We caught up with Tara Melvin, a brilliant thought-leader and award-winning event planner. Tara was recently recognized as one of BizBash’s Top 500 Most Influential Event Professionals in 2020 and 2021, is the founder and producer of The Signature CEO Conference, founder and mentor of The Executive Mentor Program, founder of Perfect Planning Events, and founder and President of The National Society of Black Wedding & Event Professionals.
Tara, you wear many hats! You have a planning business, a conference called The Signature CEO, and you’re the CEO and founder of the National Society of Black Wedding & Event Pros. How did all of that come to be?
I created The Signature CEO Conference over seven years ago and with the intention of filling the void that was missing in education for event professionals. We approached this conference differently, in that we lead with the CEO concept in the annual, multi-day experience. Creative professionals engage in hands-on instruction that bridges the gap between business acumen and leadership while networking and building relationships to help attendees reach their highest potential in the world of business and entrepreneurship.
TSCEO introduces our community to influential and successful thought-leaders and business titans from all walks of life. From our Speakers to our Attendees, it’s a rare opportunity for getting one-on-one support at the highest level with the people who can deliver the fastest and most proven systems.
Talk about why you founded The National Society of Black Wedding & Event Professionals and the goals?
For many years, I recognized there was a void in the industry which did not shine the light or elevate Black Creative Entrepreneurs in the wedding and event planning industry. I recognized this from my involvement in networking events, as I reviewed event media publications, educational platforms, and the leadership within industry associations. I walked into these spaces yearning to see a person that looked like me but to much dismay, the individuals in the room that looked like me only represented about 5% of the space being presented.
I desired to create a space specifically for Black Business Owners; a platform that would galvanize and build a legacy for Black wedding and event professionals throughout the US and beyond with a common purpose to encourage the excellence for their talent, create unity within the black community and beyond, elevate business acumen via education, yield financial support to its members via scholarships, and bring awareness to others who are unaware of black-owned businesses who provide exceptional services for its consumers, and our contribution in the wedding and event planning industry.
As the world sat quiet in 2020 starting with COVID-19, and then to be awakened by the social and racial injustice from the unfortunate death of George Floyd, the conversation became more vocal about the lack of diversity and inclusion in the wedding and events industry. The spark of these conversations ultimately pushed my desired idea to a plan of action to create The National Society of Black Wedding & Event Professionals (NSBWEP) and on June 16th the NSBWEP was born.
On July 8, 2020, the association was incorporated with the Office of the Clerk of the Virginia State Corporation Commission. The industry response has been positively received and supported by NSBWEP’s growing list of Members and ally supporters. Members represent all professions in the industry and span across the USA and the Caribbean with interests and support as far as Canada, Nigeria, England, and Dubai. NSBWEP Members are committed to establishing, encouraging and supporting the idea of unity within the organization and within the industry at large across the globe.
Membership is about giving back, being proud of our culture, creating opportunities, being an active participant for the advancement of change in the industry, and most importantly being proud to be a NSBWEP Member. Members know that NSBWEP represents a place of belonging where they have a family that serves as a foundation of support, where they will be uplifted, and yield as a resource for information and guidance to be strong individuals and business owners in the industry.
Currently there are 135 NSBWEP’s members with a 5-year projection of having 500 Black-Owned businesses. The association strives to support its members, but also a partner to other platforms in the industry such as media publications, conferences, retreats, other organizations, etc. The association’s motto states, “We have become the change WE want to BE”!
How would you encourage others in our industry to get involved with the NSBWEP?
We encourage all Black-Owned businesses to connect with NSBWEP and become a Member to be a part of the change and to make a difference in the industry. We encourage allies to connect with NSBWEP to learn how to support through education and mentoring to help with our endeavors and uplift our members.
What’s your best financial advice for a new wedding professional entering the wedding space?
You’re going to spend all of your money within the first five years. Advertising, just getting set up, buying things, marketing costs, wedding shows, education and so much more. Be prepared, as your expenses may outweigh what you’re bringing in.
If someone has an interest in joining the wedding industry, I recommend creating a plan, being consistent, seeking a mentor and joining an association for education and networking. Always remember to expand your reach with other professionals and to create a name for yourself.
There are so many expenses when it comes to running a wedding business. What would you say wedding pros should spend money on?
Have a decent website and hire someone who knows SEO.
This has been a trying year in the sense that our industry went from 0 to 100 and now we are on the cusp of one of the busiest wedding seasons in decades. How are you approaching 2022?
I am approaching 2022 as I’d approach any year – being prepared! Each year I have a solid business plan from every aspect of my business to customer engagement including my financial goals and a plan to achieve them. Being prepared allows me to be focused and not distracted by the reports of a wedding boom!
You know we’re all about the money at Maroo: How do you set up financial goals for your business?
Every year at the end of the year, I go through my financial and overall goals for my business. I do that all throughout the month of December, and try to have it done and polished by the 2nd week of January.
Do you ever choose wedding business partners based on the way in which they handle payments?
Yes! Because it is a part of the experience producing an event for a client. You don’t want bottlenecks. You want it to be a seamless process for the client that you’re dealing with.
What is your money mantra?
If it doesn’t make dollars, it doesn’t make sense.
How do you feel about credit card processing fees? Do you take them in or do you pass them along to the client?
I build in the credit card fee. It bugs me when there is an extra 5-8% fee if the payment is made by credit card. When shopping at Nordstrom, and paying with a credit card, there isn’t an extra fee. So that should already be built into your cost and it should be one flat fee.
Thank you Tara for taking the time! One last question: If someone gave you $10,000, what would you do with it?
I would take 20% and give it to some type of charity or give it to someone who could really benefit. I’m a big dog lover, so I would probably give to a rescue organization or a homeless organization. And the rest of it? I would invest it and watch it grow.