Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Tionna Van Gundy, founder of Wedicity & Fueled Events, located in Chicago, IL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Wedicity - Wedding Day Detailing is a wedding and event planning company (based out of West Loop, Chicago) specializing in planning, styling, and production with over 15 years of hospitality and event experience. Providing full service planning to day-of details packages for newly engaged couples looking for a party but with great decor, IG moments, and amazing food and drink!
Fueled Events is an experiential event planning firm specializing in events driven with passion, heart, and purpose. With over a decade in event production, design, and logistics, we bring a service-first approach to meetings, conferences, galas, retreats, incentives, and special events! Fueled Events' clientele consists of companies and non-profits looking for a fresh take on events, whether sprucing up their annual meeting or going all out for a 50th-anniversary event! We fuel events with the passion, heart, and purpose that ignites each company's mission.
Tell us about yourself
I've been in the hospitality and events industry from day one and always knew this was right where I wanted to be! I knew I was destined for entrepreneurship early on, but I was a bit frightened by the "unknown." It took a few years of working full-time for other employers for me to realize that I was ready to launch into entrepreneurship full time. I had my planning business on the side for about five years before jumping all in, and my only regret is not doing it sooner!
Now that I've been here for more than ten years in. I'm motivated by my team. Wedicity and Fueled Events operate so well because of all of them! Watching each of our planners grow and become the kick-ass planners and professionals they are destined to be has been the ultimate pay-it-forward moment. Our internship program has also been incredibly rewarding and motivating. We've hired two interns that have transitioned into full-time roles. Whether they stay with our team or go on to work elsewhere, they are part of our Wedicity/Fueled Family, and I love supporting them over the years!
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Professionally, my biggest accomplishment was putting on the largest operating event during the height of the Covid Pandemic called CHI-Together. It was a drive-in entertainment experience held for 10+ weeks at Soldier field, 5-nights a week! It was a merge of the nostalgic drive-in movie experience with the Chicago festival scene but all socially safe to create a dynamic event experience. We were the pioneers of socially-safe events and started the path for Covid-compliant events in the city.
It was a massive undertaking, and I financed it all myself. It gave my team a place to work when our careers were halted, and it gave the community a place to come together to have fun in a time when everything seemed so dark. We gave back to the Greater Chicago Food Depository in a financial contribution and weekly food donations to support the community further. It was by far the most impactful thing I could do for my team, my community, the events industry, and those in need.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Being a business owner is a real roller coaster ride while being both the operator and being on the ride itself — for the first time! The journey is equally exciting and terrifying. I've learned that the "hardest" part changes based on where you are in your business. In the beginning, I felt like I wanted to prove myself to my peers - that I belonged here and that they could trust that any event I was part of was going to be well planned and produced. The next hardest part was the finances, knowing what to charge, how to charge, and what is considered a "cost of doing business" vs. when to make the client responsible for said fees. When you really realize your value, the trajectory of your business changes. It allows you to see things through a different lens however can be tricky along the way. My next hardship is scaling - it's always tough to "let go" as a business owner. But when you do, it's worth it!
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- When you dive in full time and take that leap of faith - it changes everything. Just do it!
- Really know your numbers! Understand all of the elements that need to be layered to run your business effectively and charge accordingly.
- You can't do it all, especially if you want to grow! Find tasks that can be outsourced, streamlined, and replaced with better processes so that you can work on the parts of your business that you are both good at and want to be doing.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I have the two event planning firms; however, I'm getting more into education and speaking. I look forward to sharing everything I have learned about business and event planning, specifically with those looking to break into the industry!
We have a fabulous internship program. It's about 12-16 weeks and is very hands-on. Any college juniors or seniors are welcome to apply for a semester with our team!
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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