clients to help them navigate tough situations. And in that moment, my book was born!

How are things going with this new initiative?

Wonderful! My book is called The Wedding Roller Coaster and, as I mentioned, focuses on the emotional side of wedding planning. But beyond that, it’s a guide to navigating relationships in multiple spaces when planning a wedding — the relationship you have with yourself, with your partner, with your family, and with your community. My hope is to give people advice on how to move through the wedding planning process with a specific mindset and tools that will help them maintain healthy relationships throughout the process. There’s also some juicy stories to help engaged couples prepare for some of the “unusual” behavior they might encounter while planning a wedding.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I owe a lot to Christie Osbourne of Mountainside Media when it comes to this book. Christie is the person who has known about the book from almost the very beginning, as she and I worked together on a content marketing strategy pretty early on. As part of that work, Christie did a ton of research on what wedding books were already out there and where my book would fit in the marketplace. She identified a gap for a book that encourages couples to make the wedding their own but to not lose sight of maintaining healthy relationships in the process. That’s obviously a very simplified version of what she came up with, but the insight she provided me on the marketplace and the clarity she helped me get on the purpose of my book has been my guiding star for the few years that this has been in the works. The work she has done (and continues to do) with me has helped me stay on a very clear path with this project and make sure that I never lose sight of what this book is really all about.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

There’s not one story in particular that’s most interesting related to my book, but rather a series of experiences that reaffirmed for me every step of the way that I was going in the right direction for this book. Every time I would tell a married couple or a fellow wedding vendor about the book, their eyes would light up and they would exclaim that this is exactly the type of book an engaged couple needs. Even the folks who reviewed early drafts confirmed for me that this book is exactly what the world needs right now. We’re all subject to a little self-doubt here and there, so getting this affirmation from others was so critical in helping me to keep going and feeling amazing about what I was producing.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. I wish someone had prepared me for all of the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur. I remember one day somewhat early on in my career when I was jumping for joy in the morning because I had been published on a prominent wedding blog and by the afternoon I was in tears over a misunderstanding with a fellow wedding vendor. And it’s not that I wouldn’t have still chosen this path knowing how emotionally challenging it would be, but I think I would have mentally prepared myself more if I knew then what I know now.

2. I wish someone had told me early on that I would eventually come to a place in my business where I was going to need to delegate things, so that I could (1) get a headstart on identifying what tasks I felt comfortable delegating, and (2) get a little practice in handing things off to others. I’m frankly terrible at delegating (and was when I was an attorney, too), so if I’d been able to prepare at the beginning for needing to outsource things and get help from others, it probably would come much more naturally to me by now.

3. I wish someone had told me that I would need to be friends with other wedding planners. That was something I definitely had to learn on my own. I’m a very competitive person by nature, so when starting my business, I never imagined that I would be able to become good friends with other wedding planners in my area because I would always feel so competitive with them. But that’s just not the case. My wedding planner friends have become a much needed source for encouragement and ideas and a lot of times we’re all able to refer business to each other. I never would have expected it!

4. I wish someone had taught me about the abundance mindset. See above re: competitiveness. I wish that I’d had words to describe the abundance mindset from the early stages of my business rather than being so jealous every time I saw the weddings that other planners would be working on (and how many they were working on). Eventually I genuinely took to heart the idea that there is enough work for everyone out there and also that there are clients for everyone. Even amongst the wedding planners I am friends with, our personalities are so different, our styles are so different, and we interact with our clients so differently. Accepting that finally helped me get out of the comparison trap and constantly worrying about “competition.”

5. I wish someone had told me that in 2020, there would be a global pandemic that would shut down the entire wedding industry in New York City for more than a year. Just kidding. Actually, no I’m not.

So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?

My number one strategy for maintaining my mental health over the last year has been “turn it off.” If I’m watching the news and feel myself becoming anxious, I turn it off. If I’m scrolling through social media and I notice I’m starting to feel a certain way, I put my phone away. If I follow someone on social media who’s not making me feel great about myself or the world at large, I unfollow them. If I’m becoming too overstimulated by endless Zoom calls or my workload, I take a break and unplug for a bit. I feel like we’ve gotten to the point where we have to physically remove whatever is causing us stress, or physically remove ourselves from the situation that is causing us stress.

I’m also a huge fan of naps and have been for a long time. Especially over the last year, when my body has told me to rest during the day, I’ve listened to it and taken a nap. It’s so important that we listen to our bodies right now when they are telling us what we need. I encourage folks to follow The Nap Ministry on Instagram for more guidance on the importance of resting.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I wouldn’t want to inspire a new movement, but I do want to use my influence to encourage others to get involved in the pursuit of Black liberation, especially the liberation of Black women and Black trans women. Over the last year, I have learned so much being in courses with Monique Melton, and her message to her students and her followers is that we must always be centering and supporting Black liberation, joy, and humanity. If I could use my influence to get others to listen to her message (and the messages of so many other Black women) and take action, that would be my priority.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

I would LOVE to have lunch with Luvvie! She is total #lifegoals for me. She’s a New York Times bestselling author, a public speaker, a podcast host (might be in my future, too!), and from what I heard from my friend who worked with her on her wedding, an absolutely incredible human. Not to mention she’s a fellow sneaker enthusiast, so we’d totally be able to nerd out on that together, too. And she’s got an amazing sense of humor, so I know that simply being in her presence would be an out of this world experience.

How can our readers follow you online?

My website is colorpopevents.com and I am @colorpopevents on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. And if folks want to find me on Clubhouse, I’m @leahcolorpop.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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