Sam, on transferable skills:
“I had this idea that I had a certain set of skills that makes me slightly unique, slightly unusual, that meant I was better at starting businesses than the average person. Then, you come along and organize this amazing wedding, doing all the sort of stuff that I find really difficult and taking it in stride, and I thought, ‘Actually, no, maybe it’s just people don’t realize how similar these things are.’”

I chose to start a business with Emma after I watched her plan our wedding and saw just how useful her skills would be. Setting up a business and planning a wedding are very similar. From finding suppliers, logistics, budgeting and creativity. And I would go as far as to say, if you have organised a wedding, you can start a business. 

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Structure

00:41 – Getting married and immediately starting a business
01:46 – The overlaps between starting a business and planning a wedding
03:50 – The importance of customization
07:50 – Example of how entire projects can be held up by one detail
09:44 – Emma and Sam’s initial planning of the wedding happened on a flight to Budapest
12:11 – The benefits of being direct: “Can you just tell us how much it is?”
14:20 – Emma explaining the nuances of start-up costs
16:14 – Nobody has experience planning a wedding until they do it
19:02 – People make time for what is important to them

Transcript

SAM: Hello and welcome back to another episode of the lazy entrepreneur. I’m your host Sam Priestley and as normal, we’re joined on my lovely co-host Emma Priestley.

EMMA: Hello.

SAM: So to everyone listening who doesn’t know, we’re married. Did you know that?

EMMA: Yes!

SAM: We got married in July 2017, and then literally as soon as we got back from the honeymoon, we went to your brother’s wedding, then went to Ibiza, then we came back and then we started a business together. We started our gin business, Pipehouse Gin.

EMMA: Which is mad when you think about it, why would you get married and then start a business together?

SAM: Well I think this is what we’re gonna talk about today as one of the reasons is that you did maybe 85 percent, maybe 95 percent of the planning for our wedding.

EMMA: You mean 100%. You’re being very generous on yourself there.

SAM: Emma did most of the planning for our wedding and the whole time we were going through the planning, I kept thinking how similar this was to setting up a business. How similar it was to doing something like an Amazon FBA business. Almost every part of it and I kept thinking as we’re doing it, how good you were at planning the wedding was gonna translate so well to starting a business and all the kind of stuff that I really struggle with when starting a business, you were absolutely smashing it during the planning of the wedding. And so I left that thinking, oh let’s let’s use those skills of Emma’s and start a business together. Which then turned out to be Pipehouse Gin, so let’s talk about what I mean by that. When you start business, let’s say you’re gonna make a product like a table tennis bat or a bottle of gin, you got to work, you’ve got to find someone to supply the bottles, you’ve got to find someone to supply the corks, you’ve gotta work out someone who can actually make the gin for you, you’ve got to sort out the recipe, you’ve got to do all the creative stuff, you got to design what things look like, you’ve got to find companies who are able to print that for you at an affordable rate, that’s all very similar to doing a wedding. You’ve got to design your wedding invite, design the look and the feel, the day, you’ve got to make sure that it’s unique and different to everyone else wedding but still similar enough to a wedding that everyone understands what’s going on. You’ve got to deal with lots of little suppliers, there’s a whole budgeting side of it, you’ve got a set amount of money and you’re constantly negotiating price shopping, going from company to company to company. You’ve got to make sure everything happens at the same time, so much harder if we our bottles are delayed by a week, that’s annoying but it’s not the end of the world. If something’s delayed by a week for the wedding, that’s it the wedding’s over.

EMMA: Well that’s it for that supplier, you need to find someone else.

SAM: Yeah but if they promise they’ll have it done on that day and then they don’t deliver, then that’s it, you’re screwed. So you have to have backup plans. Like organising the person to do your hair and makeup, you had a couple of backup plans because you’re dealing with such small suppliers who were so bad at replying to messages.

EMMA: And they cancelled.

SAM: And one of them cancelled the week before or something. In fact when you’re doing a wedding, there’s the more moving parts going on. You’re dealing with more suppliers than you would when starting a business.

EMMA: Yeah and I think with the supplier side you really have to go with your gut feel, you tend to do some research online, get some prices, get some quotes, get an idea of who’s available and what they can do, and then you really need to meet with these people because you need to gain that trust because you are putting a lot of pressure on them to deliver something and if they don’t deliver, that will really affect your day.

SAM: And it will affect your business, and like the customization side of it as well, you’re not just wanting a generic invite or a generic band you want one that’s customized in a certain way for what you want and what you want the wedding look and feel to be like.

EMMA: Well that’s the thing isn’t it, like you can have a generic wedding, you can go to a venue that will give you a package for a certain price which will come with a wedding planner. You can do a lot of this research for you, or on the other side you can do every single piece of research, decision customization yourself, but within that just like a business, you can’t customize everything because it costs so much money so you have to look at what are the things that you really care about in the day as well what you care about in the business what you’re gonna spend money on versus what are you going to try and cut back? Because there are so many elements you cannot afford to do everything.

