Ambassador Feature: Neena McConnell
Name: Neena McConnell
Location: Peterborough, ON and the Kawartha Lakes area
QC Courses you’ve taken / are taking:
Your website: www.wallflowereventsanddesigns.com
*Headshot by Heather Doughty Photography.
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
I was born and raised in Peterborough, Ontario, and come from a long line of entrepreneurs. You can usually find me designing or planning a wedding, or creating unique and bold bridal bouquets. Otherwise, you can find me with my husband and our Australian Shepherd at our family cottage; glass of wine in hand.
I love to travel and explore the world. It’s a privilege to be able to learn about other cultures and trends, and incorporate elements of them into my work!
Why did you decide to become a wedding and event planner?
I’ve always thrived when working under pressure. Weddings and events are extremely fascinating to plan! Every client is different from the last. I wanted a career that was fast-paced, a little unpredictable, and extremely fulfilling.
Almost all of my past jobs over the last 15 years played a part in my decision! I’ve worked in flower boutiques, men and women’s formal wear stores, as well as banks and wealth management facilities. I took what I learned from each place and then began the necessary steps towards obtaining my event planner certification.
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Why did you decide to pursue your wedding and event planner certification online, rather than in-person?
I chose to pursue my event planner certification online instead of in-person for multiple reasons. For starters, I already had brick-and-mortar experience from attending University. Online school, in contrast, allowed me to learn at my own pace and in the comfort of my own home. Thanks to this flexibility, I was able to work two jobs, spend time training a young puppy, plan my own wedding, and travel to other countries with my now-husband.
Ultimately, why did you decide to enroll with QC Event School (compared to the other schools out there)?
QC Event School was an easy decision when it came to enrolling in an online event planner certification course. Not only was the school recommended to me by someone I trust – what stood out the most was the mentorship and encouragement received from the course tutors. On top of that, QC Event School offers a Virtual Classroom where students and alumni can gather online to discuss courses, real-life scenarios, ask questions, and network with like-minded individuals.
You can’t find that sort of community with many other online schools!
You also have a remarkably impressive background in floral design. Tell us more about that!
I have always held such a passion for floral design and the creative freedom that comes with it. Even at a young age, I knew that I was born to create; I just didn’t know what the “medium” would be. It wasn’t until I landed one of my very first jobs – a customer service representative in a local grocery store flower shop – that I found my passion for floral design. Flash forward 15 years, and I now have extensive training (both professionally and self-taught). Not only is floral design a passion; it’s also now a huge part of my career!
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Your business, Wallflower Events and Designs, also offers clients event decor services. In your own opinion, why do you feel event decor training is a strong asset for any professional planner?
Event decor training is such a strong asset to have! It helps further your knowledge of the event and wedding planning industry as a whole. Plus, it’s an additional service for you to offer current, past, and prospective clients.
When I first started my business, Wallflower Events and Designs, I had a good idea of how to plan and coordinate a wedding, thanks to my event planner certification. However, setting up the event space was a different story. I understood basic color theory from floral design training, and I knew what I personally found to be aesthetically pleasing. But it wasn’t until I dove into the art of event decor that I realized all that I truly had to learn.
You also have been building quite the following on your social media. What tips do you have for beginner planners who are trying to establish an online presence?
If I’ve learned one thing about social media and building a following, it’s this: show up, engage with your followers and fellow industry professionals, and share what you know!
It’s not about how many people you follow or how many followers you have. It’s about the content you’re able to provide your audience, and how informative you can be without losing their interest. When in doubt, a collaboration goes a long way! Collaborations will help you get your name out there, especially when building a following.
What challenges did you face when first launching your own business, and how did you overcome them?
Launching your own business and committing to being your own boss is a challenge within itself. I admire anyone who decides to take that leap of faith!
One of the biggest challenges I faced when launching my business was “imposter syndrome”. In the beginning stages of the business, self-doubt was a huge cloud hanging over my head. But by learning to trust myself, my education, my professionalism, and my desire to succeed, I was eventually able to overcome that fear.
*Photo by Heather Doughty Photography.
You’ve recently joined QC’s team of Student Ambassadors. As an Ambassador, what is the #1 reason you would recommend QC Event School to those aspiring to get their wedding and event planner certification?
I am extremely excited to have joined QC’s team of Student Ambassadors! As an Ambassador, the #1 reason I would recommend QC is the experience and mentorship this school has to offer. The case studies provided in the course material are equivalent to hands-on experience, and you graduate feeling ready to run a live event! Plus, there’s also QC’s blog, Pointers for Planners, that has proven to be quite helpful for my own business. Whenever I was looking for a quick answer on a particular subject, QC’s blog articles were there to help guide me to the right information.
How has your career been affected since COVID-19 began? In what ways have you adjusted to the changes the event planning industry has been undergoing during this global pandemic?
When COVID-19 began affecting weddings and events, I feared for this industry – as well as all of the couples facing cancellations and postponements. For the most part, I was able to shift my business online. I started conducting virtual consultations over video chat, creating inspiration boards, and putting together “worst-case scenario” plans from my computer.
I reminded my clients that their special day WILL come… It may just look a little different than they’d originally imagined. The weddings that were able to move forward were scaled down to elopements or micro-weddings. Honestly, though, there was so much beauty found in that process! Everyone was able to slow down, take a step back, and soak in the whole picture.
What has been your favorite moment to date in your planning career?
I’m the type of person that every wedding or event I’m working on in that moment becomes my favorite. But if I had to choose, I would say my own business launch party back in the winter of 2019. I was surrounded by friends and family, as well as a few potential clients. It was in that moment where I knew I had made the right choice in becoming a small business owner.
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What’s in store for Wallflower Events & Design in 2021 and beyond?
SO many plans! I have big, big plans for my business in 2021 and beyond. That being said, I’m most excited about my new studio build. I am fortunate enough to have outgrown a small bedroom studio, and have since moved to a new house with my husband. The new studio will be built in our large basement, with a separate entrance for my clients to use when I am able to conduct in-person consultations again. The studio plans include a workshop, consultation area, and a large walk-in cooler for all the big and bold wedding flowers set for next year!
Finally: what is YOUR definition of “success” as a professional planner?
If you are doing what you love, doing it well, and making money doing it, then that is “success” in my opinion! It doesn’t matter if you have five events, twenty, or one hundred. It’s how you feel putting the work in, seeing everything come together, appreciating a job well done!