#SelfStarterStories: From working in PR to becoming a Celebrant
This week's #selfstarterstory features Deborah Kelly, Founder of The Bespoke Ceremony Company.
#PickYourselfUK caught up with Deborah to learn more about her entrepreneurial journey.
What was your last job?: I worked as a freelance PR consultant.
When did you choose to PICK YOURSELF instead of waiting to be chosen by someone else?: I had a fabulous time working in PR and met some great people along the way. I hit 50 and had a mid-life crisis as I realised that I wanted a new challenge. I am a people person and so looked at different jobs where I could work with people and made a real difference.
I discovered celebrancy by accident but immediately thought: 'I could do that!' A celebrant uses a lot of the same skills as PR and despite being scared to death about re-training at my age, I took the plunge. I have always believed the only person who changes your life is you. Stop moaning about it, and just do it.
What was the most challenging part of starting a business?: In this job you are dealing with people who are highly emotional, whether that is mourning the loss of a loved one, or organising one of the biggest days of their life – this means I only have one chance to get it right for them. The pressure is immense, but that is OK because I thrive on it.
What is your favourite business book and why?: Non, I am not a believer in business books.
Do you do everything yourself? What do you outsource?: I do everything myself. Having a marketing background helps and I originally trained as a secretary, so I have great admin skills.
My business is essentially me – I do the marketing, the networking, meeting clients, writing their ceremonies and delivering their ceremonies – and so I cannot really outsource much. I have an office assistant who keeps my diary, does the invoicing and schedules in appointments.
What is your favourite marketing tool ?: Blogging seems to drive traffic to my website and I get a lot of people contacting me through that. I do all the usual, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, -but get very little return. I also do quite a bit of PR and so have appeared in the regional press and on regional radio which all helps raise my profile.
How do you market your business?: Content marketing is a useful tool, my blogs are very informative and I also have a newsletter that I send out to key contacts.
However, I find networking has worked for me. I think a lot of my business is based on personality – and so I attend quite a few events but also go into venues and introduce myself, that has been very effective.
When you first launched, how did you get your first paying customers?: I literally drove around my local area and went to see all the local funeral directors to introduce myself.
I got my first business within a couple of days. For weddings and vow-renewals I visited several hotels and wedding venues and spoke with the planners and managers of the venue.
How did you get your first traffic to your website?: Fresh content, regularly. It needs to be current and newsworthy and be of interest to potential customers. It must be done on a regular basis which takes time, but I think it's worth it.
Nominate one person/friend who believed in you from the start, and what would you like to say to them today?: Steve Woodward, he was a former colleague and when I wanted to re-train as a celebrant and set up The Bespoke Ceremony Company he told me to do it. I was quite nervous about leaving a secure position and trying something new at the ripe old age of 50-something, but he was cheering me on all the way.
What would you say to someone who is toying with the idea to start a business but haven't yet?: Do your research and make sure there is room for you in the marketplace. If you really believe in yourself and your idea, then go for it – life is too short (I would know, -I officiate at a lot of funerals!)
If you could have dinner with one entrepreneur, who would it be and why?: I like people who use their skills to help others and so I would love to meet Hayley Smith who not only founded a hugely successful PR company but also found FlowAid, which provides sanitary products to homeless women.
To stay up to date with Deborah's entrepreneurial journey, please find her on her social media channels below:
Deborah Kelly has qualified for the #PickYourselfUK Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year award 2018. If you'd like to enter yourself or nominate a small business entrepreneur for this award, please submit your story below.