For Janice Blackmon, it was weddings that won out.
Her formal education including music—she received a full music scholarship—occupational therapy, and travel/hospitality. Her professional career has including work in education, as a travel agent and as vice president of human resources for a big bank. But through it all, she was helping friends with their weddings "and absolutely loved doing that," she says. At last, she decided to "follow my passion" and connected with a planning company. "And the rest, as they say, is history," she explains.
Today, she heads up Atlanta-based Janice Blackmon Events, which relies on between six and eight part-time associates to plan and produce from 20 to 35-plus events a year. While weddings are the company's primary focus, JBE also produces corporate events. "I am also a representative of one of the nation’s largest stationery suppliers and have an online store where anyone--client or not--can purchase items ranging from invitations, personalized stationery, wedding accessory’s as well as gifts," she explains.
Blackmon recently expanded her operations with a new office in Florida serving the Sarasota and Tampa Bay areas. "For several years, I have been producing limited weddings there; however, I decided that I wanted to focus more attention to the area," she says. "I will have a sales consultant based there as well as an event team, and I will oversee the division and assist with as many events there as possible. I am so excited about this expansion and what the future may hold!"
Blackmon's long tenure in the event business—"since the Bible was just a manuscript!" she jokes—gives her a unique perspective on wedding planning and how it has changed.
Major forces—of course—are the rise of technology and social media, Blackmon says.
Although Pinterest gives brides endless inspiration, "It can add stress with brides thinking they have to do everything they see," Blackmon explains. "I am constantly working with my brides to narrow down all of their ideas to make things more cohesive for their vision."
Another stressor is the instant access that tech seems to promise. "Society as a whole is a 'want it right now' type of mentality, and while many times we want to provide immediate feedback, sometimes it is not possible," Blackmon says. "For instance, if I am producing an event, I am totally focused on that clients’ event and making sure everything is going according to plan – so, I’m not on my computer checking email, or taking other client calls, etc., because I will do the same for them on their special day."
Even though the economy has rebounded from the dark days of the Great Recession, budgets for weddings have not climbed back to the heady days of the years prior. But Blackmon finds ways to cope.
"We all had to make changes to our businesses in order to be solvent," she explains. "I found myself negotiating rates in order to be competitive." But her legacy of experience and expertise sees her through: "Those of us with the strong desire and passion for the industry have forged through the difficult times."
Photo by Laura Stone
Janice Blackmon Events Atlanta, Ga., 678/423-2740; www.janiceblackmonevents.com
Photo by Laura Stone
IT TAKES A TEAM
"My career has progressed due to devoting the time it takes to establish strong relationships in the industry and setting high goals for my company. I strive to provide an extremely high level of service to my clients and to work with other vendors as a partnership. While each vendor may consider their product or service as the most important, it truly is a combination of all vendors working with one another to ensure that the client's event is flawless."
HOW TO STAY ON TREND
"I believe it is important to network and to continually educate yourself on upcoming trends. This is part of the job that keeps me fresh with innovative ideas."
I WISH I'D LEARNED SOONER …
"When meeting with clients, it is a two-way interview process. Sometimes if it appears there are red flags, remove yourself from consideration."
I *HEART* EVENT CELEBS
Her career influences: "I would have to say that I have a few celebrity crushes. Notably, David Tutera, Colin Cowie, Preston Bailey and M