Delaney Driver, Wilder Mind Events
Delaney Driver started Wilder Mind Events, a wedding planning business in Saint Petersburg, Florida, so she could make more money, choose a schedule that fits her lifestyle, and be in full control of the creative process when planning events. Since starting Wilder Mind, Delaney has tackled the challenges of rescheduled weddings during the pandemic, celebrated small business wins like hiring her first employee, and kept her commitment to happiness along the way.
Episode 12 – Delaney Driver, Wilder Mind Events
[00:00:00] Sanjay Parekh: Welcome to the Side Hustle to Small Business Podcast, powered by Hiscox. I’m your host, Sanjay Parekh. Throughout my career I’ve had side hustles, some of which turned into real businesses, but first and foremost: I’m a serial technology entrepreneur.
In the creator space, we hear plenty of advice on how to hustle harder and why you can “sleep when you’re dead.” On this show, we ask new questions in hopes of getting new answers.
Questions like: How can small businesses work smarter? How do you achieve balance between work and family? How can we redefine success in our businesses so that we don’t burn out after year three?
Every week, I sit down with business founders at various stages of their side hustle to small business journey. These entrepreneurs are pushing the envelope while keeping their values. Keep listening for conversation, context, and camaraderie.
[00:00:55] Sanjay Parekh: Have you ever planned a wedding? Gathering all of the details, picking a location, and making decisions can be, for most people, stressful! Enter: Delaney Driver, the founder of Wilder Mind Events.
Wilder Mind Events is a wedding planning service based in Saint Petersburg, Florida. They take a personal approach to wedding coordination and hope to bring fun back into the planning process. Delaney and her team believe that your special day should be free of stress. The Wilder Mind Events team has been awarded the “Best of Weddings” seal from TheKnot.com and a “5-star Couple’s Choice Award” from WeddingWire. Here today to talk more about how she started her business and how she delivers stress-free, fun events is Delaney Driver.
Thanks for being on the podcast, Delaney.
[00:01:40] Delaney Driver: Thanks for having me.
[00:01:41] Sanjay Parekh: So I'd love to hear a little bit about your background first and where did all of this start? Where did you get your start?
Delaney Driver: So it's all kind of random. I was born and raised in Texas. Volleyball was always in my background. Long story short, I ended up playing beach volleyball in college and had a teammate that wanted me to come down to Florida for the summer.
And she had mentioned, let's play in some tournaments, basically, let's just be a beach bum. So I was like, okay, I might as well find an internship or something to make this seem a little bit more legit for my parents to pretty much approve for me to go down there. So, I got an internship that was in the wedding industry and that's kind of how I got my start. I've never been someone that's been planning weddings since they were a little girl. It just kind of fell into my lap, and I ended up really, really liking it and that was how I got my start.
[00:02:40] Sanjay Parekh: So, you just happened to get a job in the wedding events industry, started to learn about how to do the whole thing, so it was like all on the job training. This isn't something, you didn't go to school for hospitality or anything else like that? When you were in college or anything before that?
[00:02:57] Delaney Driver: When I was in college, I was trying to focus in on hospitality. But it's really weird because schools in the south normally don't have hospitality. It's all up in the north that they have hospitality. But I'm like, it's Southern hospitality, like y'all should have this as a major. So that's when I discovered it wasn't really a thing.
[00:03:17] Sanjay Parekh: That is a big oversight by us in the south, I think.
[00:03:19] Delaney Driver: Yeah. It was like, this is so weird. Like why is it so hard to get a hospitality degree in the south? Because I went to school in Louisiana. But they didn't have one. So, I had the idea that I wanted to do events. I thought it would be like on the corporate side. Maybe music festivals, something along those lines.
So, events were on my radar before it turned into wedding planning. Weddings were not on my radar, but just events in general. So, I got my degree in communications because I read that is also a background that most people get when you can't get a hospitality one. So, my undergrad was in communications.
[00:04:01] Sanjay Parekh: Okay, so you had the thought, though, that you would maybe go into to hospitality and so ended up doing communications. That's interesting. So, what was it about weddings that really hit the nail on the head for you? What is it that you really loved about organizing weddings?
