Being Able to Tune out the Competition — The comparison game is a thief of all joy. I hate seeing what it does to people. I hate what it used to do to me. But to survive and thrive in the wedding industry, you’ve got to be able to ignore the competition in one way or another. One of my tricks is to not follow any account on social media that makes me feel bad. If I don’t see it, I don’t know it’s happening. And then I won’t feel anything about it, good or bad. Also, it’s key to remember that everyone in your particular field is different. As a planner, I work with my couples differently than the next planner, I bond and create relationships with my couples differently than other planners, and my personality is different from my peers. Realizing that we all work with our couples differently was a big epiphany moment for me in ending the comparison game. If a couple loves another planner in my area, then they weren’t going to love me. We’re all just so different that it’s worth focusing on what you’re doing and not worrying about what anyone else is doing.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Leah Weinberg the Owner & Creative Director of Color Pop Events — a New York City-based wedding planning company that focuses on the details and lives in the logistics. Now in her sixth year of business, Leah leverages skills like organization, attention to detail, and client service from her prior career as a commercial real estate attorney to excel at event production. Her colorful work and party planning tips have been published online and in print with Vogue, Glamour, Marie Claire, Martha Stewart Weddings, Martha Stewart Living, The Knot, Brides, Buzzfeed and more.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Becoming a wedding planner was definitely not something I dreamed about as a kid or even as a young adult, for that matter. When I graduated from law school, I immediately started working at a prominent law firm in Atlanta, and then after two years, I moved to New York City where I started working at another big law firm. It quickly became evident to me that I was destined to be my own boss. In the places I was working, I was always thinking that I could run things better from a business perspective and not to mention that I was tired of working SO hard to line someone else’s pockets. So I started brainstorming business ideas. I thought about opening a doggy daycare, almost went to pastry school, and event planning was a business idea I kept coming back to. It was a perfect fit for my strengths (organization, attention to detail, etc.) and need for a creative outlet. That was 2010. Then in 2012 I planned my own wedding and found it to be a fun (and easy) experience, which I know is totally NOT normal. I thought, “Ok, this is the business I want to move forward with.” After my wedding in August 2012, I slowly started taking steps to get my business off the ground while still working full-time as an in-house attorney at a real estate company. In October 2013, I had my first wedding as Color Pop Events, and the rest is history!
Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First, can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
I know this is so incredibly cliché, but owning your own business really is a rollercoaster ride. The highs and lows are incredibly drastic, and sometimes they can come out of nowhere. Heck, sometimes they can even happen on the same day. I remember one day in particular when in the morning I had found out that I had been published online with Martha Stewart Weddings for the first time. I mean, I was doing a happy dance in my home office! Then, that afternoon, I had a misunderstanding with another vendor that left me in tears and devastated. Unfortunately, days like that are not unique when you’re a small business owner. But you learn how to cope with them. And as my life coach said, you eventually want to get to a place where your highs are out of this world, and your lows are better than the highs you used to have. You just keep going up!
My story of Grit and Success is honestly the story of me transitioning from being a full-time attorney to starting Color Pop Events. As I mentioned, I began Color Pop while working full-time as an in-house attorney. I had a few clients at that time and remembered working so hard on nights and weekends to plan their weddings and get a business started. During the week, I would have to come up with creative ways to sneak out of work for an hour or two at a time to attend client meetings or site visits. About nine months after my first wedding, I decided that I needed to find some way to devote more time to Color Pop but still have a decent income coming in. I found a fantastic law firm that needed some part-time help and let me be incredibly flexible with my schedule as long as I was getting my work done for them. I had been with them for about a year and a half when I said to myself, “Look what I’ve built while devoting only 50% of my time to this business. Let’s see what happens if I can give it 100% of my time.” And so I quit. That was three years ago now, and I’ve never looked back.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Admittedly, I’m a perfectionist. And at that point in time, I viewed my actions as either a success or a failure. (Side note: Since then I’ve worked with a life coach who helped me realize that success and failure is not black and white and that the journey is more important than the end result.) With that former mindset, I couldn’t accept failure. So I did everything I could to move forward, to push myself, and to hustle in order to get the results for my business that I wanted.