SAM: Well it’s the same with our gin, so what I think of in particular was our bottles. So we ended up choosing bottles off the rack and we didn’t customize our own bottles. We don’t have them engraved with our logo or anything like that, which we could have done but that would have been another next step that we decided not to do.

EMMA: Yes for launch.

SAM: And just like there’s 101 things with the wedding that we could have taken that step further. Something else I was thinking that had a lot of similarities between getting our label designs and doing our branding, and getting new wedding invites done.

EMMA: Yeah.

SAM: So with the wedding invites, Emma really wanted kind of cut paper,

EMMA: Laser cut

SAM: Laser cut paper, done with a design we chose. A design that we’d come up with. We had a tropical themed wedding that was a mix of English rose and Brazilian party was the vibe, so you wanted like a tropical cut wedding invite and for the labels on our gin, we wanted something that looked amazing, really high-end, really good quality paper for both of them. We started off by going to proper design firms who specialize in making exactly that.

EMMA: Yes and they charge an unbelievable amount so the labels for the bottles I think they started at $80,000 just for design, not for the printing. And then the invitations, I think the first person I spoke to specialized in Indian weddings, so a huge scale and the budget was really high and I think it was something along the lines of about a thousand pounds an invite was their normal customers.

SAM: It was unbelievable. Unbelievable, and then both of them, you didn’t change what we wanted, we just then found other ways around it.

EMMA: Well yeah I mean I used, I did a Skype call because we were traveling while we were organizing the wedding, so the Skype call with this company and this lady very kindly spent about 45 minutes talking me through all the different options and basically helped me to create a spec of what I wanted and then I could go to a much cheaper option. Because I didn’t know any of the language, I didn’t know what all the choices were I was looking online, but it was all just a bit confusing really. So to actually have a specialist, have a personalized consultation with you was really helpful and something that we wouldn’t, we didn’t, we couldn’t do with the label because someone would have charged us for that.

SAM: Yeah well maybe we could have done, I bet a lot of these companies would do an initial consultation for free.

EMMA: Yeah, actually, I think remembering back with the labels I know the company we went for is in Scotland but I think quite a lot of the companies were quite far away from where we were graphically, so we never really discussed meeting with the label company did we?

SAM: No.

EMMA: And actually looking back, it may may have helped us a lot to be able to meet an Account Manager face to face.

SAM: Or something like the labels actually ended up delaying us by quite a long time.

EMMA: Yes for multiple reasons.

SAM: Multiple reasons and the labels were something that, yeah, pushed our launch date back by a couple of months or something.

EMMA: But were very very important to us.

SAM: But very important to us and we’re very price conscious about it because it’s not just about looking good, but we also needed the price per bottle to work out in our favor.Because unlike with a wedding because when we’re selling gin we know how much we’re selling each bottle for and so we know how much margin we need. And so then we can backtrack everything, you say this is the max we can spend on this one thing, and if we spend more on that one thing, we’ve got to take from somewhere else. So we kind of had this idea of the max we could spend, in this case it was finding a company who’s able to do that in the quantities we wanted.

EMMA: Yeah and work with on an ongoing basis as well or as a wedding as a one-off.

SAM: Yeah I mean it’s not exactly the same starting a business and planning the wedding and obviously there’s the whole marketing and sales side at the end. It’s not hard to convince people to come to your wedding, it’s a bit harder to get people to pay for your product. But it’s more the kind of setup that I’m really thinking about here, and in that sense, they are in a lot of ways almost identical.

EMMA: Yeah, it’s interesting that you said that during the wedding, you noticed that a lot of the planning, the admin side, I was really good at and you don’t think you’re very good at, but it’s interesting because the part of a business that you really enjoy is the setup and the strategy and the creativity and the ideas, so it’s funny that that doesn’t also marry with the actual getting excited about, I guess it’s the admin side of it. Making it happen.

SAM: Well with the wedding, similar to how we started the gin, so with the wedding we had a whole load of magazines, we were on a flight to Budapest and we sat there and basically planned what we wanted for our wedding. The things we wanted, the theme, various ideas we had and then you kind of went with that and then ran with it and then worked on a lot of initially gritty. For instance, on the way there we decided that we were going to get married in my home church and that therefore we wanted the venue to be around there, and we kind of set ourselves a budget and we said this is how much we want to spend. So from there, you went and started contacting all the different venues around, as well as explore some of the more unusual ideas for venues that could save us a bit of money.

EMMA: Yeah, well the most important thing with a wedding to start with is to get a date. You need to have an anchor, so for us it started with the church being available and it turns out they actually had quite a lot of availability, which was very helpful and then trying to find a reception venue that was available.

