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Career Chats: From Elementary School Teacher To Event Planner

We’ve heard from a number of mommas who are wanting to either a) go into a completely new field or b) make the jump from stay-at-home-mom to working mom, and so “Career Chats” was born. Here you’ll hear from moms turned entrepreneurs, moms who went back to school to get the job of their dreams, and moms just doing the damn thing — hustling to make their goals a reality.

Today we talk to the owner of boutique wedding planning and floral design company Wild One Events, located in Phoenix, Arizona. Jackie is also a momma to two boys (a 2-year-old and 6-month-old). She currently works from her home office/playroom and spends her days alternating between emails, phone calls, building blocks, and books.

MOMMY BRAIN: You were an elementary school teacher prior, how did event planning come about?

JACKIE HIBBARD: Making the switch from teaching to starting my business was born from a number of life changes all happening at once. At the root of it, though, I had fallen in love with the process of planning my own wedding and the creative liberties in bringing to life the vision I had for the day. My husband and I were married in a field, on his family’s farm. Planning an event that was literally in the middle of nowhere was a lot to take on, but I loved every bit of it. Now five years later, Wild One works with couples who are getting married in similar situations — outside of traditional wedding venues. That’s definitely where the heart of my business is.

MB: When and why did you take the plunge to launch your own business? Can you speak to the birth of Wild One Events?

JH: To give you the short version, I planned my wedding in 2012 while I was in my first year of teaching. Although I absolutely loved working with kids and being in the classroom, a flame was definitely lit in the aftermath of my wedding. I was constantly thinking, “What if I started my own business as a wedding planner?” Fast forward three years, a whole lot of workplace politics, an out-of-state move, and a baby on the way, I became determined to start a new adventure that would allow me the flexibility to work from home. I took on my first event, coordinating a wedding, when I was six months pregnant with my first in October of 2015. After I had my son, I figured out how to build a website and began putting the word out there to attract more clients!

MB: Did you have any business background before starting?

JH: Definitely not. In fact, I changed majors in college after taking accounting. Despite my lack of formal business education, I have always had a strong entrepreneurial spirit and tenacious attitude towards work.

MB: What has been the most challenging aspect to date?

JH: As you might guess from my previous answer, definitely the business aspect of running a small business! I got into event planning for the creativity and to be of service to others, not to learn about SEO, analyze financial data, make marketing plans, keep up with the endless demands and changes of social media, etc. — it all goes hand-in-hand, though. I truly just want to create unforgettable events for people, so learning how to balance the operational side has been a challenge.

Jackie Hibbard, owner of Wild One Events, with her family.
Jackie, her sons, and husband. Photo by Lea Breeze Photography.

MB: How did you/do you promote Wild One?

JH: Primarily through word of mouth. Each event I finish seems to turn into the next, and the next, and so on. For which, I am extremely grateful. I do try to keep up with social media, but I have a lot of room for improvement in that area. I’ve also done a few bridal shows here and there, but overall references and reviews have gone the furthest in promoting Wild One Events.

MB: What are your top learnings so far?

JH: Oh boy, so many. I think just remembering that building this kind of business is a slow, organic process. I am constantly reminding myself to stay in my own lane and focus on Wild One Events, not the 20 other wedding planners/designers out there in my market.  

MB: How do you “balance” (is there really such a thing?) being a momma to two young kids and the demands of your business?

JH: That is something I am still learning how to do, and to be honest, I feel like when I eventually do have it figured out it will probably be time to send them off to school! With small kids I have just come to accept that there will always be a new challenge to overcome — a new phase to get past, a new stage, teething, attitudes, something. And I just have to be ok with rolling with it. My number one lifesaver is having my kids on a routine and schedule. We aren’t militant with it, but it’s crucial to me being able to get client work done on a day-to-day basis. The other is my extremely supportive husband! While I still maintain and take care of the majority of our home, he is a huge lifesaver when it comes to balancing kids and a business. A lot of my meetings take place in the early evenings due to my clients’ work schedules, so I try to plan those out in advance and communicate those dates to my husband so he can tackle the nighttime routine. He has also been my biggest cheerleader and really pushed me into starting this, so having his support is crucial.

MB: What are your top three tips for someone looking to start an event planning business?

JH: I don’t think these are necessarily the three most important tips across the board, but they have served me well. First, I recommend taking some time to really research what is out there in your market and get to know your competition (without playing the comparing game). I think it’s important to understand who else is in the space and watch what works and doesn’t work for them in a friendly, respectful, and safe way. Second, while starting an event planning business doesn’t have a ton of overhead, you’re still going to want to be mindful of your dollars. I was so hungry to learn in the beginning that I would jump at any free content* I could get my hands on. I highly recommend setting aside time to learn as you go and finding a couple of “online mentors,” as I like to call them, to study without copying their work. And third, remember that slow growth is still growth. This line of work does not explode over night, so don’t expect it to. Be patient with yourself and your business.

*Here are some of my favorites:

MB: What are your future plans for Wild One?

JH: Staying in line with my slow growth belief, I am really trying to focus on being mindful of myself, family, and home, while I grow this business in a legitimate way. I try to give myself manageable goals each year with the mindset that this is going to be an at-home business for a while. However, in the next five years I would like to grow a small team and have a brick-and-mortar studio/office space.

MB: Knowing what you do now about the business, what’s one piece of advice you would have for your then newly-entrepreneur self?

JH: It doesn’t need to be perfect to start.

Join the Mommy Brain private community where members can have open and honest discussions about all the parts of motherhood, whether that’s parent/child-related, self-care, life after becoming a mom, divorce, career changes, intimacy with your partner — there are many layers to who we are as women and as mothers. This is the space to talk about it all!

Photos provided by Jackie Hibbard.

By Mommy Brain, January 6, 2018
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The motherhood juggle is real! Mommy Brain was created as a safe space to ask questions, share experiences, and to grow as both women and mothers. Every month there will be a series of live Q&A discussions led by guest speakers, delving into facets of motherhood that are not always openly discussed.
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