Hello, Working Girls: Elena and Johna of Laurel Avenue Events + Design
Today I'm over-the-moon excited to introduce Elena and Johna of Laurel Avenue Events + Design to the TWG Community. Not only do both of these incredibly talented ladies hail from my alma mater, Georgia College & State University (go Bobcats!), but they also have an authentic and genuine heart for their business. Read on to learn more about paving your own path in the creative events and wedding planning industry below! Q: When did it first “click” with you both to launch Laurel Avenue, and how much pre-planning went into your site and services before the brand’s initial launch? What challenges and successes have you faced along the way?
Johna: The weeks before Elena was about to graduate, the big question in her head was “What now? What am I going to do with my life?” We’ve all been there. – cue Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken – With so many options (this girl could do anything), she decided to ask her friends and take a poll. Unanimously, everyone agreed Elena was made for event planning (just look in the trunk of her car, it’s like a Mary Poppins bag full of the ingredients for a party). And naturally as her best friend who happened to have some experience in the wedding industry, it only made sense that I would be a part of creating this business.
Three months of planning went into creating our face before we had any online presence. We went through weeks of deciding on a name. There was a lot of gnashing of teeth. And once we couldn’t get away from the name Laurel Avenue we began to establish a brand identity. It was easy to establish the what, when, where, and how, but our challenge was the 'why?'. We had to establish what our purpose was before we could do an effective job of serving our clients. It's been a challenge to find our niche, but the greatest success has been having incredible support from vendors and our community.
Q: We have to ask! What’s a day in the life of the Laurel Avenue ladies like? Do you share an office space? What’s the best part about working with a friend?
Elena: Johna is UNBELIEVABLY creative. She will graduate in May – go Bobcats! Since we are 45 minutes apart we do a lot of phone calls and she comes down for photography and event styling/day-of. Johna is the Winston to my Schmidt. She helps me make decisions, she designed the visual part of our brand, and I call her for just about everything else. I call her my muse. But she’s more than that. So the best part? Uh, that she’s a strong communicator and that we have tons of inside jokes.
For the first 6 months of business owning it was:
Get up, dress very “brand” and apply full makeup, leisurely coffee and then sit down at the desk and build a business from scratch.
Now, there’s this lovely world of clients that I’ve been waiting for. Now a normal day: Snooze, snooze, snooze, gym, coffee, desk by 8:35 (I’m already behind?!?) respond to emails. Phone with a hotel sales manager while revising a blog post and feeding the dogs while leaving a message with 3 more caterers for pricing. Then around 9:00 the phone calls start, and more emails, while creating a style board for a bride. Check Instagram. Put on pants.
I also love to work from my favorite coffee shop. Self-employment perks.
Q: What are they key values that lie at Laurel Avenue’s core, and how does your brand differentiate itself from other event planning and design businesses?
Elena: Two big things set us apart.
- The first one’s in our name. A laurel is a plant whose leaves never wilt. Biblically it represents eternity. Avenue is representative of a journey. Altogether, Laurel Avenue is descriptive of the journey to spending eternity. Weddings are an earthly reflection of the day that we, the church, are married to the bridegroom, Jesus, the day that marks spending eternity with Him. We believe that weddings should be the happiest parties because they represent the greatest day in eternity that we hope in and look forward to!
- We’re less interested in creating the most perfect day for you, and more interested in creating the most you day with you. The best part of our job is giving brides and grooms the liberty to be themselves!
Q: Who do you look to for inspiration in the wedding industry, and how do you think weddings and the wedding planning process have evolved over the last 10 years?
Elena: Inspiration at the moment includes but is not limited to:
Industry pros who use their expertise as a force for good, anything on Amy Osaba's Instagram, the Maker Movement, Sophia Amoruso, Haley Sheffield, who also started out in Macon (Haley if you are reading this, let's be friends, k?), and...is it a faux pas to say Lindsay Shoemake? I mean come on....this girl is a powerhouse of creativity, professionalism, and kindness! Editor's note: blushing over here, you guys! Goodness.
Johna: Wedding planning has come a long way in the last decade. For starters, there is a much greater expectation placed on brides to create an event that is unique and memorable. There is a lot of pressure to do things that have never been done before. Easier said than done, eh?
As we all know, the web has transformed everything, including wedding planning. Pinterest has taken over by storm and become many bride's best friend. As wedding planners, however, we hope to give Pinterest a push and make ourselves at home in that BFF seat.
Q: What would your best piece of advice be for ladies on the edge of launching their creative careers, who might be hesitant to do so?
Elena: Look yourself in the face and ask: WHY NOT? If your main worry is that you’re not good enough, or not prepared enough, then call that person that is your biggest fan in the world and ask them why they’re proud of you. Really listen to them. Then, go back to that mirror and tell your pretty face that there is LOTS of room at the table for you. YOU and your kind of creativity are only gonna be on this big-ol’ earth for 60 more years. Hustle, hustle! Roll up your sleeves and get in there with the rest of ‘em!
Q: What fulfills each of you most about owning your own creative business?
Johna: As a creative, there is a stream of ideas constantly stirring waiting to be acted on. When an idea is put into motion and it affects someone else, I think that's when the magic happens. I couldn't ask for more than to be doing what I love and it be used to serve and impact others. Elena: Johna is spot on.
Not everybody is a hugger, you know? So when someone that's clearly not a hugger initiates a thanks-for-the-event hug...that's the good stuff, right there. Bring it in, y'all.