Nikki Foster is the founder of wedding planning company I Do Designer Weddings. With a focus on contemporary style and a background in large-scale event management, Foster is bringing something new to the world of weddings.
We spoke to Nikki about the realities of starting a business, and the advantages of her previous career.
Tell us about I Do. What does the business do?
We are experts in the design, planning & management of spectacular weddings and events.
We help our clients with weddings, parties and corporate events, and work closely with them to create a truly memorable day.
We specialise in a highly personalised service, getting to know our clients so that the event or wedding reflects the individuals.
We currently run ‘I Do Designer Weddings’ and are in the process of promoting ‘I Do Designer Events’.
What was the inspiration behind the business? Do you have prior experience in the field?
Yes and no! I set up I Do Ltd after a successful career in financial services. Working with two of the top financial firms in the UK my roles included managing a portfolio of elite wealth management clients, negotiating terms on business deals, heading up a PR team and organising high profile, global events.
I absolutely adored the planning and management that went on in putting together large corporate events. In 2001 I planned my own wedding and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of that too. I felt like ‘weddings’ was what I was born to do. However, I was working in financial services and earning a very good salary so didn’t give it a moments thought.
Through the years I planned many weddings and parties for friends and almost became an ‘unofficial’ wedding planner.
It wasn’t until 2008 when my Mum was ill and questioned why I still did the job that I did that I realised I had a choice; I could actually get paid to do something that I would enjoy and was very good at.
At this stage I decided to put myself through the training programme run by the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners.
Do you feel that previous jobs helped prepare you for entrepreneurship?
Definitely. For the five years prior to setting up I Do Designer Weddings I was looking after a portfolio of elite wealth management clients for Coutts & Co. A large proportion of my clients were entrepreneurs and I had to have a clear understanding of their world and what makes them tick before I could look after their finances properly.
I guess during this period I learned how to be an entrepreneur myself. I saw the hard work, the tough decisions, and the rewards that can be attained.
People have been cutting back recently, and weddings have presumably been affected. How has the downturn affected your business?
As we only set up in 2008 it’s hard to say whether we have been affected by the downturn, any additional clients are an increase on last year. Some of the couples that we meet are more prudent than previously, however with a wedding people will generally throw what they can at it – it should only happen once in your life after all.
What advice would you give to other prospective entrepreneurs?
Clearly think through what it is that you want to do and analyse your competitors.
Consider the fact that you will be alone (at least in the early stages until the business gets off of the ground). It can seem very lonely doing everything yourself.
When you make a ‘buying’ decision of any kind, think ‘would I do this if it was my own money?’, because it is your own money, and it’s often easy to separate the two and treat the business differently. Remember there is no large corporation backing you up, if you spend it – you have to make it back, and more!