Some girls dream of their perfect wedding day – from age 13 they’ve picked out their ideal dress, flowers and venue, but others are too busy to do the planning. Either way, there is tremendous pressure for weddings to be the best, most memorable day of a couple’s life.
In 1994 Kathy Apostolidis realised she could help. Previously she’d worked as an education officer, but was involved in organising events. When she was pregnant with her third child she found she needed a job where she could work without the restrictions of an employer. While reading a magazine in the waiting room of her obstetrician, she came across bridal guru Colin Cowie and realised there was a gap in the Australian market for a wedding planning business.
Apostolidis signed up to a bridal consulting course in the United States and started out by organising friends and work colleagues’ events at no cost. With every event she did she became more confident and this gave her the strength to take the “wild leap of faith” and launch a business.
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In the mid-1990s Apostolidis was ahead of the curve, immediately launching Nightingales online. Her biggest challenge when starting out was to receive recognition from within the wedding industry as a legitimate business, but at this year’s Weddings and Events of Australia Awards, Nightingales was awarded wedding planner of the year.
Despite growth plateauing during the GFC, the business is now turning over $2.5 million a year and growth is now picking up again. Apostolidis spoke to SmartCompany about dealing with bridezillas, marketing strategies and celebrity weddings.
Name: Kathy Apostolidis
Location: Ultimo, NSW
Most mornings Apostolidis goes for a walk at 6:30am. “It doesn’t always happen, but I try,” she says.
“I always have a big breakfast and it always includes protein. If I don’t have breakfast, my brain doesn’t work. This keeps me going until 2pm, but I keep my office stocked with fruit, muesli and yoghurt.”
Her first task in the office for the morning is checking emails.
“I try not to look at my emails all the time because it distracts me. With our work, people have the misconception that I’m their only client and I have to answer them quickly, but I manage multiple clients at a time,” she says.
“After this I check in with the girls about their to-do lists for the day, and on Tuesdays we have a production meeting with all the clients regarding what stage we’re at, we set weekly priorities and split up the tasks accordingly.”
On a regular day Apostolidis spends her time working with clients and meeting with suppliers and venues to ensure she creates the perfect day.
“I usually set every client an action plan so they know what their decisions are on certain aspects of the wedding for the week.
“I’ll go to site inspections, look at various venues and consider their services. I’ll do this with the clients, then head back to the office where it could be a menu tasting.”
Apostolidis works closely with her suppliers and has found they’re a good way to increase Nightingales’ client base.
“I try to encourage some brand alignment where appropriate and I look at things like trying to market together.
“We’re constantly talking and working out how we can increase the work we give to each other. Because we’ve worked together so many times, we know the end product is of a very high quality.”
On Mondays, Apostolidis spends the day focusing on Nightingales’ marketing strategy.
“It’s all about Nightingales and where it’s going. I try not to work on the clients and this is the most difficult thing. I find it hard to pull myself out from working in the business to working at growing the business,” she says.
“We have a strong social media presence and on Mondays I do the scheduling for the next week. We don’t just post haphazardly. We make sure we’re posting on Facebook with our own work, with inspirational items, or with information for people.”
Apostolidis is, however, only a recent convert to social media.
“At first I was bucking the system because I was already so busy, but I noticed a lull in the business and I knew I needed to pick up this aspect so I started placing an emphasis on social marketing.”
When tracking the performance of the business, Apostolidis measures the success of the business based on a number of factors, including client satisfaction and respect in the wedding community.
“We also consider how often we’re asked to contribute to magazines as specialists, how much feedback we’re getting on new trend information and then we also measure metrics,” she says.
Being a wedding planner has many pros, but one con is the difficult customers.
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