Sue Morris, CMP, WPICC is an event manager and owner of Essemm Events & Communication Inc. She also is a part-time instructor at Centennial College in the School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts. She was certified with WPIC in 2009 and began instructing with them in 2011. She is a certified meeting professional (CMP) and has also completed a Masters of Arts in Creative Events Management from Falmouth University. She is also a self-professed wedding and event trade show fanatic.
How long have you worked at WPIC inc? I have been an active alumni since 2009 but I have been an instructor since 2011 teaching classes in Barbados and Antigua & Barbuda.
What void do you fill in the industry, or what is your specialty? While I have experience in incentive group management, weddings and corporate events, of late I believe my industry contribution is in special event education.
What has been your biggest challenge in the wedding industry thus far?My experience and knowledge have not converted into any huge advantage in wedding coordination. However, it has provided me with transferable skills that helped me be a stronger corporate event planner and instructor.
What has been your biggest accomplishment? Bringing the WPIC live classes to Barbados. I think it has helped to build camaraderie among our local planners while providing some best practices for wedding professionals on the island.
Tell us a funny story about one of your weddings: Not really funny at the time but I remember helping Denise (Georgiou Newell) with a wedding she coordinated in Barbados and she hired me to do some vendor sourcing for her including the hair-dresser. On the day I met her bride, my jaws dropped when I realized the bride had dreadlocks. Denise and I never discussed hair type, and if you know anything about locs, not many hairdressers would even know where to begin! Luckily, the hairstylist wore locs herself and was still able to provide the service and the bride loved it.
Tell us about a difficult situation at a wedding that you overcame: I had to shift an entire wedding of over 300 guests from an outdoor venue to an entirely different indoor venue due to a projected tropical storm – in a week!
What do you wish that you did differently when starting out? While I focused on being professional in my services, I was not paying attention to business strategy. I was largely coordinating weddings for the love of it, and paying attention to profitability. I did not do the greatest job of business planning.
How do you want to be remembered in the wedding industry after you retire? I actually planned my last wedding in 2016 and sold the wedding planning company. So as a planner, hopefully, I will be remembered as professional, caring and committed to my clients! I still plan corporate events but my focus is event education and industry standards – if any of my students can utilize something that I taught, I would be satisfied.
What were you planning to do as a career before getting into the wedding industry? I knew I wanted to be an event planner very early in my career. My journey took me to the hotel industry with a detour into marketing for a professional services firm. Many of my first wedding clients were colleagues who worked with me.
How did you get into the wedding industry? I planned my own wedding and fell in love with the whole industry.
Advice for those just starting out: Get involved in the industry, not just your career. Don’t expect growth overnight. Invest in yourself and your continuing education. Dream big.
Advice for those struggling to get business: If you can bundle your skills, and find a way to be able to provide at least one other service in addition to coordination, you may be more competitive. Networking – not only where your professional counterparts are, but also where your source of business is coming from.
Advice for those who are feeling industry burnout or stress from COVID-19 in their business: Complete a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis on your individual skills and on your business. This may help you to clarify your current situation and identify where new opportunities may lie in tandem with your skills. The situation is out of our control so use the time to take a break and reconnect with family, friends and other passions.
Best business tip: Work with a good accountant and attorney. Start and build your business like a large company – so if it grows you do not have to reinvent your systems. Pay yourself what the business can afford and not what you want to spend. Create distance between your personal income and your business revenue – sometimes your company may have more money than you may have!
Something that took your business to the next level: Being active in WPIC and the BHTA (Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association); maintaining professional contacts and attending wedding and event industry conferences.