Name: Rebecca Rose Atchison (but everyone calls me Becca!) / Age: 34 / Current Company: Rebecca Rose Events | Rebecca Rose Creative / Title: Founder/Co-Owner and Creative Director / Years in Business: 4 ½ / Education: BA in Communication from Wake Forest University
When did you decide you wanted to pursue a career in the wedding industry? I knew less than five months after graduating from college that I belonged in the event industry, but it wasn’t until about two years later that I fell in love with weddings. As I became more involved with event design, I learned that weddings and social celebrations offer much more creative opportunity and are also incredibly fulfilling.
What was your first job after college? Right out of school, I moved to Atlanta and started a post-graduate internship at Edelman Public Relations. When the internship ended, they kept me on staff in a temporary freelance capacity until I accepted a job at The Coca-Cola Company working with their company image communications team to produce in-house events, speakers series and assist with internal global company-wide communications. I later went on to plan/design events at The University of Georgia and worked at a Hyatt hotel in Texas before starting my company, Rebecca Rose Events, in North Carolina in the summer of 2010.
When you were just starting out, what was your approach to getting business and getting your foot in the door? I started my business the same month that my husband and I moved to a new state/town, so I literally started from scratch. It was exhilarating, but also terrifying! Nobody knew me and I knew nobody! Still, I had an impressive portfolio of past wedding and event work and over seven years of experience under my belt, so I knew that I just needed to put that in front of the right people. My previous position as a Catering Manager at Hyatt prepared me well for marketing my new business. I wasted no time reaching out to venues and vendors to set up coffee dates, do site visits, and develop relationships. It wasn’t easy, but my training in sales really paid off and business took off much more quickly than I ever imagined. Some of those vendors I had coffee with are now dear friends and I couldn’t be more grateful for their trust in me when I was new in town and launching a business from my humble little home office!
You own Rebecca Rose Events and Rebecca Rose Creative. What is the distinction between the two and why did you decide to create two separate brands? Rebecca Rose Events is exclusively a full service planning and design firm. This means that we work with our clients from start to finish, providing planning, creative direction, event design (including graphics and florals), onsite coordination, styling and production. We only accept 10-12 weddings a year (as well as a small handful of social event), and we intentionally limit the number because the scope of our services is so comprehensive and we want to ensure each wedding receives the attention it deserves!
As the RRE brand has grown in scope/sophistication of services, and our prices have increased, we receive a lot of inquiries from brides and grooms who love our work but are looking for something less comprehensive and less expensive. In other words, they want us to help make their wedding look like the weddings they see in our portfolio, but they’re not interested in full-service planning. Enter Rebecca Rose Creative! This brand isn’t about planning or logistics. It’s all about aesthetics. We’re excited to offer design-only services, styling/creative direction, and graphic design in a way that is much more accessible. Our team is so excited about what we have in store with the new brand and we can’t wait to unveil some really unique ideas and offerings over the course of this next year!
How do you decide which weddings and projects you take on? That’s such a great question! We take on a wedding or project only if it meets several criteria:
(1) It will be creatively challenging and fulfilling for our team.
(2) The client understands the value of artistry and views our services as a worthwhile investment in an overall experience.
(3) The client is kind and respectful.
That last point might seem silly, but it matters tremendously. At the core of our business, we strive to do things with love. Our team will work over 400 hours on each full-service wedding that we plan, design and produce. This means developing a deep relationship with our clients and making some personal sacrifices to do the job to the best of our abilities. The hours are long and the work is hard because the emotional stakes are high. In many cases we work with our clients for 8-12 months. I don’t ever want to place any of my team in a situation where they feel unappreciated or disrespected, because that could mean 8-12 months of professional and personal misery. If we see any red flags in the consultation phase, we’re not afraid to let a prospective client know that we’re not the right fit for them.
You have a business partner and have recently hired an assistant. What advice would you give to someone who is considering expanding their business and hiring staff? Whether you’re aiming to grow your team by hiring staff or expand your business by taking on a business partner, the best advice I can give you is to slow down and take your time!
