This week I’m delighted to introduce you to HiveTribe member Jacquie Lawes from Sugar & Spice Designs. Since she joined the Hive last year I’ve loved watching her business grow as she delves deeper into her ideal client profile, gets clear on her brand identity. Building on her success a TWIA 2017 where she won the accolade of Best Stationery in her Region and was a National Finalist, Jacquie is currently working on a major rebrand to reposition her business creating luxury wedding stationery for free-spirited couples. Here’s her story so far:

How did you get started in the wedding industry?

I actually started out in the wedding industry back in 2003 when I was asked to photograph a friends wedding. I’d not long left school having finished my A-Levels and remember being so nervous about having the responsibility of capturing someone’s special day.

From that one wedding I was recommended by others and ended up setting up as a part-time wedding photographer around my full time job as a Studio & Production Manager for an advertising photographic studio.

When did you realise working in the wedding industry full-time was right for you?

I loved being a wedding photographer but really struggled to fit it in around my full time job so decided to give it up in 2013.

After having my daughter in 2015 I knew I didn’t want to return to my 9-5 but I wanted to do something for myself, something to motivate me and give me a challenge. I knew I wanted to return to the wedding industry and having worked on a couple of invitation designs during my maternity leave I decided to set up Sugar and Spice Designs, a luxury wedding stationery and design studio.

Attending a HiveGathering not long after my launch made me realise this was the industry for me. The support from everyone was amazing and it was so lovely to be surrounded by other ambitious women, most of whom were juggling mum life with their business like me. It really is a case of community over competition in this industry!

I love it so much I’m just about to relaunch my photography business alongside Sugar and Spice Designs which I’m really excited about!

We all make mistakes in business, especially in the early days! What mistakes have you made and what did you learn from them?

’ve made a number of mistakes since the launch of my business in 2016. Firstly, trying to appeal to all kinds of brides rather than sticking to a specific style. I had stationery collections to suit all tastes, half of which I didn’t even really like but felt they should be there to get more bookings.

I also said yes to EVERYTHING! Any styled shoot/collaboration ad every order enquiry, even if it meant dropping my prices to take on the order.

Since working out who my dream bride is I have dropped/updated the collections that didn’t work, increased my prices and have definitely got better at saying no. If I’m asked to do a styled shoot now I find out about the team involved, the theme and where it’s going to be published before I decide whether or not to collaborate. If it’s on brand for my target bride then I love to work on styled shoots now but if it doesn’t quite fit I have saved myself a lot of time (not to mention £s!) by just saying no.

What tips do you have for those thinking about making the leap to being a full-time wedding pro?

This is a tricky one as had it not have been for having my daughter, and being on maternity leave, I would probably still be in my 9-5 job and not working in the wedding industry!

Whilst my salary was better in my full time ‘normal’ job, I’m so much happier running my own full time business. I get to pick and choose what orders I take on, I don’t have to ask permission to take time off, I have lots more time with my family and I can even work from bed in my PJ’s if I want to!

One thing I would highly recommend is to surround yourself with others in a similar position or those who have taken the plunge from their 9-5 to set up their own business. Hearing other people’s stories and having support from others in the industry has been invaluable to me.

What support and advice have you discovered on your journey so far, and how has it helped to create the business you have today?

’m still learning and changing how I do things all the time which is really important to me to keep things fresh and improve my business. Photography, art and design are hobbies of mine but it’s easy to lose the love for it if I get a difficult bride or if I’m working all hours to get the on done.

I find attending workshops and meeting up with industry friends is a fantastic way to keep the love for my business going, give my fresh ideas and take a step back to see how I can improve. Also, setting targets is a big help too, it gives me a challenge and motivates me to want to do better.

From attending business reviews and workshops at The Hive I have taken on lots of advice from confidence building, learning to outsource and finding my ideal client. Since finding my ideal client I’ve developed my style to suit and whilst I’m getting less enquiries the ones I do get more often than not turn into orders and from brides with a bigger budget who go on to order their on the day stationery with me as well as their invitations.

Do you think women can ‘have it all’ when it comes to running a successful business and a fulfilling personal life?

I certainly hope so! I’m still in the early stages of my business having only launched just over a year ago but so far I can see huge changes in my business and I get to see my family all the time so at the moment things are looking really good!
I’m a firm believer that if you want something enough and work for it anything is possible so that lovely salary and being able to afford a luxury family holiday to a dream destination will happen eventually 🙂

I am certainly a much happier person with far less stress now than I was in my full time job so whilst I may not have the salary I’m after just yet it’s all been worth it so far!

How do you balance running a business with home & family life?

Juggling family and work life has its challenges, particularly with a 2 year old who doesn’t nap or sleep through the night! I’m lucky that my husband works from home a lot during the week so we juggle caring for our daughter between the two of us.

I used to take over our dining table to work and being surrounded by noise and toys it was quite hard to concentrate!  I now have a design studio which is a quiet room to fully concentrate on the actual design side of my business. I also have a production studio which is where I spend most of my time for sketches, calligraphy and packing up orders. Having these separate areas gives me space to fully concentrate on work and keep it separate to my family life.

I have everything in my planner and I schedule my week ahead every Sunday so I can stay on track with work, allowing me to keep my evenings and weekends free for family time.

I also have 2 mornings each week when my husband isn’t around which is my time with my daughter which is really important to me. It also gives me a few hours where my phone/social media is out of reach and I can have some quantity family time.

What’s your definition of success?

To me, success is just achieving targets set by yourself and it will be different for everyone.My idea of success for my business will be when I have a similar salary to what I had in my 9-5 as well as having the time I have with my family now. I’m halfway there as I have the family time already!

What is your Number 1 tip for anyone entering the wedding industry?

My number 1 tip would have to be joining the Hive or a similar network of wedding pros. Surrounding yourself with other women in a similar position and having that support network has been invaluable to me. It can feel very lonely at times, particularly if you work from home all the time. Having the regular meet ups just gives a sense of normality and much needed interaction with others in the industry.

What’s next for you and your business?

My next project is the relaunch of my photography business, Elsie Joe Photography, which I’m so excited about!

For Sugar and Spice Designs, my next projects (when I have time to tackle them!) are a refresh of some of my existing collections to make them more on brand and I’m also looking at a bit of a re-brand later in the year. I feel like I’ve found my style with my designs now so it’s making sure all of my collections reflect that to keep attracting my dream brides!

Ready to join our Tribe? If you’re starting out in the wedding industry, feeling lost or overwhelmed  you’ll find online and offline support, training and opportunities when you join the HiveTribe for less than £1 a day.  You can also join our FREE Facebook Group for wedding pros here.