When You Have Inspired Thought, You Have to Trust It.. and Act on It.
Growing my business
UPDATE: Since writing this entry back in 2009 my business has grown tremendously! We launched the magazine successfully, changed the name to Occasions Magazine to allow for future growth and changd our website to OccasionsOnline.com. - HV
I am a small business owner. I am one person with one BIG dream.
My name is Heather Vreeland. In the beginning of 2008 I, along with the tenacious support of my loving husband, started an online web directory in the Metro Atlanta, Georgia area for the local wedding and special events industry called AtlantaOccasions.com.... but my story actually starts a little before then.
In 2006, I moved to Atlanta knowing no one and nothing about the area and started working at a local David's Bridal. Having just left a regular 9-5 job in the bridal industry, I was looking for a change of pace and $7 an hour with no major responsibilities was just the thing. I learned a lot from this major retailer, but mostly my lessons came from their clients. I was a bridal consultant who helped girls find the “wedding dress of their dreams.” I’ll have you know, the rapport you build with a complete stranger that is naked in a dressing room with you is quite an interesting experience. You’ve got to find something to talk about to make it less awkward so wedding plans are always the thing.
All of the brides I talked to constantly turned to me for advice on where to find a local photographer or event venue for instance, thinking I would have all the answers because I worked in the industry. There were already some very popular websites out there where brides can find a gazillion things about their wedding and local vendors are one of them. But Metro Atlanta is unique. When you search for an event venue online, the search results will likely yield results anywhere from Roswell to Zebulon. If you’re local, you know that is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. My brides were looking for something MORE local than Metro Atlanta and that got me thinking. “Why can’t we break it down on a regional and county basis for these girls?” So I thought......and thought some more.... and eventually thought to myself well “I’ll just make it myself.”
Fast forward to early 2008. AtlantaOccasions.com is what I decided to call it. I loved the way it just rolls off your tongue. The development of my site was going great. Creating a logo and brand is fun! As a novice business owner, I was on cloud nine. Earlier that year, I had convinced my husband to take out a personal loan to fund the start up of my dream and he didn’t blink an eye. As the design and creation started to take shape I got to thinking.. well “Occasions” really means any type event and suddenly the scope of my original idea began evolving before my eyes. This was exciting! After a few minor delays, we officially launched AtlantaOccasions.com at a Bridal show on June 22, 2008. What a hit! I immediately immersed myself in the industry and I’m sure all of the local vendors (who are know some of the closest people to my heart) were thinking “Who is this chick? and Where did she come from?”
Since then, I have felt the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I have learned the art of self-discipline, what working a 15 hour day is really like and how loving what you do is the biggest motivator you’ll ever encounter (that, and being scared of bills). I give my clients and users an impression that we are a major Fortune 500 company when really, it’s just me. I’m the accountant, advertising executive, human resources manager, janitor, customer service rep and sometimes even psychologist for my clients. I have cried myself to sleep one day and danced alone in my office the very next.
In January 2009, things really began picking up for me. In the last four months I have landed some major deals, aligned my company with some major media outlets and met more and more new people. As I started to meet with each prospective new client and other leaders in the industry one thing remained the same. They all LOVED that AtlantaOccasions.com wasn’t just for Brides.. and that our brand covered all types of events. In a very saturated bridal market, I started to see exactly where AtlantaOccasions.com fit in and immediately saw potential for growth. Once again, my original idea began to evolve in front of me and I love where it’s going.
Today, I am developing “Occasions Magazine.” Spawned from the idea of a bridal publication but ironically, without a single wedding dress in it, Occasions Magazine will cater to all events in the Metro Atlanta area. Whether someone is planning a wedding, bah mitzvah, charity gala, corporate event, birthday party or business meeting, I want them all to pick up our new magazine and say... “Whew, this is exactly what I was looking for” and know, it was completely designed for them. The new magazine is set to launch this summer and I couldn’t be more excited. In the future I see it in cities all around our country. Palm Beach Occasions, Los Angelos Occasions, Charleston Occasions, etc.
I am a firm believer in “If you have inspired thought, you have to trust it and act on it.” In my wildest dreams I would love to start an internship program for middle school, high school and even college students that creates internship opportunities with businesses within the special events industry so that if a young girl has the creative dream of being a florist, she can work along side one of Atlanta’s top wedding Florist and learn just exactly what it’ll take to own a business of her own one day. That’s my dream. Education and Inspiration... they go hand-in-hand.
In closing, a $25,000 business grant will give me the capital I need to perfect the Atlanta Occasions Brand and also begin my plans of expansion into additional markets. In becoming a small business owner, I’ve learned the road of life is a fun, yet unpredictable path. Having a keen intuition, a good ear and a heart of gold, will get you exactly where you need to be.
Advice for others
The biggest tip I can give to other small business owners is to read, read and read some more. There are some very influential people who have carved a significant path of business growth and prosperity already for us and they’ve all written books about it! Before I got started I read books like “Think and Growth Rich,” by Napolean..., “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki and the “Girls Guide to becoming a milinoare... “How’d You Do it, Truett” by S. Truett Cathy. Reading about other successful businesses gave me the insight to know that if they can do it, I can do it. Also, be an intern. Find a local successful business owner who is willing to let you work for them for free. This is the best place to get on the job training and a real world reality check on what that business is really like.