Interview with Shannon Valente, Owner of Shannon Valente Weddings, one of the best Wedding Planning in West Springs Cougar Ridge.
Interview conducted by George Byma
Describe your business.
I own a wedding planning and design studio. I offer full wedding planning, wedding day coordination and hourly consulting. Couples hire me if they are looking for someone to help plan their wedding, if they are just looking for some help along the way, or help on the actual day of the wedding. I also provide wedding rentals as well, so if people are looking for chair covers and other wedding accessories I can provide them.
What made you decide to open this business?
Part of it was my love of planning a good party. Any job that I have ever done, I always ended up being the “social event coordinator”, whether or not that was the job or not. Also my own wedding played a big role, I just really loved the process. So I got serious with it and took my certification from the Wedding Planners Institute of Canada and started my business. It has grown from there over the years.
What was it like when you first started?
Calgary is a very welcoming city but in the beginning I found it quite intimidating being a newcomer to the business. But once I got a couple of weddings under my belt, people were really receptive. This gave me the confidence to realize that I was actually quite good at what I was doing and really helped.
What has surprised you most when owning a business?
I think what has surprised me most is all the background work that goes into a business. When you're an entrepreneur, I think you end up wearing many hats, you are your own admin, sales, marketing and IT departments. There are so many different day to day tasks that you are required to do in the background to run the business on top of being an expert in your field. Over the years I have learned (the hard way) what to do yourself and what to source out.
What would your customers say they love most about your business?
I have been consistently told that my customer service is exceptional! I come from a customer service/sales background so I think that's definitely helped me over the years. I am often told by wedding guests, clients and their family members things like, 'You did a great job, it was beautiful, it was well run, and you did it all with a smile on your face!" My attitude is 'you get more bees with honey' and customer service is key.
What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had working with a customer?
I have a lot of very memorable experiences. There are a few specific weddings that certainly stand out. When planning such an important day with people and sometimes working together for over a year or more, you become very close with them. I’m lucky to be involved in such a happy time in their lives.
Do you have any exciting plans for the future that you want customers to know about?
Expansion. Over the years I've had many assistants working with me and I've slowly been building them up. A lot of them have started taking on their own weddings, so there will soon be a bigger Shannon Valente Weddings team and I am really excited about that.
What is something most people don't know about the business?
My business used to be called Frit Fru weddings and I changed it to Shannon Valente Weddings a few years ago.
Who are some of your business idols and role models? And why?
In business my father has been a big role model to me as well as my husband. Both come from a banking background. Their customer service, and dedication to their job and clients, has served me well. I also belong to an amazing group of wedding planners in Calgary who encourage, support and refer each other. Not always common among industries.
What do you like most about being an entrepreneur?
I like the flexibility and rewards that it offers. As many hard days as there are, there's many more great days. With everything you do you get to reap the benefits and see all of your hard work pay off. I’ve worked harder for myself than I ever have for anyone else.
Do you have any advice that you want to share with other entrepreneurs?
Continue learning. I like to take different seminars, classes and courses to improve myself and my business. Establishing a background in business is useful. You can be great at making something or doing something, but if you don't have the business background to back it up you're going to struggle. The longer I am in business, every course that I take and every seminar that I attend, I learn more from it because I have experience I can relate back to it.
What do you love about this neighbourhood?
I love that it's expanding. I don't have to drive so far to go to a certain grocery store or a coffee shop or to buy a pair of jeans. I have lived in the Cougar Ridge area for 11 years now. When I first moved here, it was a good 20-30 minutes drive for anything you wanted to do. And now it's literally minutes from my doorstep which I am really, really enjoying.
What are your favourite places to go in the neighbourhood?
I love shopping at Apt 22, Frilly Lilly in Aspen Woods to get my nails or eyebrows done and Mama Massage is one of my favorite places, my kids love it too. They are fantastic and their customer service is amazing.
What are your favourite things to do in the neighbourhood?
My son is a really big soccer fan and participates in the local Rangers soccer. My family and I also enjoy going to the local restaurants for dinner.
Why do you think it's important for people to shop local?
I think it's important to shop local because the more you support the local businesses, the more they're going to grow and more is going to be offered here. I'm from a small town and I think it's the same mentality. If you don't shop local, then people are going to have to close their doors and then you are not going to have it available when you want or need it. I'm a big believer in keeping things local and as easy as possible.