[00:04:21] Delaney Driver: What I really liked about it is that it combined my organization and my creativity and it made a baby, basically. And they made wedding planning a thing for me. Because I'm very organized, I'm very detail oriented, but I have always had a creative side, not in a sense to where I can draw anything beautiful.
But I've always had this kind of like creative flair to me. And I felt like with weddings, it really opened that door for me to be able to utilize both of those strengths in my personality. And I also loved how personal it was to be part of someone's, you know. one of the biggest days of their lives.
And I'm a random stranger to them, that basically is coming in and witnessing this entire day and being involved in such an important part. And that really, I think is what made me fall in love with the weddings specifically. ‘Cause if I went to the corporate side, that's more of, here's your budget, make it happen.
Whereas weddings are a lot more emotional, it's a lot more personal, and it's a lot more unique to who the couple is. It's never this—I don't want to say it's never the same thing, sometimes weddings do end up looking the same—but it really isn't always the same thing. ‘Cause each couple has their own personalities and their own flair that they're bringing to their wedding.
So it always has kept me on my toes and has just been a really exciting thing to be part of.
[00:05:49] Sanjay Parekh: That's very interesting. So, you started this internship and I guess the internship was the side hustle, because the main thing was playing beach volleyball. Or I think to your parents, you probably said it the other way, but to us on the podcast, we're going to position it that way.
So, what made you decide then to be like, okay, I'm going to now switch over and start my own thing? And what made you make that decision?
[00:06:17] Delaney Driver: I also never really wanted to have my own business either. I feel like this whole thing has been kind of random, but not. So, I worked for another event company that did like flowers, rentals, and I got my hands into the flower side, the rental side, the planning side.
I really got to see a lot of that. And then that's when I was like, wow, I really hate all the rental and flowers side of this. Don't like it, but I love the wedding planning part. That's when I kind of started getting the idea. I also had so many friends in my ear constantly.
“You should start your own business. Why are you doing this? Start your own business.” Like they were the ones that were, I mean, everybody. I've had random groomsmen and bridesmaids be like you should start your own business. It was just so many people were telling me to do this. And so finally I was like, okay, let me think about this.
What would this look like? Why would I want to do this? And the main reason was that I could get paid a lot more and control my own schedule. That was the motivation behind it. It was like, okay, I could make way more money working for myself, have the brand that I want to have, and get to go on vacation whenever I want. Very millennial thing of me to say. But that, it is what it is.
I can go play more beach volleyball. I can be out in the sun. I can work in a coffee shop. I don't have to be an office. Just the whole idea of having my own business was enough for me to be like, you know what? I'm young. Doesn't work out? I'll go do something else. So I just kind of said, screw it. And went for it.
A little blinded, not sure if this was exactly what I even wanted to do at the time. I believed that I could do it, but I still wasn't like sold that this would be my future. It was just kind of, let's try it and see where it lands.
[00:08:10] Sanjay Parekh: That's interesting that you positioned yourself that way. So, right now where you said, do you think of yourself as an entrepreneur? Or is this stuff that has just happened around you?
[00:08:16] Delaney Driver: No, I definitely consider myself that now. If you asked me this two years ago, the answer probably have been like, no. But, now that I've built it the way that I have, and gotten confidence in myself, you know that this is something I can do.
I grew up in small town Texas and this is nothing to like, say anything to my parents, but my future and what I've always known, with what I grew up around, was that women were going to get married and you have a family and you stay at home. That's what I've always imagined my future to be and not because my parents ever pressured that, but that's just all that I saw.
That's what my friends did. That's just what I saw. So, when I came to Florida and got my eyes open to a whole ‘nother world, the idea of being a female owner was just a little taboo to me, it was just a little strange. I had no one to look up to. I didn't have any people in my life that were necessarily female entrepreneurs.
So it was just kind of this, like, it wasn't really scary, but it was just a very unknown thing because I've never pictured my life for the last 20-something years to be going this direction and now I'm completely rewriting the script and doing something and I don't really have anyone guiding me.
I'm just going to kind of wing it and see what happens. So yeah, now that I've gone through all of that, have developed really good connections with other people, and have gotten my feet on the ground, I definitely 1000% consider myself a female entrepreneur.
[00:09:55] Sanjay Parekh: Timing-wise, I think I saw you launched yours in March of 2020. Is that right?
