When I was planning my wedding, I often spent time looking on the blog of Alison Events for inspiration. While I didn’t hire a wedding planner (my mom loves to do it so I let her run with it), I always admired Alison’s work. And in working with clients, I often hear people talk about how they love to plan events and Alison’s name often comes up as a source of inspiration for them.
While I had never met Alison Hotchkiss before, I thought it couldn’t hurt to reach out to her to hear her story as she clearly has been very successful and is definitely doing work that she was made for. Alison has even published a great book called Destination Wedding Planner: Ultimate Guide to Planning a Wedding from Afar. In spite of being super busy (I think she’s working in Italy right now!) she got back to me immediately and was excited to help others find a career that was meaningful to them.
This is her story:
Tell me about what you do for work.
I am an event producer. My company does Event Planning and Design. We specialize in Destination weddings.
What type of work were you doing prior to what you are doing now?
I’ve always done event planning since the I was 7 but being paid for it since I left college. My first job out of college was for an international event planning company not because I knew that’s what I wanted to do but I was looking in the newspaper and it said client relations manager needed for international tour company.
What kinds of frustrations did you have with your previous job?
In my first job the biggest frustration was going from wearing flip flops and jeans to having to wear a suit and that my boss was a little sleezy.
How did you come to discover this was what you were meant to do?
I graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in Natural Resource, Recreation and Tourism. That basically meant I spent a lot of days snowboarding, taking hospitality, outdoor ed classes and a wide variety of business classes, marketing and international relations. I thought I was destined to be a kayak instructor. At least that’s what they told me. My instructors said that if I wanted to make a lot of money then I should change majors.
What fears did you have to overcome to take the leap?
So what happened to me in why and how I started my own company was not because I wanted a career change but instead because I got laid off from my corporate job and decided to freelance until I got a job. This was right after the dot com bust so there were little jobs in hospitality except hotel jobs which I dreaded, again having to wear a suit. SO I worked my butt off freelancing for everyone under the sun (floral, event planners, Event designers, stylists, catering, babysitting, housecleaning, you name it and I did it).
About 8 months later I started taking on clients of my own (mostly weddings) and 6 months after that I had enough work to do it without all the other work. That was 2003 when I started Alison Events and I can proudly say I have only once taken an ad out in a magazine so all my business is word of mouth and the internet.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love that every couple is different, every location where they are getting married is unique (Scotland, vs Mexico vs Italy vs Hawaii vs Utah vs Vermont). We really get to travel a lot and I LOVE working in new places. It’s so interesting learning about other cultures and cities and making new friends in those locations.
If you were to give advice to people thinking about changing careers, what would it be?
Definitely have some sort of plan. Work freelance or part time for other people that do what you want to do to learn the ropes. Be humble and open no matter how old you are and have fun. I really believe if you are not having fun at least a majority of the time what is the point? We spend so much time working you must find some joy in it, life is too short.
Great advice! And if you are ready to test the waters without jumping feet first, come to my blog workshop this Wednesday! Get more details and register here.