A couple of weeks ago Siobhan had an interesting conversation with Tina Reading, Editor of Ultimate Wedding Magazine after she had attended our Membership launch event. Tina’s questions were extremely pertinent and after the conversation Siobhan asked Tina if she would be happy to have it transcribed as an interview. Here it is.
Tina Reading: I was delighted to attend a recent meeting with the team behind NAWP at No 4 Hamilton Place, but I had some questions that I felt needed answering. I was not alone in this, so on behalf of the industry I wanted to throw some questions at the team and see what they had to say. I am 100% behind regulation in our industry but wanted to satisfy my wandering mind that this is a genuinely good thing for suppliers and venues and not another money making marketing exercise.
I was even more delighted when Siobhan and I finally caught up and had an interesting and detailed telephone call, whereby she very eloquently answered my questions and banished my fears.
The team behind NAWP believe in 100% transparency, which is our ethos here at UWM so this is what I asked, and here are their answers. I do believe this can make a much needed change to wedding world, maybe not overnight, but any initiative that protects the couples and enhances the professionalism of suppliers/venues can only be a positive thing.
Tina Reading: The team behind NAWP are vastly experienced but what particular skills are you bringing to make this work?
Siobhan Craven-Robins: The three of us have over 40 years of experience in the Wedding Industry. I started my business in 1995. Amanda worked in various sectors of the industry before being employed as a wedding planner and then starting her own business in 2008. Lester also worked for a wedding planning company before starting his business in 2004. As Wedding Planners we have experience of working with all the various suppliers required to facilitate a wedding and therefore have a great overview of the industry. We are also all business owners and still active in the industry so we have a real appreciation of what is like to start and run a business.
TR: What are you doing to make this different to your predecessors who tried and failed? How does the NAWP work?
SCR: Firstly, NAWP is open to all professions involved in the wedding industry. We have devised 5 membership ‘arms’ to it: Student, Network (for businesses less than 5 years old), Professional (for businesses older than 5 years), Venue and Media. We have very stringent joining criteria; this is the only way to ensure that the badge is warranted and means something. However, we aren’t just about industry standing and recognising excellence; the networking aspect is as important and already through the 4 events we have held over the last 18 months many business associations have been formed. This is hugely encouraging and means that we have the right calibre of members who are able to benefit from meeting each other. The NAWP is supportive of the Wedding industry and as a result we will be also holding Educational Programmes; not ‘how to be’ workshops, but programmes that are designed to help Wedding businesses grow, thrive, market efficiently, charge correctly and practice with ethics and professionalism. Our first one, in October, is a 5 day programme for Wedding Planners run by the 3 of us. As membership grows we will be devising Educational Programmes for various sectors of the industry.
NAWP is also collaborative, our ‘manifesto’ as such was borne out of a FOCUS meeting we held in September 2013 where we hand-picked 21 professionals to give us their feedback on what they would want from an association such as NAWP. It was as a result of this that we grew from being a networking group to an association recognising industry standing – it was because that is what Wedding vendors wanted and asked of us.
TR: How did the NAWP begin? What is the concept and your mantra?
SCR: We were catching up with various suppliers at the, then, Designer Wedding Show in October 2012 and many were bemoaning the influx of new, unprofessional businesses entering the marketplace and undercutting, As well as this, the hangover of the 2009/10 recession had left a prevailing feeling amongst clients that everything could be bargained for or discounted. Supposed value for money had become more important than valuing service. The new starts undercutting were creating a knock on effect and unrealistic expectation amongst potential clients, and more alarmingly the industry as a whole was being devalued. This general disgruntlement inspired us. We were sat with some of the best in the industry; all who had worked long and hard to get to where they were and their charges reflected this. Something had to be done. Amanda had been involved with the ABC in the USA and flagged the idea of something similar starting here in the UK. From here we started formulating the NAWP. It has taken us 2 years to get to being ready to accept membership and feel we can offer the appropriate support and benefits in return for the fee. In this time, we have held 4 networking events and each has been hugely successful with many suppliers stating that they are the best networking events they have attended. These events have allowed us to keep suppliers informed of the developing NAWP and welcome feedback to ensure we are on the right track and matching expectation. NAWP is about quality, integrity and support.
TR: As a member, what is the benefit to my business? Am I paying for just a badge?
SCR: As well as that, membership entitles you to attend our 3 networking events and supply feedback for our AGM/Focus meeting. Once you join, you will be allocated a password to access the Members’ Forum on our website where members’ news will be posted and there is the option to communicate with other members and offer business to business promotions. There is also a directory on the website which potential clients can use to find recommended suppliers. There will also be the opportunity, for those that would like to, for members to speak at our meetings and Educational programmes.
The badge is obviously very important as it is something that has been earned. Clients will come to recognise it as a standard of excellence and professionalism and it will influence their choice of supplier.
TR: Do you think couples will see this accreditation as assurance? Why would they choose a NAWP member over another business not registered with you?
SCR: It takes time to build this and we have now established a PR plan to start getting the word out there. Also as membership grows, so will awareness, so our members are supporting the growth of this association with their vested interest. It is all part of this being a collaborative and developing association. Over time, as clients come to realise what NAWP stands for, they will feel more confident booking a supplier who has the accreditation, than one who doesn’t. A bit like booking a holiday through an ABTA recognised agent. The badge indicates excellence, professionalism and integrity – what else would you want from a supplier contributing to your big day?
Article Posted: 07/03/2016