[00:10:03] Delaney Driver: It is, yes.
[00:10:04] Sanjay Parekh: Perfect timing for the beginning of the pandemic. So, talk to me about that. What happened? When did you start? Was it actually before the lockdown or after the lockdown? How did that all work out?
[00:10:15] Delaney Driver: It was two weeks before the lockdown. So, I could laugh at it now. It was painful then. But I, yeah, I started it March 6th is the date that I've given myself when everything was pretty much like launching. And then had about two weeks and then the lockdown happened.
So, it was the worst, best timing ever. The good news is I didn't have any clients to deal with any of the reschedules. So, I dodged an entire bullet that the wedding industry really suffered from. They had to reschedule everything to next year. We've never dealt with this before. There was nothing in contracts to protect yourself against something like this.
So, everyone that I know did their reschedules and pretty much lost an entire year's worth of work because it was all rescheduled to the following year. So, they couldn't book more weddings for 2021 because they all were reschedules. So, I missed that. I dodged that bullet completely. So that's something I'm very thankful for, that I didn't have to deal with that side of things.
And then the other good thing is that since we were in a lockdown, when I started in March, that's like busy season in Florida. So, when the lockdown happened, everybody had nothing to do besides obviously try to reschedule things and figure out what was going on. So, I really got to get the attention of a lot of vendors to be like, Hey, look, I started my own business.
Come with me. Like here's all the stuff I can do. Here's what I'm trying to build. So, I got the attention of a lot of people that I think I wouldn't have gotten the attention from if we were in busy season. Cause they just would have been so busy doing their own thing. But they could hear me out in this situation.
And now that everyone had postponed and all of that, we're experiencing a huge wedding boom. So once again, it ended up being perfect timing because even though I didn't have events until probably the fall of 2020, I'm like so booked up. I'm going crazy over here because there's so many weddings and there's so much business to go around that it's really put me in a position to be really successful without me obviously knowing it at the time.
[00:12:29] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Yeah. I mean they often say, and people often say, and I've even said is that the downtimes the bad times of the economy are the best times to start up a new company and new business. Because there is just so much opportunity and so much confusion and chaos, that it's a good time for you to do these kinds of things.
Let's talk about that year, then, of 2020. Like you, you had this expectation that you were going to be making some money, I'm imagining. But it was really a year of building relationships. So how did you survive, yourself? And was there any revenue in that first year, that first calendar year?
[00:13:07] Delaney Driver: Yeah, so I, I got a nanny job, right? When the lockdown happened. I happened to fall into a position where I could watch a newborn for three days out of the week. So that ended up kind of being my side hustle while trying to build this business, so that I could have some sort of steady income.
And with her being a newborn, she napped a lot. When I had talked with the people that were hiring me, I was like, look like I'm building a business, while she's napping, like I need to be able to answer emails, answer phone calls. Like obviously when she's awake, she'll have my attention, but like my business is my priority. And they were absolutely wonderful, completely understood it, supported it. And so that really helped me because I nannied with them from 2020 until the fall of 2021. So, I was with them for a year and a half because they were so accommodating and able to work with my schedule. So that really helped me create like a steady income that at least paid my bills.
So I knew if I didn't get any weddings, I at least wasn't going to be homeless. I could have that to fall back on. And then as far as actual weddings are concerned and vendor relationships, since I had already been in the industry with another company, I already had good relationships. It was just a matter of like them coming and believing in what I did.
Which really wasn't that hard to do. It's just getting the weddings. So I was able to start building more relationships. We do these things called styled shoots, where you basically do a set-up of a fake wedding. Like you have models, you have them in dresses, you do the design. So I did a lot of these styled shoots to kind of prove myself to other vendors, get my name in their mouths.
And then there was a few people that really latched onto me and they're like, you got something special, here's some couples. And they started sending me people. So I had about 10 weddings in October, or not October, in fall of 2020. Maybe made $20 to $30,000 in the wedding side for that. So made a little bit of money, but the nanny job is what kept me afloat.
And then once 2021 hit, that's when it, I had, I think I had about, I counted them, and I can't remember it. But it was around 50 weddings in 2021.
[00:15:33] Sanjay Parekh: For the full year of 2021?
