Hey there, CEOs. Welcome to the Wedding Pro CEO podcast. I’m your host, Brandee Gaar, and my mission as always is to help you, the wedding industry entrepreneur, to build a profitable wedding business that you’ve always dreamed of. On today’s show, I am so excited to get to introduce you to Sammy Kesner of Jackson and June Events.
Sammy is a planner in Athens, Georgia and she started her business when her husband had been transferred out of state to Florida. She knew no one and she absolutely had to start her business from the ground up. Once she got her business up in thriving here in Florida, she was transferred back to Georgia and she had to transfer her business there, and now she has a thriving business. What I love about Sammy’s story is that she’s actually also five weeks from getting ready to have her next baby at the time we are talking and she talks about when she had her first baby, she was not able to take a maternity leave at all, and she actually worked an event just a few weeks after giving birth.
But this time she is ready. She is stepping into that CEO role and she has plans to take a two month maternity leave. Her business is set to run completely without her, and I’m so incredibly honored and proud to have been a small part in her journey of getting to this stage of her business. I cannot wait for you to hear all about Sammy’s journey, how she’s grown her business and her plans for 2024 when she’s back for maternity leave.
“My journey into the wedding industry began with a degree in public health and a love for planning corporate events. The creativity and joy of planning my own wedding led me to discover my passion. Starting my business was a leap of faith, but with determination and a willingness to learn, I’ve grown exponentially.”Sammy Kesner
Sammy graduated college with a degree in public health. That brought her to Emory Healthcare and she worked in their administrative office doing some professional development programs for their administrative side. She was helping professionally develop suits and scrubs and with that came a lot of events. So she planned all of the corporate events, graduations, recruiting events, things like that for them which got her into the corporate side of things and she loved it, that was her favorite part of the job. Then she planned her own wedding while she was working at Emory and she was like, “oh, I really love this”. Of course weddings are a lot more creative than some of the corporate events she was getting to do because it was like the same blue tablecloth over and over. So, then she started interning with a wedding planner in the area and just fell even more in love with it and learned from her so much and just really just got in there and asked all the questions.
Then, her husband got relocated to Tampa, Florida for his job and when we got down there, she didn’t have a job, so she decided to take the leap! She launched Jackson and June Events and she started it as a blog and did that for about six months. She got some really good traction from that and then launched the planning side of it and got a few hits and it has grown exponentially since then.
Sammy knew she wanted to have a team right off the bat after watching her entrepreneur dad and grandpa works so hard on their businesses. She knew from the very beginning that she wanted children and wanted a life outside of the businesses, so that’s where that came in. She had a passion for it, but she didn’t want her life to be run by the business. She wanted to run the business. Having entrepreneurs as parents helped her know she wanted to start with a team but ultimately she built a team in which she was still involved in the day to day of the business.
There was a time where she was completely just married to the business and she was the one wearing all the hats. It was not like she started out and it was like all perfectly laid out. It wasn’t that. But, it was definitely the goal. Getting started she did not hire right away. What she did was, after she made the pivot from the blog to actually offering services, she was just in that hustler stage working any wedding that anyone would hire her for. Roped her poor husband into it. So really that first year she was just in the trenches, getting all the work she could and working really hard all hours of the night. At this point, she did not have children so it was a lot easier to do that.
She was just working, working, working, hustling, getting everything together and trying to get business. And that worked. It definitely paid off. She was booking. And then they got relocated back to Georgia, which is where all of Sammy’s family is from. So she ended up going back and forth doing weddings from Tampa to Georgia for a while, which was really exhausting. But finally made the switch to Georgia and planted her feet in the Athens market, which was great because she got married in Athen, so she knew some people. So as soon as she got there she started booking!
Then she found out she was pregnant with her first daughter and decided she was gonna need some help. In January 2020, she started interviewing and, hired her first hire Kellen, who is still with her today. Then she realized that she might need two people when Covid started arising and they had to reschedule because she had spring season pretty much booked and then COVID hit, so she had to move everything to the fall, and she was due in August so she hired her second employee and they dove head first into weddings while Sammy went into labor on a double booked weekend. And then from there, she just really focused on the value of having people to support the team and to support the couples and to support her. So, they’ve grown since then.
“The stages of business growth are like stepping stones, each with its unique challenges and rewards. From the hustler stage to the blooming onion stage, the journey can be lonely, but having a community of like-minded CEOs can make all the difference. It’s about finding your unique path and knowing there’s no one right way to success.”Brandee Gaar
For that first go around, she actually was like sending emails from the hospital, which is insane. She will not be doing that this time. She also worked a wedding three weeks after she had her daughter, which is just insane. Here when you’re having your first baby, you’re really in that blooming onion stage. You’re really starting to build a team and you’re starting to figure out okay, I need more, I don’t necessarily need to be in the hustler stage anymore. I feel like the blooming onion stage is the hardest stage of business. One of the hardest parts is when she felt like she got to a point where she was no longer working on the business. She was just working in the business, like just emails and timelines and layouts all the time. Which, of course, she loves those things, she didn’t have time to be creative for her business, so it felt like she wasn’t growing.
She needed some brain space to be able to serve the clients, but also work on the business to make it grow so she could bring in more revenue and pay her people and pay herself. This is what attracted her the WPCEO Facebook Community to find out how to switch from wedding planner only to CEO growing the business.
Sammy is able to take a 2 month maternity leave by building her team. This pregnancy is very different because Sammy’s got more team members, all seasoned team members who know the business, who know her. Sammy’s been prepping the team and all hands are on deck.
So Sammy previously worked with a business coach, but once all of the things were in place she felt like she really needed to learn from someone who knew this industry, and that’s when I kept popping up on her Instagram. She researched the community and was like “I think this is exactly what I need because I feel really confident in the inner workings of the business, but I’m lacking that community of people who know the industry and know where I should go next” so that’s what made her take the leap to get into the Accelerator and it’s been so great.
What I love so much about our group in the Accelerator is yes, there’s a full seven module course with hours and hours of short videos that you can go in and watch a little bit at a time and then go back to running your business, but, I think the magic is in the community and in our calls and in the Facebook group where people that are exactly where you are or maybe even just one step ahead of you are there to bounce ideas off of.
Join the Wedding Pro CEO Accelerator: A 6-month program for established wedding pros who are ready to ditch the overwhelm, create consistent profit, build their dream team and confidently grow their revenue to $100k/year and beyond.
I help creative business owners sustainably scale their business so they can create a thriving career and work-life balance.
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I have experience speaking at both live and virtual events, educating creative and wedding entrepreneurs how to step into their role as CEO. If you're looking for speakers for your next conference, workshop, event, or the next guest for your podcast, I'd love to see how we can collaborate!
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