So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?
Grit is what lead me to start a business that was going to fulfill my hopes and dreams despite having a totally secure and financially fruitful career as an attorney at the time. And for the record, I was a darn good attorney! But I knew that profession was crushing my soul instead of inspiring it. So I put in a lot of time, effort, and money to build something that was going to be fulfilling and that I was going to love. I persevered when times got tough and when it would have been super easy for me to turn back and take a big fat check from another law job. I’ll admit, there were times when the allure of that paycheck had me questioning why on earth I had started my own business. But then I would remember why I’m here and how much absolute joy I get out of being a business owner in the wedding industry.
So, how are things going today? 🙂
Things are fantastic! I am admittedly a bit overwhelmed because I have my hands in a lot of different projects at the moment. But honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
At one of the first weddings I ever did, the couple had ordered their wedding cake, and some separate dessert take-home favors from the same company. I had forgotten to clarify with the caterer that the smaller desserts were favors and not for the dessert table. By the time I realized that the caterer was putting them out on the dessert table, they had opened about half of the packages. I quickly Googled to see if the bakery where the desserts had been purchased was still open and, lucky for me, one of the locations was open until midnight. This was before I realized I always needed at least one additional person working with me on wedding days, so I had MY HUSBAND go out to the bakery and buy more desserts that I paid for myself since it had been my error. Now, I make sure to go through every detail with every vendor so that we’re all on the same page. I must have assumed at that wedding that the caterer knew the smaller desserts were favors but never actually communicated it. Lesson learned!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What makes Color Pop Events stand out from other event planning companies is my aesthetic. Not only are my brand and the events I do incredibly colorful and vibrant, but I also personally always wearing something super sparkly or colorful. That’s what my company and I are known for. One of my proudest moments is a story from last summer. I had planned an 80’s party for Brooklyn Pride that was also rainbow-themed in the décor. I posted some photos from the party the next morning on Instagram, and one of my past brides texted me saying that she and her husband had walked by the party the night before and thought, “Oh, that totally looks like a party Leah would plan.” And unbeknownst to her, it was! Having a distinct style that people recognize and that makes them think of me whenever they see something fun, and colorful is a real asset to my business.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Boundaries and self-care are key to being able to thrive and not burn out. Keep in mind though that everyone has their own definition of what boundaries, balance and self-care look like, so there’s no universal fix for everyone. Personally, I’m married without kids, and my husband is a co-founder of a tech start-up (which means he works a ton, too), so I definitely work more hours than people with different personal situations. But I’m still conscious of setting boundaries and taking time out for myself. I’m trying to be better about not working on weekends during the non-busy season, but when I do work weekends, I take some time out during the week for play. For example, I recently started roller skating, and there’s an indoor skating rink in Brooklyn that does lunchtime skate sessions every Thursday. I’ve got a recurring event on my calendar to may sure I’m there each week for some me-time. My advice to other wedding pros is to find out what activities are most relaxing, rewarding, and recharging for you and build time into your schedule for those things. Because if you don’t intentionally set aside time for them, it’s unlikely you’ll ever take that break.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I don’t have a single person who I am thankful for, but I definitely have a squad of fellow women entrepreneurs who I am eternally grateful for and forever indebted to. We are there to support each other, lift each other up, be a sounding board, be a brainstorming partner, and be a shoulder to lean on when things get tough. Surrounding yourself with people who are doing what you’re doing and going through what you’re going through is so crucial when you’re running a small business. They are going to make you feel so much less alone and will be there for you whenever you need them.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
My position in the wedding industry has allowed me to become a public speaker at national conferences, on podcasts, and at smaller, local gatherings of wedding industry professionals and small business owners. Through these speaking opportunities, I’ve been able to educate and connect with pros in my industry and other creative entrepreneurs. I’ve hopefully helped them to find ways to take their businesses to the next level and also realize that they aren’t alone in this crazy world of owning a business. Off the stage, I’ve been able to unofficially mentor a handful of wedding industry professionals who are starting out and hope that I’ve given them support and confidence in pursuing their dreams.
