Unapologetically Unique: The Journey, The Success of Mandy Connor & Hummingbird Bridal

Mandy Connor built the uber-successful Hummingbird Bridal company from the ground up. She’s been featured in Martha Stewart Weddings, Brides, and a multitude of others, but it didn’t happen over night, and that’s what she wants everyone to know. 

I believe that everybody finds their own path

Some are clean and neat. You wake up one day when you’re 18 or 21 years old and you know exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life. And for those people, that is amazing and magical!

But I am not that person.

I’ve explored a ton of different careers in my lifetime. At some point in my early 20’s I made a wishlist of all the careers that interested me and it included everything from marine biology to being a pop singer.

One by one, starting in college and proceeding through graduate school, I made attempts to get jobs in each of these industries. I was successful in getting a job in each one to a certain extent, but I meandered through in a very strategic way. I wanted to try a bunch of different things before I settled on what I thought my life path was.

And that is something that the next generation should know. You’re never told that it’s ok to go out and get a job in something that you’re not sure you want to do for the rest of your life. But go out and get that job anyways and try it! Get that real world experience. Even if you don’t like it, you will learn skills that you can take into another job.

When I went to Boston University for Journalism, I came out thinking that I had it nailed and found my way into publishing and social media. I thought this was what I was going to do for the rest of my life! I finally had a high-paying job in a very safe, corporate atmosphere with excellent job security. It felt like the American Dream, you know?

But I found that I was going to work every day feeling emptier and emptier. It wasn’t fulfilling to me.

“So, funny story…”

When I met my husband and we ultimately got engaged, I was determined to plan my own wedding even though I had no idea how to do so. I wanted to learn as much as possible about the process to maximize my wedding day while also being budget conscious.

After the wedding, my husband was so excited thinking that we would never have to plan another one. But I realized that I finally found what I wanted to do for the rest of my life! I finally found the job that gave me fulfillment and made me feel the most alive.

And that was it! We’ve been planning weddings for years now, and it’s a dream.

I’m afraid that I’m going to wake up one day and someone’s going to tell me that I’m not allowed to do this anymore. I almost feel like I’m playing everyday, it never feels like work.

It might sound trite, but it’s so true!

The battle between left brain & right brain

Interestingly enough, I’ve been a creative my entire life whether it was through writing, music, anything. But it’s very hard when you’re a creative type with a logical brain; that side always tells you that it’s hard to make money as an artist.

So when you want to pursue a career in creativity, it’s very very scary.

But the idea of becoming a wedding planner fulfilled a very specific set of criteria that I didn’t realize I possess. I have to be a very logical, strategic consultant, but also marry the creative, fun side of that colorful world!

So half of what I do is act as an artist for my clients, but also as an attorney to help these couples understand how to maximize the money they’re putting toward their wedding.

It’s such a specific job role, and it’s amazing that I found something that embodies everything that I love.

The first steps are terrifying

I remember when I sat down at the kitchen table with my husband a month after we got married and told him that this is what I wanted to pursue. I didn’t want to flake out on this after a month. I wanted to give it a serious try.

And if I failed? Well, that’s ok. But I felt like I needed to explore this path completely and wholeheartedly.

Surprisingly, he was all for it!

Not one time did my husband hesitate when I told him that I needed to start a website, form an LLC, figure out tax documentation, or employment benefits. He jumped right in and asked how he could help.

A lot of the success in the beginning was from having him as a very strong partner, a supportive team player. He’s always been proactive in asking me what I need help with, and having that alongside me made the journey less scary.

I knew that if I failed I still had someone with me until the bitter end.

But being a small business owner means that you do absolutely everything on your own. So much of the scary part in the beginning was just the logistics and getting everything up and running!

“This is my dirty little secret…”

Because I am very financially conservative, I never felt comfortable jumping out of corporate and immediately opening the doors to my own business. My husband and I still needed to pay our bills! The more dogs you have in that fight, the more risk adverse you are.

To prepare, I read a ton of advice and it seemed like everyone said it takes about five years to reach a point of stability. I decided to give myself five quiet years where the only pressure came from myself. So during that time I built up my logo, social media presence, client list, and every single aspect of the business whenever I could.

And I found that the advice was right! After five years, I had a steady client business and the brand was at the place where we wanted it.

So that’s when I made the jump from corporate to being a full time wedding planner. I believed in the slow, steady methodical way of building this business and I am so grateful that I did!

I want to be intensely involved in every part of the wedding process

When I plan my weddings, I believe that it’s a one-day celebration and the emphasis should be on the lifetime of a beautiful marriage.

With my own wedding I found that the philosophy of connecting two people forever through a ceremony was massively important. The idea of hiring a wedding planner, who I was afraid would take over my day and run with it, terrified me. So I decided not to do it. (The only other experience I had with one was in the movies, and they all seemed crazy!)

Planning my wedding and being my own guinea pig gave me a chance to go through the proverbial war. I did the design, the research, and every other part of the process by myself so that I could see the pit falls in which some of the darker parts of the industry play on the bride’s emotions.

I found that companies were trying to take advantage of me because I was happy and getting married. It felt so dirty to me to spoil something that was so pure and so beautiful.

Because of this I decided that, when I opened my own company, I didn’t want to be a corporate entity. I wanted to be intensely involved in every part of the wedding process, which makes me a boutique wedding planner. This means that I only take on a maximum of 12 clients per year, which averages out to one to two clients per month during peak season.

I want my clients to feel like they have a best friend in planning, to feel like they have someone in their corner at all times to help them make decisions that truly reflect them and not the influences of the industry.

For me, your wedding day is the most important thing in the world. I feel that way, and I know that you feel that way, so we are both prioritizing this in the same way.

Peacocks, lambs, & goats welcome

We’ve done all sorts of crazy things at Hummingbird Bridal.

For my own wedding, my Maid of Honor and I decided to hire a couple of lambs on Craigslist and now we even have a wedding at an alpaca farm in two weeks! There’s going to be a bunch running around with all the guests, which is a unique way to bring in something fresh and exciting.

It’s been a running joke that we’re always the first ones to jump on any fun, crazy animal idea.

But the moments that always mean the most to me are at the end of the night when parents pull me aside, when we have that quiet moment together and they tell me how worried they were, but that this is everything that they could have imagined and more.

To hear that from the bride and groom is always the be-all-end-all, but to hear that from the parents almost means more because of the pure love they have for their children.

That to me is the most authentic form of feedback that you can receive. That’s the highlight to every wedding that I do.

Focus on the light we generate together

As women, we often find ourselves pitted against each other rather than coming from a place of support and empowering one another.

I have a ton of wedding planner friends, and they’re all business leaders doing such great things in a women-led industry. It’s so easy to see the projects that they’re working on and feel jealous, or to feel like they’re doing so much better than I am.

But I saw this great quote by Chelsea Handler recently, “I never, ever blow out someone else’s candle to make mine brighter,” and it’s resonated with me so much in the past year.

So instead of wishing that someone else’s candle be dimmer, we should focus on the light that we generate together, how we’re involved in such a great place for women’s empowerment.


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