Katie Stedman, a 31-year-old Denver native, moved back to settle her family along the Front Range in 2011 after more than 10 years in Texas. Since becoming an event coordinator and launching Day Planner Events (dayplannerevents.com) last year, Stedman continues to expand her clientele base and build community partnerships while working as operations director of Family Life Services and raising two children with her husband Ed. She took some time this week to talk to the Business Journal about her ambitious startup and life in the Rockies.
What brought your family back to your home state of Colorado?
We had been living in Texas since 1999. In 2010, we moved from Austin to Beaumont, my husband’s home town. I was hired as the executive director of a nonprofit organization that was launching there. After successfully getting the organization off the ground, my husband and I were looking for a change of scenery. We were tired of the Texas heat and humidity, and being a native Coloradan, I felt like this was the place for us to go. We packed up without a specific plan and rolled in to town to see what adventures lay ahead of us.
Why Colorado Springs?
This town seemed like a good fit for us as a family. We didn’t want to go to Denver — it was just a little too big. We liked the size of the town and the beauty of the area. Plus, my husband is in the strength and conditioning industry, and with the health and fitness focus of this community, it was a perfect fit for him to open his gym here.
How did you get into wedding planning?
In the 14 years I spent in the nonprofit sector, I have been involved with events of all shapes and sizes and have always most enjoyed the event planning component of my various jobs — the logistics and the fun of engaging people in a common cause.
A year after I got married, a friend of mine was getting married and told me that she planned on doing the entire event on her own, with no help on the day of the event. This meant she would have had to be both bride and event manager simultaneously. Having already been a bride, I knew the reality of how much work she was facing and knew the value of having a wedding coordinator since I had hired one for my own wedding. In order to ensure my friend was able to completely enjoy her wedding day and not feel the stress of the event, I refused to allow her to not have help. My husband and I stepped in behind the scenes and took care of all of the event management, and at that moment the wedding bug bit me. I knew this is what I wanted to do.
What was it like, starting your own business?
When I first moved to town I really had no clue how to get started. I just knew that it was something that I really wanted to do. I created my website, picked out my name, and purchased some business cards. I went to one bridal show to connect with brides but did not find it helpful because I did not have time to actually converse with brides in a meaningful manner. I then started connecting one-on-one with other wedding professionals in the area — photographers, caterers, florists and anyone else that would meet with me — to introduce myself and my business and find out all about them. I started building relationships with people that have turned into great partnerships that have generated referrals on both sides. This is very much a word-of-mouth industry, so networking is by far the most important thing I have done to build my business. Business relationships are the most important piece of the puzzle.
What is the competition like in Colorado Springs?
There are several wedding planners here in town, but each of us has our own style, and our own type of bride that we individually attract. I have a good relationship with all of the planners in town who I have met, which is good because there are only so many weddings we can each plan at a time. We are able to refer brides to each other if we are already booked on a specific date. There is competition but it is within a close-knit, relational bunch.
What are your business goals and future plans?
My goal is to increase the number of clients I can serve on a regular basis. I went from three weddings last year to 17 this year. I would love to continue growing and expanding the services that I offer so that it is more than just the planning piece. For now, I will continue to focus on providing first-class service to each of my brides and help them truly love their day.