[00:15:35] Delaney Driver: Yeah. Yeah. So for the entire 2021, I had about 50 weddings. So it like skyrocketed once 2021 hit.
[00:15:43] Sanjay Parekh: So for 2020 though, it was a good six, eight months before you had any weddings? Like from where you started?
[00:15:51] Delaney Driver: My first wedding was in September. So, five months?
[00:15:58] Sanjay Parekh: So six months from your starting date? Five, six months.
[00:16:00] Delaney Driver: Yeah.
[00:16:00] Sanjay Parekh: Okay. So that was a good bit of time. And fortunately, you had that side hustle. So now though, so when you started, it was just you in the company. You've got an employee at least one now.
When is it that you took that leap and decided like, Hey, I need help. I am understaffed and I know I can't get everything done yeah.
[00:16:24] Delaney Driver: So this will be another one of your random universe looking out for me things as well. Cause that's just my entire story here. So in 2020, fall of 2020 before my very first wedding. And I did have one small wedding in May.
I don't want to discredit that one. I had one small wedding in May, but my like main, big, first, full on wedding was in September. And this girl named Taylor reached out to me and she had just moved to Florida. She had a background in hospitality and catering, and she was like, basically in the same situation I was, where she was like, I got nothing to do.
I like weddings. Do you need help? And I was like, you know what? Sure. I can't pay you right now. If you want to come help though, like you can, any tips we get, you can take that. I can't offer you much. So, zero pressure if you want to come and join. And she was like, no, like I got you.
Let me come. So, she actually did the first wedding with me in September. That was like our little trial run, and she did wonderful. So, I got super, super lucky and I was like, look, if this whole fall works out, once 2021 weddings start hitting, I'll start paying you. If you want to be with me. And she did.
So we went all the way of 2021 together, and now I'm in the works of getting her as an official employee to be full-time with me. But she came at a time I didn't know I needed help yet, but I definitely wouldn't have been able to do all those weddings if I didn't have somebody else with me.
So it was like, once again, perfect timing. I say she was my little gift from God sent from above. Put a little bow on her head because she has been the biggest blessing for my business, and has been really pivotal in my success, and why I am able to take on so much is because I have someone else that's helping me who likes me, which is always good, but also is good and does things the way that I want them done. So I'm holding onto her as much as I can. So she doesn't leave me.
[00:18:28] Sanjay Parekh: I often say, and I think most entrepreneurs say, I'd rather be lucky than good. Because man luck will get you through a lot of stuff and it's just a surprise, and it sounds like you got pretty lucky there with Taylor.
[00:18:43] Adam Walker: Support for this podcast comes from Hiscox. Committed to helping small businesses protect their dreams since 1901. Quotes and information on customized insurance for specific risks are available at hiscox.com. Hiscox, the business insurance experts.
[00:19:03] Sanjay Parekh: So let's talk a little bit about balancing life. For entrepreneurs, it's a hard thing to balance work and life because these things blend together. You're in a job, in an industry where your job is usually during the times where most people are relaxing, right? These are usually evening events and weekend events and things like that.
So how do you balance life and balance being able to take a break from everything? You talked about before, about being able to control your time, do vacations, and things like that. So how do you manage all of that?
[00:19:38] Delaney Driver: Yeah, it's definitely difficult. I feel like it's something that I'm constantly working on and getting better at. If someone has a secret code, I would love to know ‘cause I feel like this is something that I'm forever going to be working on throughout the entire time I am owning a business. I think it's just something that goes with it, because we have busy seasons, we don't have busy seasons. So some, sometimes it just requires more of my time in certain months, which is fine.
So the biggest things, when I was doing the nanny job and the wedding planning, I had zero work-life balance because it was nannying, wedding planning, coming home, wedding planning more. Like zero free time. Once I was ready to move on and be full-time wedding planner, the couple that I nannied for, like they knew before I even knew.
‘Cause they could just see the burnout on my face. ‘Cause I was just exhausted. So when I went full time, I attempted to make office hours, which apparently helps. But I think with the way I function, I don't know if it really helps, because I work really well at nighttime. I like to work from 9:00 to 11:00 PM or midnight because no one's bothering me.
