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Julia's Celebrant Agency
Celebrating business success
Love does come easy with Julia Doeven’s new agency, which allows couples to quickly and easily find a marriage celebrant online. Julia’s Celebrant Agency (JCA) is well placed to succeed thanks partly to advice from the Small Business Mentoring Service.
As a marriage celebrant, Julia ran her own successful business for six years before coming up with the idea for an online agency. After unofficially running it for two years, she decided to formalise and officially launch the unique and much-needed online service.
“I realised a need for a proper referral system, an online platform that couples can quickly and easily seek celebrants’ availability and book them immediately without endless phone calls and running around,” Julia says. “The response from celebrants has been extremely positive.”
Melbourne’s only such agency, JCA allows customers to match a celebrant to their wedding style after browsing and comparing those available. Celebrants sign up free and pay no ongoing fees, while clients only pay if they book through JCA’s quick and easy online process.
At this stage the service covers weddings within Melbourne and regional Victoria, but some celebrants offer to perform weddings interstate.
The agency also offers the JCA Celebrant Guarantee for cases where a booked celebrant is unable to attend. JCA organises and guarantees a registered replacement, relieving stress to all. The agency also offers learning days and fun social events for registered celebrants.
Julia already has 19 registered celebrants and her customers include engaged couples, couples wanting to marry quickly, married couples renewing their vows and wedding planners.
It's a clever business model, but Julia wanted to ensure she had everything in place. After a friend in the wedding industry suggested SBMS, she found it to be extremely useful.
“I wanted to feel confident in having the right foundations to build my agency,” Julia says. “I knew that if I chose the right mentor, every angle of the business would be looked at from experienced eyes.”
Julia was matched with mentor Tina Manolitsas, a marketing strategist and digital media expert skilled in developing marketing strategy and building a digital media platform that better connects customers with brands and the people behind them to maximise profits. Her specialities include marketing strategy, digital media, goal setting and business management.
SBMS is a non-government, non-profit organisation of volunteer expert mentors who give their time and experience to help small business. It is supported by Small Business Victoria, which refers clients to it.
Julia had three sessions with Tina and some phone and email contact over five months. Mentoring is continuing. Initially they discussed marketing and general business advice relevant to Julia’s business.
“My role was and is to provide Julia with guidance and support in relation to marketing,” Tina says. “I also guide Julia on apps or software that may be useful and or relevant to her business. It is then up to Julia to discuss with her contractors if these are applicable to deliver a solution that meets her business goals and the needs of her prospective clients.”
The focus has been on creating:
- A meaningful and credible brand presence
- A vision to create a connection to engage her audiences
- An easy to navigate web design with a clear message about JCA’s services
- Automated (backend) support systems such as auto responder, SMS group deliveries and integration with the website database, making data collection and distribution easy
- A set of celebrant launch activities and offerings to entice them to join the service
They also discussed confidence building, a celebrant engagement model, ways of keeping momentum going and maximising opportunities with target audience.
Tina says Julia is now confident in her approach and clear on what needs to be achieved to make her business a success. “She is on the road to a successful business venture,” Tina says. “As a young business, JCA has more to do to maximise exposure and accelerate success. Julia has the drive and passion to make it happen.”
Julia says having a mentor gave her confidence in the direction she was taking with her business. She says the agency went from an idea to a well-structured business ready for launch.
“Tina has helped me look at the broader picture and to keep focusing on the baby steps at the same time,” Julia says. “After a session with her I always have a big 'To Do List' which keeps me busy for weeks!”
While the business only recently went live, Julia already has 19 celebrants through word of mouth and hopes this will soon grow. “Word is spreading,” she says. “People I've never met have heard about JCA and it’s exciting. It’s now about focussing on exposing the business to all customers and not just celebrants.”
Without Tina’s advice, Julia says she would be “about three months behind schedule”. “Even just knowing that I have a mentor (without even seeing her regularly) makes me feel more accountable, so I'm working on the agency more effectively so I can impress her next time we speak!” Julia says.
“Initially it has been a lot of work setting everything up and working with computer programmers to create the exact website/booking system that I wanted. Now that the structure is in place, it has become easier and enjoyable to work in and run.”
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