JLCU: Women and Entrepreneurship in Chicago – An evening with Melissa Daniel


On Thursday, March 2, The JLCU committee hosted Melissa “Misse” Daniel, owner of Honey Bee Weddings. Misse has been a member of the Junior League for the past four years. After years of professional event planning experience, Misse’s co-worker asked her to plan a wedding on a bison ranch in Kansas. After pulling off her co-worker’s dream wedding Misse realized her calling In April 2007, Honey Bee (Melissa means Honey Bee in Greek) Weddings was born!

The first three years Misse kept her day job as a consultant while getting Honey Bee Weddings off the ground. Once she was comfortable with the amount of revenue she was bringing in consistently, she quit her job and focused on Honey Bee full time.

Misse shared some valuable tips on starting a business, especially if you are an ambitious woman who plans on having a family (Misse is married with a six year old daughter):

  1. Create a business plan. Misse believes it doesn’t have to be 100 pages, five will suffice. You should think about your market, price point, weaknesses, and competition. “I would say that if you have any questions about opening your own business, definitely seize the opportunity, but before you jump, there are statistics out about how businesses fail. You should have some sort of plan in place.”
  2. Misse stresses the importance of a PR Plan. PR is vital to getting your brand out there. Some markets, like wedding planning, have a very low barrier for entry. Misse just created her website and ordered business cards on Vista print. However, it was a lucky feature in the Chicago Tribune that jump-started Honey Bee Weddings. Now Misse has been featured in many high- end Chicago wedding publications.
  3. Do your research. Misse has been able to succeed in a very saturated market where 50 percent of her competition have closed their businesses. She understands her strengths and who are her niche clients. “There are probably ten new wedding planners every year. Fifty percent of them won’t make it”
  4. Know what you are willing to give up. Misse works on her bride’s schedules, which makes planning family time tricky. Melissa is able to be a Girl Scout Troop leader for her six year old daughter and plan family vacations abroad because she sets priorities. “There is really no time off. I will work every third day on vacation. I can’t not work.”
  5. Be prepared to wear many hats. “When you are a small business owner, you do everything. You have to do the advertising and the sales, and the PR and the HR,” Misse says, “and there are things I despise. I do not like hiring. I like everyone!”
  6.  Plan for your worst-case scenario. Know what is the lowest amount you would have to make to keep your business going. Plan for recessions and dips in the market. “2011 was by far my worse year. I know where I should be by January 1st.  You should be booked a certain percentage by the start of the year, knowing that weddings will still fill in throughout the year. I was really low, and thought that it would start pick up and did a little, but not as much as I expected. I made a lot less money that year.”
  7. Consider who you want to be aligned with in the market ( budget, midlevel, high end) “My target market is, especially in the low season, I will take a wedding that is in the 55-60 thousand dollar range, and then my higher end weddings are in the 300 thousand range.”
  8.  Be culturally knowledgeable. “I appreciate other people’s cultures and I am very willing to learn all about it. I have done Korean weddings, Filipino Weddings, South Asian weddings, just a variety of backgrounds.” Misse recalls, “I had a bridesmaid at a Filipino wedding joke, ‘You really get our people.’ And she paid for me to be her planner at her destination wedding. It was super awesome!”

Misse’s wedding trends for 2017:

  1. Blush accents and natural greens are going to be popular for about another year, before making way for bright colors.
  2. Mason Jars are out.
  3. More couples are serving more personalized cocktails and entrees.
  4. Hanging centerpieces from the ceiling is going to be a particularly hot trend.
  5. The Midwest is the most conservative market “ We have our Midwestern values and we like a plated dinner. A few years ago,  Drew Barrymore and Jenna Bush, they all did family style. Family style was cool for about five years, and you could not get a Chicago Bride to do it.”
  6. Skip the plated desert. Most people want to do desert bars that are easy to personalize by adding exciting touches like gelato and exotic flavored cotton candy. Budget late night snacks are also on trend.
  7. Mixed bridal parties are becoming more popular.
  8. Hotel weddings are also out of style. Most brides are getting married in interesting event spaces like the Cultural Center, The Chicago Illuminating Company, and Morgan Manufacturing.
  9. Garter and bouquet tosses have gone by the wayside.
  10. Favors are out, Charity is in. “Couples in Chicago are getting married in their late 20’s, 30’s and late 30’s. A lot of brides already have a connection to a charity. Again, this should be personal, but if not I have some charities that I can recommend.”

At the end of the day: Make sure your wedding is unique to who you are.

By Adriane Clomax, 2016-17 Topics and Trends staff member 



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