My schedule's a little whacky and it's not consistent. But I will say I do things in chunks and that seems to really help. If I want to play volleyball, for instance, I'll work in the morning, I'll have meetings, then maybe at two o'clock from two to four, or two to five or whatever chunk of time I have, I'll go play volleyball. Come home, cook, and then I'll work the rest of the evening.
So I kind of do things in chunks and base my schedule around what I'm wanting to do that week. Whether that's in the evenings, in the daytime. I thankfully now have a lot of female entrepreneur friends, so I am able to do stuff on weekdays and get to be around people on weekdays and not just weekends. But for the weekends, I am building a team and depending on the package that you pick with me, you're not guaranteed to have me as the wedding planner.
So we could have a wedding, like for instance, I could have a wedding this weekend that is a lower package and I may not be doing it. I might just be sending my team. So then I get a free weekend to myself and I can go play in a tournament.
I can go somewhere for the weekend because my team's handling it. So that's how I'm starting to build the balance with my weekends. So I'm not working every weekend and same with them, cause I don't want my team working every single weekend cause I don't want them burning out.
So, I'm trying to bring in more people, so that we can have that balance where it's like, Hey, Reggae Rise up is happening and I want to go to this festival and it's this weekend. Can I go? And it's sure because I have all these other girls that I can call in. So, you go have fun.
I definitely try to translate as much as I can of what I would want as an employee, into their lives too because I don't want them to like get burned to the ground either. If I don't want to do it, I don't want to make them do it either. So yeah. Figuring it out.
[00:22:44] Sanjay Parekh: So, as you're kind of scaling all of this as a first-time entrepreneur, accidental entrepreneur, maybe as well, are there kind of tools or apps or things that you use day to day, and you're like, man, if this didn't exist, this would be such a harder business to run.
Like what are some of those tricks that you've got?
[00:23:06] Delaney Driver: My Google Calendar runs my entire life. Just as simple as having a Google Calendar has saved me from so much stress. I even put my personal stuff in it. Where it's like, okay, I want to play volleyball at this time in two weeks, chunk it off in my calendar.
Now I know not to make meetings around that time. So, as simple as Google calendars are, that has been like one of the best things to, to manage my time and to also I can look back and I can see all these meetings I have, and I can evaluate every time I look at the calendar. Which is very often where I'm like, man, I really jam packed my entire March, now I know moving forward, I don't want to do that again this month. That's why I was so burned out.
So, it's a good reference point for me to look at how much I'm working. ‘Cause everything goes on my calendar. So it's in my face at all times. I'm seeing what I'm doing.
And then I also use a system called HoneyBook and that's on the wedding side. So, all the contracts, invoices, proposals, all that stuff goes through HoneyBook. Which is super nice. So, when you go on my website and fill out a contact form, if you're interested in using us it goes directly to my email, but it's also connected through HoneyBook. So I can just click on that and then all the information is already inputted into HoneyBook.
So I don't have to manually enter their names, wedding date, all this stuff, it just all streamlines through the system. And then I have templates in there and ways to keep organized. And you have like checklists. I have like these questionnaires you can fill out. So it makes it really easy to help streamline things a little bit better.
So I'm not manually entering in the same stuff for every single client, because I was doing that at one point and it was taking so much of my time. And then one of my photographer friends like sat me down and they're like, okay, here's how it works. Let me show you all the things you can be doing, and it has been absolutely wonderful.
I can even schedule things like if I wanted to send a checklist, you booked me for April of next year, and I want to send you a checklist a month before your wedding, I can go ahead and schedule it for that date the second you book, and I don't even have to think about it again. Because it's scheduled for when it's supposed to send through. So that's another system that I use. That's really nice.
[00:25:23] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah, a great piece of advice there. Okay. So last question in terms of advice. And then I've got one about events you've done. So, a couple that's planning a wedding, what advice would you give them to make their experience as smooth as possible?
[00:25:42] Delaney Driver: Ooh, as smooth as possible. Hire a wedding planner. Easy. Step one, hire a wedding planner. And hire a good wedding planner. That's how you'll get the most smooth wedding.
[00:25:54] Sanjay Parekh: And then step two is just relax, right? Like then relax. But if they can't hire a wedding planner, or even if they have a wedding planner, like what could they do to make their experience a little bit easier on themselves and everybody else around them?