Deciding to allow someone to invest in your business and take on partial ownership of your brand is not easy, and it shouldn’t be easy. Business partnerships are a lot like marriages. You need to date first! Business partners need to know how to trust each other, depend on each other, have arguments, provide and receive constructive criticism, and celebrate accomplishments. Taking this leap in your business requires selflessness and courage. Have all of the tough conversations first, just as you would have in pre-marital counseling. Know where you both stand on finances, decision-making processes, conflict resolution and goals for growth. Hire an attorney to help solidify everything soundly and take the time to lay the groundwork for a successful partnership.
Hiring staff is a much different process, but no less important! Over the years, I have learned that the best hires are made when you take your time and make decisions with your heart and your gut. When you’re a small business owner with a small team, it’s a very different world than when you’re one of many in a large company. A candidate may look fantastic on paper, but if they aren’t someone you want to spend every day with… then they’re not the right fit no matter what credentials they have to their name. We look for people that are resourceful, intelligent, creatively inclined, and who know how to find the fun in hard work. If they’re willing to learn and eager to grow, just about anything else can be accomplished through training. One last thing that is non-negotiable: strong writing skills! If you’re hiring someone who will be in a position to communicate with your clients, industry partners or the general public (email, social media, etc.) that person needs to be able to represent your brand well through written word.
What has been your career highlight? There are many things that I’m proud of in my career, but it’s hard to top a private dinner party I planned for a former president of the United States and his former cabinet while I was planning events for the University of Georgia back in 2007. It was a pretty surreal experience to look into a room and see the likes of Jimmy Carter, Madeleine Albright, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and a handful of media giants (including NBC’s Brian Williams – my favorite!) dining on the menu I selected, and sitting at the tables I designed. I was very young and relatively new in the event industry and I remember feeling so proud in that moment and knowing that I had found my lifelong career in special events!
What are your future goals for your brand and what can we expect to see from you in the future? In the near future, we’ll be launching a new website for Rebecca Rose Creative and within the year we’ll expand our line of product offerings to include some really interesting stuff (that I can’t share yet)! Since Rebecca Rose Events is fairly exclusive, one of our main goals for the RRC brand is to make meaningful event /wedding design accessible to more people and we’re pretty passionate about that.
I also hope you’ll see me speaking at workshops and industry events. I really love teaching and sharing knowledge with others who are eager to grow and this is something I’ve put on the back burner for too long now, so it’s a serious goal for 2015!
What advice would you give to someone hoping to get their start in the wedding industry? There are many different ways to be involved in the wedding industry, including fashion, confectionery, catering, photography, music, floral design, graphic design, planning, technical production/engineering, and the list goes on. No matter what your talent or chosen path, if you’re considering a career in the wedding industry, my best advice would be quite simply to make sure you really love weddings first.
So many students and young adults see the visual allure of weddings and decide they want to pursue a career in the industry before knowing what it really involves. It really does seem glamorous in the movies, in magazines, or experienced as a wedding guest. I can’t speak specifically to each profession, but if you’re seeking a career as a wedding planner, designer or stylist, my best advice is that you find a way to work on/at a few weddings before committing to them as a career. Find an internship, work as an independent contractor, or volunteer with a planning/design team to get a glimpse behind the scenes and experience a planning or design process from start to finish.
I’ve been working with student interns for over four years now and the honest to goodness truth is this: more often than not, they emerge from a semester internship with the realization that they don’t want to work in weddings. The students who finish the semester feeling invigorated to keep pursuing the wedding industry in their career path are the students who feel drawn to it deeply in their hearts. They know that they’ll gladly give up weekends and late nights, and be willing to make some sacrifices to bring others joy. It’s okay to realize that weddings aren’t for you! But if you can’t stand the thought of missing out on the opportunity to bring someone’s dreams to life, or developing relationships with brides, grooms and families that will place an enormous amount of trust in you, then you just might be cut out for this industry after all!
Currently watching: My husband and I decided to give up cable a couple years ago, so we enjoy working our way through old TV series on Netflix and Amazon. Our current favorite is The Unit! I also love Downton Abbey, Covert Affairs and Parenthood.
Currently on the hunt for: New curtains for my office in our studio.
Currently dreaming about: Buying a new home – and what I mean by that is designing for a new home! 😉
Currently inspired by: Sketching and painting! These are mediums I wish I had pursued more seriously when I was a student. I’m fascinated by the way art forms on paper and canvas and the way colors blend.
Photography by Nancy Ray Photography