How I Started A 6-Figure Wedding Planning Resource And Community For Couples On A Budget
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I’m Jessica Bishop, and I founded the top wedding planning resource and support community for couples who want to plan a beautiful wedding on a budget they can actually afford! I started The Budget Savvy Bride in 2008 while planning my own wedding as a way to share ideas and resources with other brides who were experiencing similar challenges. In the 12 years since, the site has grown to be the top online destination for budget wedding advice, ideas, and inspiration. Our advice and tips have been featured in national media outlets like Good Morning America, COSMOPOLITAN, Glamour, and BRIDES magazine, just to name a few.
Our goal is to help make the wedding planning process simple, savvy, and stress-free by sharing resources and helpful tools to save couples time and money in their planning process. The heart of our mission is to encourage couples to plan a wedding they can be proud of without taking on debt, so they can start their marriage off on the right financial footing.
For years, the business functioned primarily as an online publication, but much like many companies, we’ve been in the process of making a pandemic-driven pivot in 2020. We recently launched our new private wedding planning support community -- the only space of its kind that allows brides to connect and support one another like never before. Through our community, upcoming courses and live virtual events, we hope to educate, inspire, and empower couples to plan a wedding that is authentic to them while also sticking to an affordable budget.
Today, TheBudgetSavvyBride.com reaches millions of readers annually via our website and social platforms, and my wedding planning book, The Budget-Savvy Wedding Planner & Organizer is an Amazon best-seller with over 120,000 copies sold since its release in 2018. In the midst of the chaos that 2020 has been, Budget Savvy Inc is having its best year yet– breaking our revenue record by September of this year.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I launched The Budget Savvy Bride in May of 2008, shortly after becoming engaged. I was working in my first post-grad job as a graphic designer for a marketing company that produced wedding magazines and bridal shows. Between my day job and planning my own big day, I was fully immersed in the world of weddings. I quickly realized that the entire wedding industry seemed completely focused on a certain image and scope of a wedding day– and it was an idea that seemed completely out of reach and unattainable for me.
Be willing to try new things, jump aboard new social platforms, engage with your audience in new ways. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, and diversify your revenue streams and your traffic sources.
Most publications and magazines really seemed to assume that couples were working with these gargantuan budgets for their wedding celebration, with the cost of the supposed “average” American wedding rising each year. It just didn’t sit right with me.
I was always a creative person– I loved to write and craft and create. So I decided to start a little online blog to keep track of my wedding planning progress and document any creative ideas I stumbled upon along the way. With my graphic design degree and journalism minor, it all came quite naturally for me. I truly started the site out of genuine interest and passion for putting together a beautiful wedding day on an affordable budget-- one that was far less than an annual starting salary. And it turned out to be a good thing because I ended up getting laid off from my day job that same year.
You could say I was in the right place at the right time because with the Great Recession happening in the United States, many brides could relate to the challenges I was facing. The blog project and helping other people who were going through similar experiences became my silver lining. So I set out to make the site into an incredible resource to help couples who didn’t want to spend a fortune to have a nice wedding. The site grew organically over time and was soon attracting thousands of readers each day throughout the course of my engagement.
Post-wedding, I was advised by a close friend and business mentor to turn my passion project into a business. She really encouraged me to see the value I was offering and create a plan to monetize and grow the site into a company. Luckily for me, the website had very little overhead and I was able to reinvest much of the money I was making back into the business. I did eventually get another job, which offered me the stability I needed while I grew the website. Ultimately, the site grew to the point where I felt it could sustain me full-time, so I left my job to focus fully on The Budget Savvy Bride in 2013.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
The interesting thing about running an online resource website as a business is that our “product” is always in progress. It can be a blessing and a curse at times. One benefit to my particular business is that I have been in our target audience’s shoes. I was a bride working with a limited budget myself at one time. I’ve been through the same process, and know her struggles intimately. That allows me to come up with resources, articles, and tools that will help solve her problems based on my own experiences, and the experience of trusted experts.
Now that we’re in year 12, our “product” has been through many iterations. When I first launched The Budget Savvy Bride, websites were only viewed on a desktop or laptop computer screen. Now our product is viewed across a plethora of different platforms, devices, and screen sizes, and the way we design the product has changed so much as a result. We’ve had to adopt a mobile-first mentality as more and more of our users are accessing our website via their smartphones.
We keep an eye on our analytics and user flow to see what’s working and what’s not. The addition of our private community has also helped us tap into the minds of our audience to get direct feedback, answer questions, and find out what new resources we could build to address their challenges. And since adding an in-house developer to our team, we are now able to adapt, update, and iterate more quickly. Our ultimate goal is to make our product simple to navigate and packed with helpful resources for our audience.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Back when I founded The Budget Savvy Bride, there was no strategic launch or rollout plan in mind. I was just a bride planning a wedding and sharing my personal musings. Now when we launch a new service, tool, product, or feature, we are much more intentional and planned.
