Bernadette Coveney Smith truly is a pioneer. In 2004, when gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts she launched her wedding planning business, It’s About Time, which later became 14 Stories in 2009. I was really touched by her entrepreneurial journey, when she submitted her Soul Story to Sage Wedding Pros. Her desire to start a wedding planning business grew out of her experience planning events for not-for-profits, coupled with this landmark time in history. The 14 Stories blog, Weddings Redefined is a TREASURE TROVE of education on everything from gay wedding traditions to gay wedding protocol. Thank you, Bernadette for all of your knowledge and insight! I learn so much from you every day.
Bernadette Coveney Smith
Owner, 14 Stories
Why did you start your business?
I started my business when gay marriage first became legal in Massachusetts, back in 2004. It was a very historical time in our state with tons of people protesting for and against gay marriage. I was planning events for a nonprofit, going to all the gay marriage rallies at the State House. It was an inspiring time that led to a business idea. I thought, “There’s going to be some pent-up demand for gay weddings! I might as well become a gay wedding planner!” So I recruited a business partner (who has since left the company) that knew more about weddings than I did, and together we took a giant leap of faith and began planning these extraordinary, historical weddings. Massachusetts was the first state to legalize gay marriage but now my firm plans gay weddings anywhere else they are legal.
What book do you recommend to new business owners?
I love the book Built to Last. I began an MBA program shortly after starting the company and this book was in the curriculum. I love the tons of real world examples and still have all of my Big Hairy Audacious Goals written down from 2004. It’s the kind of book that dares to you to push yourself, to think beyond the now and envision the potential of your business. The framework that the book provides just makes sense.
Do you have any cool goal-setting tips to share with us?
I’m honestly more about the goal implementation than the setting. You can set goals all day long but they are useless unless you get off your butt and do something. I love this quote by Simon Bailey: “A moment creates momentum and momentum creates monumental results. When you want to give up…just remember it’s only a moment!”
I often say that I “dream in logistics” and am “fueled by momentum.” For me, goal-setting is very rarely a structured exercise but something that is inspired by the voids I see in the wedding industry. My goals also come from figuring out ways to bring the things I’m passionate about into my work as a wedding planner (things like training and public speaking). I frequently throw stuff up and see what sticks – in a small, nimble company like mine, goals can be experimented with through trial and error and tweaked along the way.
I achieve big goals by simply turning them into smaller tasks. That’s how I get through the day – I have to do something, or I’ll do nothing at all. But once I get started, it’s hard to stop, my mind is active and ready to roll. That’s why I love Simon’s quote.
I also work very well when being held accountable by others. My wife is very good at pushing me and so is my mentor Sean Low. He has been a major supporter and fan of my work and when we speak, he pushes me to challenge myself. I take diligent notes after our meetings and always keep two ongoing handwritten, always updated lists: Business strategy tasks and Wedding planning tasks (note that I said tasks, not goals).
What do you find to be the biggest challenge as a business owner?
My current biggest challenge is staying focused on my business 12 months a year. In New England where some years it snows six months out of the year, we don’t plan a ton of events outside of May-October. I can get really bored, restless and down in the dumps December through February. While I’ve diversified my revenue streams (in part, by offering elopement packages), the reality is that cash flow is inconsistent in the late fall and winter. The good news is that this winter I’ll have a newborn baby to distract me and I know I’ll be grateful for that down time!
If you were starting your business all over again, what would you have done differently?
I would have educated myself more on event design and encouraged my earlier clients (many of whom were in their 40s and 50s) to do simple things like upgrade their linens and bring in lighting in order to have a more visually arresting event. I also would been more diligent about having the photographers I worked with back then take photos of the details that make for good editorial.
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