SAM: Yeah I suppose there’s a similar priority list when it comes to a business. When we think about starting the gin, so labels we could work around that, bottles we can work around that. The most important thing was finding a distillery who would work with us.

EMMA: Yes.

SAM: And who could do it for a set price. If we couldn’t sort that out, the rest would be a waste of time. There’s no point finding someone who can make cardboard boxes to put it in if we can’t sort out the product first. So now as the first thing, now is the first step and you made a big list of every distillery in the country, we decided what our requirements were. We did a little research to work out how much roughly we should be paying per bottle and then you started contacting as many as possible. Likewise with the wedding, once we had a venue in this sort of rough area and we had a bunch of different dates, you then started contacting them till you found one that suited and was in the right price range. Same with budget really, so at the wedding it’s the overall budget we had. Whereas with the gin, it was kind of the price per bottle. So with the gin we wanted to do the whole venture for under ten thousand pounds and we wanted each bottle to be profitable, and that did, right off most of the distilleries who replied back with quotes, so we were left with actually not that many options of people who wouldn’t work with us on a small size and who could do it for a certain price. Same with a venue. Do you remember we booked in a bunch of venues to go visit and venues are often a bit hesitant to give you their prices upfront, and often they want you to come in and see everything before they’ll give you the price and we were doing this, we were going around to a few venues in one day and I remember one of them you phoned up or something and were like, “Can you just tell us how much it is?” Because we were booked in there later and they eventually sent us the price and it basically took our whole budget up just for that venue so we cancelled the visit.

EMMA: Yeah I was gonna say, I don’t remember seeing any other venues because we didn’t did we? We only saw that one.

SAM: Well we ended up cutting out so and luckily the first one we checked out was ideal. But also, we had a lot of lot of requirements, just like we’re starting out with creating a product. We want to hear about customization. We wanted certain food options.

EMMA: Yeah well we wanted to bring our own alcohol.

SAM: We wanted to bring our own alcohol. One thing we did for our wedding is we did a wine tour beforehand, where we we traveled around France and Germany and Austria, visiting vineyards to pick up wine for the wedding, and we had a wine tasting table. And there’s not many venues who would let us bring our own wine without charging an extortioner fee for corkage.

EMMA: Yeah got some friends that are getting married in Switzerland in October, you should hear how much their corkage per bottle is in Switzerland. Unbelieve.

SAM: And that was something that we also found, maybe not so much with the gin but with other products I’ve done. You’ll contact a company and they’ll say, ok we’ll do what you want but our machinery only lets us create things in certain shapes, so I’m thinking in particular, we made these cases for our table tennis bats. It was something unique. No one had created table tennis bats that looked like this before, so we had to find a factory that was doing something similar enough so we found a company who did laptop cases, and then it took us a long time to find a supplier who was able to actually create them in the sizes we wanted for in the price range we wanted.

EMMA: I think that’s a really interesting point because if you compare that to a wedding, you need to produce a lot of items for weddings, even just looking at the stationary, we’ve talked about the invitations, but there are things like: place cards and signage and menus and order of service and all those things that need to be printed. Now if you look at it from a business point of view and when you’re looking at scale, you typically have to pay a set price to create a plate, so whether we’re talking about creating the labels, whether we’re talking about bat cases, but there’s startup costs and it could be anywhere between a couple of hundred to thousands of pounds, which obviously, when you look at a wedding, you can’t justify that money.

SAM: Well some parts are quite straightforward, some parts are harder, as you say, we can do stuff at scale. So, for instance, with our latest batch labels, we were able to do ten thousand labels and so because of that we managed to get the price down per label quite a lot. Whereas when you’re making placeholders at a wedding and you’ve got 100 guests then you can’t do it at scale, so you have a lot less choice. Or you’re paying a lot more per item.

EMMA: I think it’s the latter, you’re paying a lot more per item.

SAM: Yeah, ends up being a similar price. One thing we’ve been looking at recently is doing kind of beer mats but for our gin, so we can just give them out to bars and they can just hand them out and it costs a similar amount to do a hundred thousand of them as it does to do twenty thousand of them. Once you get to that sort of scale the price increase is negligible.

EMMA: And then how do you pick how much you buy?

SAM: Well then the problem becomes storage. Just give them out to as many people as possible? Yeah, the more I was watching you do the wedding stuff, the more I was thinking, oh, this would be perfect for a business. But so many people organize a wedding and very few people start a business, and nobody has any experience doing a wedding until they do it.

EMMA: No.

SAM: It’s not like we have these ingrained skills that mean that you can organize a wedding, the same people are really excited for organizing their wedding, and people do it every year.

