Many don’t realize that the wedding industry is a $40 billion dollar market! Even in this country’s worst economy, most couples have not scaled back on what it takes to make their wedding day special. With wedding season just several months away, brides and grooms are tasked with planning every detail of their wedding in hopes of creating a celebration that is perfectly them. That’s why finding the help from the perfect planner is what matters the most.
Whether it’s a social, corporate event or a wedding, Lisa Jones, founder of Worldwide Group Travel has you covered. Surrounded by event producers and travel agents, she began her career realizing she could be the one on the other side doing the same.
BlackEnterprise.com caught up with the event guru to discuss her passion for all that is bridal, how she’s sustained her career, the challenges of the wedding industry, and what’s next for her business.
BlackEnterprise.com: What peaked your interest in corporate events and wedding planning?
Lisa Jones: I started my travel career in 1988 working for a very well-known travel company. I continued to work my way up, earning the company’s top sales awards. After a few years, I was promoted to management, and I would often sit in corporate meetings and suggest we change our focus to travel and event planning.
In 2006, I started Worldwide Group Travel & Events. Our niche is combining travel and event planning under one umbrella. We handle every element of the event, including venue selection, décor, catering and entertainment.
What do you find to be the biggest challenge in the wedding industry?
For us, the biggest challenge is dealing with vendors out of the country, which can be much more difficult to coordinate. Many resorts require you use only their select list of vendors, and these vendors are usually not the best. We have found ways to work around these issues, such as doing our own floral design and décor set up and establishing relationships with different resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico. This allows us to bring in our own vendors from previous relationships in these countries with photographers, videographers, chefs, florists and deejays. This ensures that we deliver an event that our bride, groom and family will never forget.
Are there a lot of minorities within the industry?
I have not come across many minority agency owners such as myself. I am often invited to many of the top travel industry events, and oftentimes I am the only African American business owner represented. Even the years I was in management, I was 1 of 3 African Americans out of a management team of 200. I am not sure why many of us don’t think of a career in travel and event planning. I have plans to one day franchise my business and appeal to the African-American market.
What are the pros and cons of being an entrepreneur in the events industry?
Many people often say,’It must be great to work for yourself.’ I reply by saying, ‘I still work for someone. I work for my clients and they employ me to do the best job.’ The pros are I am a wife and a mom, and working for myself allows some flexibility to be there for my family. I also love when each event is over and my client is pleased that everything was exactly how they envisioned it. That is rewarding for me! The biggest con for me is hiring employees. I expect everyone to work like me, and most people don’t. Hiring the right people is often not an easy task.
What’s your favorite destination to work with?
Worldwide Group Travel prefers to work with the Hard Rock Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic for many of our weddings and events. We have a great relationship with their management team and can make anything happen there! The resort takes really good care of our guests and they go above and beyond to ensure our happiness by facilitating our numerous requests.
What’s next for your business?
Our business focus for 2014 is to continue growing and working with larger groups and events. Last year, we expanded outside of traditional weddings and corporate events by producing the Power Party Plane trip for Power 105’s “The Breakfast Club.” We flew them and 352 of their listeners to Jamaica for a live broadcast during Jamaica’s 50th Independence weekend. We are now working with WBLS on their Splash Fest to Jamaica May 1-4. We are also working with Hot 97 on their Hot Night Dominican Republic event which will take place April 25 – 28 in Punta Cana.
We also have a special trip, “An Inspiring Weekend for Women,” coordinated every year, which is very important to me because a portion of the proceeds goes to a charity. While on this trip, we leave our 5-star resort for a day and participate in local community service in whatever destination we visit. This trip is also about bringing positive professional women together for a weekend of networking, bonding and giving back. It will take place April 24 – 27th at Leblanc Resort in Cancun, Mexico.
We also plan to launch a travel blog in 2014. We will feature real stories and videos about destinations around the world. We will interview local vendors and attractions and show you the best places to visit.
For more information on Lisa Jones, and Worldwide Group Travel visit WorldwideGroupTravel.com.