I never turn down an opportunity to share my experience or expertise with a media outlet, blog, or podcast. All of these opportunities are fabulous for exposure and for building your credibility and trust factor with your customers or audience.
For example, we are currently in the process of launching our new private wedding planning support community for brides on a budget. We want to become a haven for brides who need extra support, inspiration, and ideas to help them put together a beautiful wedding on a budget that they can actually afford.
Luckily for us, we have an existing audience to promote and market our membership too. Our launch plans include social media campaigns, Live Video streams, email campaigns, giveaways, and so much more. Our goal is to engage our audience (pun intended!) and get them excited about the things we are doing within the community.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
There are so many things that have helped The Budget Savvy Bride stand the test of time. There are a few that I feel are the most important, and here’s the advice I would share with other business owners:
Have a very specific niche and know your audience intimately. Wedding planning is a specific subject matter, but planning on a budget is even more targeted. Because we know who our reader is and what her hopes, dreams, and wishes are, we can create content, tools, and resources that speak directly to her. Build trust with your audience by showing up for them in various ways.
Be adaptable, nimble, and innovative.
Keeping overheads low has been key in remaining adaptable and nimble when challenges arise. Running an online-only business comes with its own unique set of difficulties that are often out of our control. For example, becoming the victim of a Google algorithm update. We’ve always focused 100% on organic traffic, but also lean into social media and email to drive more visitors to our site.
Be willing to try new things, jump aboard new social platforms, and engage with your audience in new ways. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, diversify your revenue streams and your traffic sources. Build your house on a rock, not sand– don’t rely too heavily on one social platform that you don’t have ownership of. Invest time and energy into building an email list of customers that you have direct access to. Release new features or updates on an ongoing basis to give your audience more reasons to return, or refer their friends to your business.
Build relationships, credibility, and authority.
Networking is a huge benefit for any business owner. Whether it's networking with relevant businesses in your industry to collaborate with or to form partnerships, it’s good to get to know your peers so you can work together or refer business. Also, don’t be scared of putting yourself out there as an expert. I never turn down an opportunity to share my experience or expertise with a media outlet, blog, or podcast. All of these opportunities are fabulous for exposure and for building your credibility and trust factor with your customers or audience.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
The Budget Savvy Bride is currently having its best year yet revenue-wise (up 46.6% over last year) despite 2020 being a tough year for the wedding industry as a whole. A big part of that has been due to our niche focus on serving smaller, more intimate weddings (which are practically the only weddings that can take place this year.) While many other wedding planning websites have lost significant audience and traffic in 2020, we’re currently trending up 21.28% over 2019’s numbers. We’ve also seen a 25% increase in pageviews and have increased our time on site by almost 15%.
We’ve also placed an increased focus on affiliate partnerships. Our affiliate revenue is up 72.54% over 2019’s numbers. We’ve also made significant updates to the product this year. Our website got a refresh this summer, with an expansion in features to our Wedding Deals page. Our audience is always looking for a great deal, so this area of our website is incredibly popular for us. Before the end of the year, we’ll also be rolling out new versions with added functionality to our Real Weddings, Free Wedding Printables, and DIY Projects.
Looking towards 2021, we’ll be launching our Vendor Directory -- where couples can browse relevant service providers to help them execute their events. Our goal is to have 5000 vendors in our directory by the end of 2021, fully representing all 50 states by the end of 2021.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Our team of 8 is fully remote, so we use a ton of tools to manage our business. From task management to content organization, we have a variety of services and software that help us keep things organized, as well as to produce our content.
Here’s a shortlist of tools we use:
- Task + Project Management: Trello
- Forms, Onboarding, etc: Airtable, Zapier
- Team Communication: Slack
- Design: Canva
- Social Media Scheduling: Later, Tailwind, CoSchedule
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I am a podcast junkie, but a hoarder of personal development and business books that I’ll probably never get around to reading. A couple of my current favorite biz podcasts include:
- Smart Passive Income with Pat Flynn
- Limitless Life with Melyssa Griffin
- Hello Seven with Rachael Rodgers
I am actively working on trying to make more time to read the 47 unread books that are gathering digital dust and taking up space on my Kindle.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
The thing about advice is that most people won’t take it and make a change until they get to a breaking point within themselves. That’s been the case for me and for most people I know.
So if there’s any specific advice I would offer, it would be to get clear on your own definition of success and actively work towards building a business and a life that you love. Don’t let other people’s expectations or definitions of what it means to be successful sway you into steering away from what you feel in your gut will make you feel fulfilled, happy, and successful.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Our team is definitely expanding and will continue to do so over the coming year. We are currently looking to bring on workers in the following roles:
- sales representatives
- crafters/DIY project creators
- graphic designer
- editorial manager
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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