What are your “ Top 5 Things Needed to Succeed in the Wedding Industry” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. A Strong Business Sense — You might think you love weddings and love love, but if you don’t know how to run a business (or don’t take the time to learn how to run a business), you’re going to find yourself hitting a lot of walls and not growing the way you want to. I am incredibly lucky that I had a legal background. In starting my business, I knew what type of legal entity I needed to set up, and I knew that I needed to set up a business banking account, get a business credit card, get an EIN, and have a contract in place for my services. And I was able to do all of those things myself without paying an attorney to help me. I’m not saying that you have to be able to do all of those things on your own, but you DO need to know that you need those things. Or you need to have an advisor who can educate you on the things you need. Going in without a solid foundation for your business is not the way to set yourself up for success.
2. Emotional Intelligence — Working in the wedding industry, you’ve essentially thrown yourself into a world where you are working on an event that, for your client, is an incredibly significant day in their lives almost every weekend. You are putting yourself into such emotionally charged situations regularly. For some of us vendors, we are exposed to the emotional side of weddings more than others, like planners, and we have to know how to navigate those situations and how to help our clients navigate them, too. We have to be able to view an emotional situation, understand it and why it’s happening, and then give advice to our clients on how best to handle it. It can be incredibly tricky, and without having a solid understanding of how people behave and why, and what to do about it, you’re going to find yourself in a lot of uncomfortable circumstances.
3. Boundaries — There’s so much talk about achieving balance these days, and that balance is going to look different for everyone. But one of the keys to having some balance in your life is setting boundaries. Decide for yourself how much you’re willing to work and be available to your clients and also decide how much time you need to carve out for yourself. I have some friends who have set office hours each day and only respond to e-mails during office hours. Others won’t take weekend meetings. Boundaries are going to look different for everyone, but they are critical for maintaining sanity when having a small business in the wedding industry.
4. Thick Skin — Let’s be real, there is A LOT of rejection when it comes to working in this industry. As a planner, I get hundreds of inquiries each year and only end up booking a handful of them. That’s hundreds of people telling me (or not telling me in the case of being ghosted) that they don’t want to work with me. At first, it was tough to deal with all of that rejection. But over time I realized that all of the planners in my market are very different people and if someone chose another planner over me, then it wasn’t meant to be in the first place. And sure, rejections still sting now and then, mainly if it’s a couple I loved, but overall, I’ve gotten a lot better about not taking rejection personally.
5. Being Able to Tune out the Competition — The comparison game is a thief of all joy. I hate seeing what it does to people. I hate what it used to do to me. But to survive and thrive in the wedding industry, you’ve got to be able to ignore the competition in one way or another. One of my tricks is to not follow any account on social media that makes me feel bad. If I don’t see it, I don’t know it’s happening. And then I won’t feel anything about it, good or bad. Also, it’s key to remember that everyone in your particular field is different. As a planner, I work with my couples differently than the next planner, I bond and create relationships with my couples differently than other planners, and my personality is different from my peers. Realizing that we all work with our couples differently was a big epiphany moment for me in ending the comparison game. If a couple loves another planner in my area, then they weren’t going to love me. We’re all just so different that it’s worth focusing on what you’re doing and not worrying about what anyone else is doing.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would start a movement that would address bullying and mental health issues with kids. I honestly can’t even imagine how hard it is in school at any age these days with social media. At least when I was in school, if someone wanted to pick on you, they would do it to your face to a limited audience, rather than posting on a forum for all to see. A lot of times, the repercussions of bullying can be the development of mental health issues in these kids. I want them to be able to ask for help, get help, and know that they aren’t alone. I want to let them know that they are seen and that there are lots of people out in the world who care about their well-being. No child should endure bullying, and no child should feel like they can’t get the help and support they need.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I am @colorpopevents on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter!