Excerpted from Tonya Shadoan’s Don’t Let the Blond Hair Fool You.

People often ask how I started my event planning business with only $121 and an idea. To make a long story short, I just happened to get into the industry before it became the most popular, fastest-growing industry in the country. It wasn’t long before I went from owning a small business to a profitable empire. How? By learning to stand out in the crowd.

Find your gift and fine-tune your focus
Can you imagine you and your competitors as mice, all hovering around one piece of cheese?  What happens over time if each keeps nipping away at that one piece of cheese?  Eventually, all will be left with nothing.  While the example might seem silly, I can’t stress enough how really important it is that business owners specialize within their industry.  You don’t want the same clients your competition has, but you do want to stand apart from them.  Once I found my niche (which, not surprisingly, proved to be something that I am passionate about), the money followed.  Simply put, the more you narrow your search for your perfect bride, the easier the profits come in to your business.  You don’t have to cave to the prices of your competitor. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing either. In fact, once you discover your true gift within your industry, you are going to fall back in love with your business and attract the ideal client—the kind that pays you what you are worth.

An important step in discovering your personal niche is truly knowing what your gifts are and how you differ from others.  I always laugh inside when a bride comes into my office and says, “I want my wedding to be elegant and classy!”  What she doesn’t know is that every bride says that—literally, every bride.  The words don’t actually indicate any difference. They are just words used to describe weddings.  It’s our job as wedding planners to dig a little deeper to pull out her vision.  Just like we dig deep to discover what our bride really wants, we have to dig deep to discover what makes us unique in the crowded marketplace.

So what makes you different from other wedding 
It takes a much deeper journey to know what you really want, who you really are, and how you are different.  Ask yourself:
• What do I do differently?
• What is my niche?
• What is my greatest asset to the industry?
• Does my marketing represent those differences?

The faster you figure out your differences, the quicker you can “niche” yourself in the wedding industry.  Take a moment and create a list of your passions.  You can start by listing 25 adjectives that describe you as a person.  Remember, what you see as normal others see as a “gift.”  Maybe you are organized, energetic, an outdoor wedding enthusiast, detailed, etc.  Go ahead and create the list, and circle the top three that set you apart.  Think about the last bride you booked. What was the first thing you did in the planning process?

Embracing your individuality determines your worth
Once you acknowledge and embrace your uniqueness and apply it to your business, there really isn’t such a thing as competition for you anymore.  You are now a stand-alone business that is the green apple amidst all the oranges.  Your special gift, that thing that sets you apart, is what makes you a juicy, plump green apple in that box of oranges.  The customer will no longer shop by price, but with emotion. You have captivated her attention by being you—different.  Don’t be afraid to stand out.  There is a client that is a perfect fit for you.  But don’t be afraid to announce to the world why you are so special.  Brides will pay you what you are worth when you announce your specialty.

**Tonya Shadoan is the founder of the 30-30-30 Business Challenge. she helps professionals and corporations expand their services, update their images, build or modernize their websites, build and train their staffs, utilize social media and employ other effective marketing techniques. on average, her clients enjoy a 35 percent increase in revenues following her recommendations. shadoan has a master’s degree in education, is a personal coach to women across the country, a highly regarded speaker and presenter, and the author of the recently published Don’t Let the Blond Hair Fool You. she has three children and lives in indianapolis. find out more at www.tonyashadoan.com.

Win your own Copy!
Follow Wedding Planner Magazine on Twitter (@wedplanmag) and like us on Facebook for your chance to win a copy of Tonya Shadoan’s new book, Don’t Let the Blond Hair Fool You. A drawing will be held among Facebook fans, and another among Twitter followers on Friday, July 27, 2012. Winners will be announced in the September/October issue of Wedding Planner Magazine.

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