DamionHamilton-2Education: My educational background includes the study of live theater in college, but after college, I went to work for an internal audit department in the University of California system—auditing gave me the analytical skills I needed to marry to my inherent creative skills.
Starting the business: Essentially, I had planned my own wedding and was looking for a career where I could stay home and take care of the kids. I needed to earn a minimal amount of money each month to make ends meet and picked up a book on 101 Best Homebased Businesses and one of those was bridal consultant. It suggested contacting the Association of Bridal Consultants (ABC) for more information, so I did. I started with the ABC as a novice.
Evaluating success: I evaluate success by the quality of my vendor relationships. I want the vendors to like working with us, to find that we make their jobs easier, and know that we trust them implicitly to do the right thing for the event. It’s that type of planner that can help dispel the myth that all planners only want to control their vendors.
One business mistake: I burned a lot of bridges when I was new and thought I was amazing and everybody should do as I say because I was the planner, and it was my client. Suffice it to say it that it’s hard to cross a bridge you’ve burned. It’s humbling when somebody tells you years later all the things you said to them—even if you thought it was justified at the time. That’s a big plate of crow.
Damion-Hamilton-5On becoming a master: I became a Master around six years after I joined the ABC. The process was faster then, but the changes made to the application process over time were important to keep the legitimacy of the designation.
On the ABC: I became a member because I wanted to get an education in the industry, and they were the first place I looked that had the most comprehensive study program. I’m still a member. It’s the only professional organization I have maintained membership with.
Mentors: My publicist has been one of my biggest mentors. She made me see things differently. She challenges me to own my greatness and define who I am and my style. She’s been with me since 2004 and has been a cornerstone of what I do ever since.
Inspiration: I can be inspired by most anything, but clients are the biggest source since they are the end recipients of the event design. I see something that I think is cool and then tweak it for them.
Marketing strategy: Other than promoting my company as an influencer of others in the event industry and positioning us as a top wedding design company, we don’t have a huge marketing “strategy.” I don’t pay for advertising and haven’t since 2000. With two books published, TV appearances, and magazine/blog/podcast appearances and PR, we have credence. At this point, it’s a matter of managing SEO, speaking opportunities, being selective about published articles and keeping ourselves out there.
On staying fresh: I don’t pigeonhole us into a style. With 22 years in the industry, I’ve seen trends come and go and what’s held up is designing to a client’s desires and using them as your muse.
Ideal client: I don’t turn down clients because of personality differences. It’s up to them to decide if they can work with me for their planning and design. It’s really somebody who wants to have an awesome guest experience, has the money to pay for it, and trusts our relationship with our vendors and clients.
Damion-Hamilton-4Favorite business book: You are a Badass by Jen Sincero—because I am a badass, but sometimes I need reminding.
Free time: Some may ask how I have free time between doing events, having the Consultancy for Creatives, and traveling for speaking engagements, but two seasons ago, I tore out our entire front lawn, put up a hog wire fence, and planted a front yard vegetable garden as part of the Grow Food, Not Lawns movement. I love it. I have 10 large raised beds and grow everything from artichokes to zucchini and tons of tomatoes.
Words of wisdom: Always be yourself. Quit paying attention to other planners in your local market. You’ll just make yourself crazy and get competitive. Focus on making yourself better. Find a mentor or a coach to get you out of your own way.
Giving back: I have been aligned with many not-for-profits over the years, including as founding president of Wish Upon a Wedding and a board member for the SEARCH Foundation. I also started a mentorship and consultancy, and while it’s a paid program, I did it to help people get a leg up in the industry, learn how to be better at it, and understand sales and marketing to increase visibility.
Family: I have six kids with my husband (I have four and he has two). The oldest is 29. I have a 26-year-old adult son with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a form of autism, and he lives in a group home with other autistic adults. The kids who live at home are 16, 14, and 9.
Little known fact: I’m super shy in person, a fact that people who know me understand but those who have seen me speak are flabbergasted by. While I do a speaking engagement without issue, if I don’t know you or am in a room full of strangers, I’m not holding court in the middle, I’m hiding behind the bar or offering to do scullery work in the back. WPM

ABC Member Since: 1997
Employees: 2
Contact: 707-253-8160, www.sashasouzaevents.com, s@sashasouzaevents.com
Social Media: Instagram.com/sashasouzaevents; Facebook.com/sashasouzaevents; Twitter.com/sashasouza; LinkedIn = Sasha V. Souza