[00:26:09] Delaney Driver: So I would say probably the biggest thing... Oh, that's hard. The vendors that you book in general, wedding planner, DJ, all that stuff. For lack of a better way to say it, don't be cheap with it. Hire good quality vendors that have a good reputation. If they happen to be on the cheaper side, that's great.
But don't try to like bargain and get people that have no reputation, that have no reviews, like just to save a penny, because that's how your wedding gets ruined very quickly. It's that typical ‘you get what you pay for’ type thing. There's some really great quality vendors that are affordable. So not saying go spend $10,000 on a photographer but get quality vendors.
Because they're the ones, even if you don't have a wedding planner, especially. Those are the vendors you're relying on to make sure your day is functioning. So if they're not good and they don't know what they're doing, then it just trickles down all the way to the couple, to the guest, and the whole experience can just be terrible.
So that would probably my biggest advice to give you a peace of mind is hire people that are recommended by your venue, by other vendors. Hire people that have a good reputation, that you can actually trust on your wedding day. Then another little piece of advice is to do what you want as a couple.
There's so many voices that are going to be telling you what to do. Maybe it's parents, maybe it's friends. Like at the end of the day, you're getting married for a reason. And as much as I would love for everything to be a big production, it's not about that. It's about you getting married. And so I think staying centered in that experience and saying, okay, we want to do this because this is about us.
And this is about our marriage and our future. I think if you have that mindset and can stay centered, it really helps you not stress on all these other things. As much as I would love to have these flowers or this, like at the end of the day, why are we here? Why are we doing this? And it's not because you're going to have these like insane centerpieces, it's because you're marrying someone that you love and that's your future.
So, staying grounded and centered is really, really important because it's easy to lose sight of why you're even having a wedding.
[00:28:32] Sanjay Parekh: Okay. Last question, you've been through a lot of these now. What is the most unusual or interesting, crazy, whatever you want to call it, event request you've had to accomplish for a client in the past?
[00:28:48] Delaney Driver: Oh, okay. Let's see.
[00:28:53] Sanjay Parekh: I'm trying to give our listeners some ideas of things that they should ask for from their wedding planners.
[00:28:57] Delaney Driver: Yeah. Okay. So I really don't get anything that's like a ridiculous request, necessarily. My couples tend to be on the more quirky side anyway, like I have a couple that just spoke to me that met at a Jimmy Buffet concert and they're wanting to like, have a Jimmy Buffet-like flair to their wedding. I don't think that's weird at all. I'm like, that's awesome. Let's have a seating chart with Jimmy Buffett songs. Let's go crazy with this theme.
[00:29:24] Sanjay Parekh: Okay, Delaney. If our listeners want to find you and your business, how can they do that?
[00:29:28] Delaney Driver: Yeah, there's several ways. I would say Instagram's probably going to be the most fun for you to follow cause I'm constantly posting and the tag is just Wilder Mind Events, and then you can find me on my website, which is just www.wildermindevents.com. But yeah, you can find me on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, it's all just Wilder Mind Events.
So, it's really easy to find. But we're on pretty much all social media and that's probably the best way, the best way to find me in the best way to see constant updated work would be through Instagram.
[00:30:03] Sanjay Parekh: Awesome. Delaney, thanks for coming on the podcast.
[00:30:06] Delaney Driver: Thank you for having me.
[00:31:15] Sanjay Parekh: Thank you for listening to this week’s episode of the Side Hustle to Small Business Podcast, powered by Hiscox. To learn more about how Hiscox can help protect your small business through intelligent insurance solutions, visit hiscox.com. And if you have a story you want to hear on this podcast, please visit Hiscox.com/shareyourstory. I’m your host, Sanjay Parekh. You can find me on Twitter at @sanjay or on my website at sanjayparekh.com
[00:34:15] Sanjay Parekh: Thank you for listening to this week’s episode of the Side Hustle to Small Business Podcast, powered by Hiscox. To learn more about how Hiscox can help protect your small business through intelligent insurance solutions, visit hiscox.com.
And, if you have a story that you want to hear on this podcast, please visit Hiscox.com/shareyourstory.
I’m your host, Sanjay Parekh. You can find me on Twitter at @sanjay or on my website at sanjayparekh.com.