Categorized | Shoestring Startup

Nothing but the best, when you have Events Above the Rest.

My name is Sharonda Ellis. I am the owner of Events Above The Rest , a full service event planning and coordinating business in St. Louis, Missouri which was started in September of 2009. The types of events that we focus on are Weddings, Birthday Parties, Anniversary Parties, Celebrations, Reunions, Corporate Meetings and Fundraisers.

I have a natural talent for organization and decoration. I have always provided event planning services to friends and family as a hobby. I started the business because I was out of work at the time and it seemed like the perfect solution to start my own business utilizing my strengths. The business originally began as a different company in 2006. I knew how to plan events, but I didn’t really know how to do business. So, I thought working with partners who were strong in the areas that I was not, would be beneficial. There were a total of 4 partners and I was the president. The business did OK but it was never as successful as I knew it could be. We spent allot of time having conversations about what the next step should be but never actually took the next step. In September of 2009, that company was dissolved and Events Above The Rest was created. I am the sole owner of Events Above The Rest. It’s been soaring ever since. Whatever I didn’t know how to do, I resolved to learn how.

When Events Above The Rest was created, I did not qualify for traditional financing and I really didn’t want to ask friends and/or family for funds. In the beginning, I had a full-time job. Every penny that was left over after paying bills went to finance the business. Utilizing free and low cost methods to promote and further my business was “the name of the game”. I became intimately acquainted with Facebook (Events Above The Rest), Twitter (EventsAbove) and LinkedIn (Sharonda Ellis) to help spread the word that Events Above The Rest was open for business. I also sent emails to everyone in my contact list. I initially got my business cards from Vista Print. They are very inexpensive and sometimes free. Whenever I go out to eat, I leave a business card on the table. There are businesses that allow you to leave a stack of cards near the register. Also, there are several restaurants that have a drawings for a free lunch. You enter the contest by depositing your business card in a container. I always do that. Bulletin boards are also a good and free way to advertise. There are several boards around town at grocery stores and restaurants where you can post information about your event and/or organization. As time went on, I started using Constant Contact to send my emails. It was the least expensive and most user friendly site to use. I started with ~300 email addresses. I now have ~3,400 addresses. People sign up to be on my mailing list via my website at www.EventsAboveTheRest.com. These ideas worked very well at the start of my business and I continue to do all of them.

Events Above The Rest is no longer a home based business. It has expanded so much that a commercial location was necessary to meet with clients. There are 5 employees; an Office Assistant, a Marketing Assistant and 3 Event Assistants. Over time, we have acquired so much equipment that we are able to earn additional income with equipment rental. In addition to participating as exhibitors in wedding shows and magazine ads, we’ve just expanded our advertising to include radio and TV commercials. The more we advertise the more potential clients we will reach. So right now, we are focusing heavily on traditional and non-traditional ways to advertise. The one thing that would increase our business is having our own building. So, we’re looking forward to either purchasing or building a banquet facility in 2013. Our goal is $700K annually. We are determined to reach that goal by 2013.

Events Above The Rest is operating in the black and is DEBT FREE! So if you are seeking to start a business and you think that you need money that you don’t have or stuff that you don’t own, don’t worry about that. Make the best effort that you can and the resources you need will come. I started Events Above The Rest with about $30 in the bank and I was unable to use credit. It actually worked out to be a good thing. It caused me to be very creative with ways to grow my business and I don’t have debt.

The best piece of advice that I could give to someone starting a business is to have a clear idea of what you want to do and be willing to make sacrifices for it. It must be the thing that you are most determined to do. The one thing that almost killed my business at first was my employer. My boss was ok with me being an event planner while it was a hobby. Even after I started Events Above The Rest, she was fine. But once the business started to grow, she made my job very difficult. She gave me so many additional tasks that it was impossible to get it done in an 8 hour day. So I started having to work extra hours. When I would finally get home, I was too physically and mentally exhausted to do anything with my business. By that time, I was fortunate enough to be able to leave the job and work my business full-time. That was the best decision I ever made. When I gave Events Above The Rest all of my attention, it really took off.

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