EMMA: Well it’s a happy occasion, it’s getting all your friends and family together and it’s a celebration and it’s a happy occasion.

SAM: What I am trying to get at is a lot of the excuses people use for not starting a business would also apply to a wedding as well, but everyone still manages to have a wedding. Like you don’t have enough time to do it, well most people organize a wedding in their part time around their jobs and it’s really tough and they say it’s one of the most stressful things they’ve ever done, but they do do it. Stuff about not having enough money, who has enough money to have a wedding?

EMMA: Yeah.

SAM: At least with a business, you’re expecting to get that money back later, like a business can be profitable. A wedding is a huge expense, then gone forever. Stuff like, you don’t know where to start, you don’t know where to start with a wedding. You got to then do your research, you got to spend time googling, talking to people who have experience with it. And spend a lot of time talking to suppliers and having a bit of trial and error.

EMMA: Getting advice.

SAM: Stuff like, you’re not very good at maths and accounting. Well the same is true for a wedding. You’ve still got to create a budget, you’ve only got so much money you got to spend. Same with starting a business. So I think what really struck me is that I probably had this idea that I had a certain set of skills that make me slightly unique, slightly unusual that meant I was better at starting businesses than the average person, and then you come along and organize this amazing wedding, doing all the sort of stuff that I find really difficult and taking it in your stride, and I thought, “Actually, no, maybe it’s just people don’t realize how similar these things are.”

EMMA: Yeah.

SAM: And that actually a lot more people could just go for it and start business and do really well. Maybe my uniqueness is that I’ve gone and done things where a lot of people haven’t and that’s it.

EMMA: I think a big part of it is the confidence. I don’t think anyone looks back at their wedding that they’ve planned and think, I’ve done really well planning, and actually I could use those skills to set up a business. I’m thinking of a few friends in particular that have gotten married in the last couple of years where we’ve been to their weddings, and they work very long hours in their current job. They really like their jobs, but whenever we meet with them, they’ve always got these ideas of businesses they’d like to start, but I really think they don’t see their current skill set in their head as the skill set that’s gonna help them to set up a business. And also, I think it’s too much of a risk, so we’ve also got a lot of friends that have got mortgages and very expensive lifestyles and I think they can’t see that making a jump, leaving a mainstream job and going into setting up something on their own, I don’t think they could afford it.

SAM: But that’s it, they afforded a wedding.

EMMA: Yes and how did they afford a wedding if they can’t afford to not be in a full-time pay for a year?

SAM: Well they don’t even need to quit their jobs, they did the wedding while in their full-time jobs. They can start a business in their full-time job.

EMMA: And again I don’t think people see that, that they found the time to do the wedding so why couldn’t they find the time to do a business?

SAM: And likewise, we spend a lot less money starting our gin business than we did on our wedding. And the gin business is profitable. It’s a bit ridiculous really. But as you say, those things crossover.

EMMA: And I think it’s confidence. I think it’s confidence, like there’s no way I could do that.

SAM: And they don’t see that the skillset aligns, and likewise the only reason I know to do it is because I’ve done all this stuff setting up other businesses. And I saw you following almost the exact same steps, but doing it a bit better than me but for the wedding.

EMMA: But then at the same time, I never would have thought that either unless you’d said it.

SAM: Yeah exactly.

EMMA: I wouldn’t have thought, “I did a really good job planning this wedding so I’d be really good at the organisation side of setting up a business.” If I’d never met you, I wouldn’t have ever had the confidence to then do something, do a business afterwards.

SAM: And there’s a bunch of other things, like when you’re doing a business it’s all on you, you don’t have any parents telling you what to do.

EMMA: Yeah.

SAM: Any crazy mother in laws, my mother in law was amazing. But we’ve got some friends that are having some mother in law difficulties. If you choose a label that people don’t like for your bottle of gin, then no one’s going to particularly care. It doesn’t matter if you hurt anyone’s feelings, whereas if you invite the wrong people to your wedding that can stick with you forever. People never forgive you.

EMMA: Yeah it’s true, there’s a lot of emotions that go into a wedding. And I’m not saying there isn’t setting up a business, but it involves a lot of your close friends and family and everyone has their own opinion. And there’s something about a wedding that kind of makes people a little bit crazy.

SAM: People have their own opinion and they feel like they should have a say in it, which is a bit weird because it’s your wedding. But they don’t feel like they should have a say in your business.

EMMA: Yeah exactly! They’re very supportive once you’ve launched it.

SAM: Yeah, yeah. Awesome. Well let’s call it a day. If you got a wedding plan coming up, consider cutting the budget in half and using the other half to start a business. That’s my advice.

EMMA: I’m not sure I’d agree. I’d take that as if you’ve raised the money for a wedding then you should be able to raise the money to start a business.

SAM: If you can start a wedding, you can start a business. And on that note, adios.