Welcome to episode 43! In this podcast, co-owners Ashley and Meagan sat down to talk with Jenni Thye the founder and co-owner of Imoni Events. Imoni is a wedding planner industry leader and has even been featured and recommended by Martha Stewart.
Jenni was a pre-law major at the University of Arizona when she began heading events for the dean of the college of education. She had no plans to get into event planning beyond college. She simply needed to pay her way through undergrad and get on to law school. Little did she know, this was just the beginning.
She actually ended up getting her masters in education at ASU and taught at the high school level for two years before she decided she wasn’t in love and needed to make a change. She had continued to do events for friends and family on the side as a creative outlet, with this she decided to make event planning her main focus.
Jenni quit her teaching job and pursued being an entrepreneur. She gave herself a year to try it out. When that year was up she went back to teaching for a few months to bring in extra money for her family but soon quit for good and in 2005 The company, Imoni Events, became official.
SOCIAL MEDIA CHANGES THE WEDDING GAME
Jenni started creating her business back in 2003 and was working out of her home. Keep in mind, Facebook wasn’t even created yet, let alone Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Jenni started out networking in person, attending events every single weekend to get her and her business’s name out in the community. She had to learn coding to build her website because of the lack of resources. She was constantly ripping ideas out of magazines and physically creating vision boards and binders full of ideas for every different color scheme and wedding theme. She didn’t realize everything she was creating and what it would become.
When Jenni decided to take that leap of faith and start her own business she reached out to a friend who was in the marketing department of a high-end shopping center for advice. She didn’t know what she wanted to call her brand, just that she didn’t want it to be basic. Her friend gave her the idea of translating wedding related words into different languages. “We just started looking them up in other languages until we found something that sounded really pretty, something that had a different twist and unique name.” They didn’t want to be generic so people would take notice. Imoni is actually a rough translation of “faith” in Hebrew.
Because of her background in education, it is important for Jenni to continue learning and always be working to better herself and her company. She enjoys listening to podcasts on all things branding, marketing, social media, and business, in general, to stay up to date. She even listens to podcasts twice to really soak it all in. She accredits part of Imoni Events’ longevity to her continued education and improvement. Jenni “started from the bottom” and essentially taught herself everything about starting and maintaining a business. “I don’t know everything about everything, I just have committed myself to constantly learning about things, so that I continue to be successful and relevant.”
Jenni now teaches others what she has learned over time. She recently spoke at WIPA in San Francisco where she talked about communication and conflict. Communication is key, especially when so many people are involved to make someone’s special day run smoothly. At these speaking events, she teaches attendees how to avoid conflict, but also how to deal with it, because sometimes it is inevitable.
When Jenni built her business she made it a priority to do good work for her clients first and foremost. Then came her website, social media accounts, etc. She believes this can be where new entrepreneurs go wrong. She sometimes sees people who are posting amazing photos but then aren’t able to live up to the expectations they have set. Another reason she sees new businesses fail is because the creators don’t understand the business side of things and as a result, are unable to make a profit. Her biggest piece of advice: get the basics down first and have a strategy to make a profit. Also, prioritizing what is important. Figuring out what will bring in clients and keep them happy can make all the difference in her eyes.
THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF WEDDING PLANNING
Jenni truly enjoys interacting with and getting to know each of her clients. She loves dreaming up creative, magical wedding ideas and seeing them happy when it all comes to fruition. “At the end of the day, we create something beautiful together because we are having so much fun,” Jenni said. Seeing the couple and their guests’ faces light up when they arrive at the venue on their wedding day is extremely rewarding for her. Throughout the planning process keeping up the positivity and solid trust between her and her clients is key.
The most challenging part of wedding planning for Jenni is communication. She is the first to admit she is no expert at it, but she understands the importance of keeping in contact and making herself clear. She mentioned specifically how newer generations are not as communicative in 3D forms. They rely on messaging and texting (where things can be easily misinterpreted). Part of her plan to solve this problem involves scheduling weekly phone calls with her clients. To help herself stay focused and organized she assigns a client to each day of the week. Each day she puts all her efforts into one couple’s wedding. Making sure to be transparent when it comes to the cost of the wedding is another major focus for Jenni. Weddings often cost more than people think, so she makes sure to discuss finances with her couples frequently.
Jenni and her company over time have naturally evolved to focus more so on destination weddings. While Jenni loves interacting with clients face to face, destination weddings have become more popular in recent years. She started out doing only Arizona weddings, but as the word got out about her business friends of her initial clients would reach out for their wedding later on even if they lived out of state. Jenni decided not to pursue destination weddings until her kids were all in school and out of the house more often. She always wants to work with people she clicks with, but sometimes those clients just don’t live nearby!
MORE ON JENNI
Jenni is always thinking about business and bugging her business partner, Sarrah, with “grandiose ideas” in the middle of the night. Her rare free time is spent with friends or traveling with her husband (who she actually met on a college trip to Mexico where they taught English to locals). She is dying to take a “sweet 16” wedding anniversary trip to the Amalfi Coast since her husband has never been to Italy along with multiple other locations she still needs to check off her bucket list.
JENNI’S CELEBRATED LIFE
“It’s really easy to get caught up in the minutia of what happens day-to-day,” said Jenni. It’s important for her to pause and look at the bigger picture as much as she can. Being in the moment with her children and husband helps to ground her. Recognizing the ones she loves and spending time with them is how she celebrates life because they bring her so much joy.